One Year Later: Tour de Pink 2012

TdeP 2013 training rideHere it is a year later, a year since I completed my first Tour de Pink, the ride I had set my sights on when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer just after my thirty-ninth birthday.  The year itself, my second year of real cycling and post-cancer, seems as miraculous as the year of having cancer was devastating and nightmarish.

Maybe not every day of riding but almost every day of riding, there are moments of crystalline miracles, easily forgotten on the one hand–a particular color of sky when starting out, a joke, some flavor of mood, and unforgettable on the other hand–that flavor of the day stays with you forever, along with the memory of a steady tempo that is matched precisely to the body’s workings, the right combination of conversation, unlabored pedaling to one’s own thoughts, the shape of a certain bicycle ahead, the shine of simple yet highly technical machinery, a few important words that then drift through the entire ride.  These miracles have been my days.  And my year.

I know I will enjoy the three days of riding–200+ miles from Philadelphia to Washington D.C.–and the camaraderie that will continue from last year into tomorrow when the ride begins, along with new faces.  I know my body will endure and soak up the fun of those miles as it does each day and every ride, one year to the next.  And of course, I will be riding my Inspire bike.  Emily Gresh

If you are so inclined, here is the link to my fund-raising page for the Tour de Pink and the Young Survival Coalition.  Every donation helps ensure that the rides continue and other young women and their friends and family members receive the information, community, and support they need when facing breast cancer.

Always a New Road

There are new roads and less traveled roads.  When you return to your childhood hometown to raise your own child after living in an entirely different state and major city for almost a decade, the idea of new roads and less familiar roads would seem almost impossible.  The roads here are not really new for me and yet every one is different now.

Among the friends that enjoy cycling with me, there is a common route that we often ride together.  We ride out to the small town of Collinsville where there are empty and picturesque brick factory buildings from an era of axe production. On the way to Collinsville, we pass through Unionville–a trolly used to run out here from Hartford where bicycles were once manufactured and where insurance companies took a solid and lasting hold.  To get from Unionville to Collinsville, we take a slight left off of Huckleberry Hill and on to New Road which heads down towards a river, the Farmington River, and then follows along there for awhile.

Just before the turn on to New Road is a large headstone with my family’s last name engraved upon it.  This is where my grandparents are buried.  My uncle’s ashes were spread near, and into, the river across the road and at the bottom of the hill.  He died in his fifties of a brain tumor.  The house that my father’s family abandoned because of a great flood many years ago is somewhere through the trees and on the opposite bank of the water’s edge.  All of this at that junction of New Road and Huckleberry Hill.

These landmarks pass by in a matter of minutes as I am riding with friends or alone, chatting or just pedaling depending on the day or the hour.  New Road was probably new sometime after that flood that destroyed my father’s childhood home over 50 years ago now.  Yet I never knew of it and never had quite this clear path through my family’s history or a means of passing through it without feeling weighed down by all of it.

The bicycle offers one a different way of seeing things.  Constantly.  We all know that every ride is different, no second of pushing oneself forward on the bike can be repeated, just like time passing.  Always new.  Maybe familiar at times, but always new.  The invention of the bicycle keeps a promise of inventiveness for me.  Its history of changing life also has a promise of keeping life changing.  The grave, the house flooded a long time ago, the old road that is marked as new, these are squarely at that intersection where I ride.  But a new ride, and new road, await me everyday.

Yesterday, I rode along gravel and dirt, getting ready for an upcoming ride that will have some off road biking to it–the Deerfield Dirt Road Rondonee, affectionately known as D2R2.  I went off of my usual biking paths, not the same trip out to Collinsville and back.  These dirt roads were even less familiar than the regular roads I have taken around here, and as beautiful as the familiar ones.  Perhaps even more so.  Emily Gresh

Avail Inspire Bike: Round Two

Bicycle Retailer And Industry News
Notice about the bike selling out in Bicycle Retailer And Industry News

My story of cancer survival at a young age and how I came to cycling from dancing is but one story among many powerful stories.  While my current bike may be of my own original design, it is now one of many Inspire bikes out there being ridden.  The bike has been sold out for awhile, all three hundred of the bikes initially produced by Giant.  A second production run of two hundred more bikes is becoming available to retailers now.

Each rider with an Inspire bike has her own singular story, how she came to choose that design, whether the bike came as a gift, or was purchased in its own right.  For some, the bike is simply just a cool looking bike.  For others, it has particular significance and meaning.  Whatever the reason for coming into possession of the bike, I couldn’t be more pleased that more and more women are taking up cycling and getting out on the road.  And there are inherent joys in cycling…regardless of the bike you ride.  Emily Gresh

A nice mention in Bicycle Retailer And Industry News, link below:

Bicycle Retailer

via Monday News Briefs.

Inspire, To Breathe In: On and Off the Bike Post-Cancer

Inspire in town
Liv/giant Avail Inspire in town

A double espresso post-ride.  I parked my bike and the three of us sat down. This is life.  Simple and great.  We rode 35 miles, windy day, people heading home.  There are smiles all around.  I watch my bike.  I watch the faces around me. I know that life is just this good.  I would still like to believe that having cancer didn’t change me, but it did change me.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, every day always mattered to me, but now every day matters even more.  It really is exquisite.  Moment by moment, one brilliant day, one ride, espresso and faces all there to be enjoyed.  You can see that even as I’m parking my bike, I’m smiling.  Emily Gresh

Q and A: Cancer Recovery and My Bicycle Design

Q&A with Emily Gresh

Emily Gresh wears many hats—Trinity alumna, Yale graduate school alumna, dancer, writer, mother, fund-raising professional, and most recently, cancer survivor and the creator of the winning design for Giant Bicycles limited edition bicycle, the Liv/giant ‘Avail Inspire.’  Following an eight year career as a professional ballet dancer at Boston Ballet where she rose to the rank of soloist, Gresh came to Trinity as an IDP student where she earned an undergraduate degree in English and a minor in sociology.  From there, she completed a master’s degree in Theater Management at Yale University before entering the workforce in a new field, when she returned to Trinity to serve as the College’s Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations in the Advancement Division.  Most recently, Gresh found the brighter side of a diagnosis of breast cancer, at age 39.  We sat down with Gresh, to hear more about how she designed the bicycle, its inspirational theme, and her experience as a young survivor of cancer.
TC: When you were diagnosed, how did you handle the news, emotionally and physically?
EG: There is truly no way to prepare for the news that you have cancer, especially when you feel you are young and healthy and still outside of the reach of that kind of devastating illness.  When I was sitting in the doctor’s office at Yale-New Haven Hospital where I was diagnosed and treated, my ears literally closed and I stopped hearing.  I did not want to take in that news.  It took time to fully absorb it, many days and weeks, and was unbelievably difficult.  I had just turned 39.  Most women haven’t even had their first mammogram at age 39 and there I was already being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.  Fortunately, I went home and went online and within a few days found the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) website which helped me enormously.
TC: What was the most important way that this group helped you?
EG: When I found the Young Survival Coalition online, I saw photos of young women participating in the Tour de Pink —a three day, two hundred mile bicycle ride that benefits YSC—and it was like looking into the eyes of people like me who had been where I was going.  Breast cancer is not common in women under 40 although obviously it can and does happen, as it did with me.  I had to do some searching in order to find my similar aged peers facing this disease.  The Young Survival Coalition brings women who are diagnosed on the young side, and their friends and family members together, and that was crucial in keeping me from feeling isolated and alone as I came to terms with my diagnosis and treatment. I could see and figure out from the photos of the bicycling going on in the Tour de Pink that both the training beforehand and the rides themselves were avenues to renewed strength on many, many levels.
TC: How often did you train for the Tour de Pink, and what was your bicycling experience before then?  What were some of the struggles and triumphs you faced along the way?
EG: My bicycling experience was limited to that of commuting around Boston by bicycle during my twenties.  I started training for the Tour de Pink by doing loops around a pond near my house on a very heavy bicycle.  My rides gradually lengthened from a few miles to rides of 60 miles, and I began riding a real road bike, too. While I was training, there were rides in the rain and also rides in intense summer heat, but it was never a struggle.  I enjoyed every second of training and a passion for cycling definitely took hold in me.
TC: At the Tour de Pink, you learned about a contest to design a new bicycle for Giant, which would be designed specifically for this event, and for young cancer survivors like yourself.  What inspired you to enter, and what did the contest entail?
EG: When I learned about the contest, I knew it was something I wanted to do.  The creative and inspiring nature of the project seemed like the perfect combination for me.
TC: When Giant notified you that you had won the contest and that your design would be produced, what was your reaction?
EG: Ironically, I had a doctor’s appointment down in New Haven when I received the call from Giant about winning the contest.  As you know, Yale has a beautiful campus like Trinity’s and I just stood there on York Street with all of those beautiful buildings around me thanking Giant over the phone, smiling, and feeling really lucky.  Then I started calling and texting my friends and family with the good news—not only had my design been selected, but it had already been made into a prototype, it was a reality.  I think everyone should have at least one moment in life where they get to pick-up the phone or text someone with the words, “I won!” or, maybe even better, “We won!”
TC: What inspired the name “Inspire” for the bike?
EG: The late Trinity Professor Hugh Ogden is the person who first pointed out the origin of the word inspire to me.  Technically, inspire comes from “to breathe upon” as opposed to “to breathe in.”  The notion of breathing in, getting one’s breath back, and the wonderful breathtaking qualities that are found in everyday living became important as I thought about creating a bike that could embody survivorship as well as the possibilities of life.  This concept is captured by having the word “inspire” on the bicycle and the word is the main design feature.  I will never forget Hugh walking into a poetry class one day and uttering: “People always say they can’t find inspiration.  All you need to do is breathe in.  The word inspire comes from ‘to breathe in.’ Inspiration is all around us.”  For me, it was in that moment that “inspire” took on a more luminous meaning.  It has guided me often.
Watch a video by Giant Bicycle about Gresh and her bicycle design.

TC: You have been chosen as the speaker at this year’s Relay for Life at Trinity.  As a young cancer survivor, what is the best piece of advice you would give someone facing the same diagnosis? 
EG: Inspire, breathe in.  Be patient with yourself and others and know your experience as only you can.

TC: Earlier in your life, you were a professional dancer with Boston Ballet, one of the top ballet companies in the world.  Did this play a role in your battle with cancer, emotionally or physically? 
EG: My former life as a dancer constantly plays a role in my life today.  As far as cancer goes, I knew—and my friends reminded me—that I could not be at war with my dancer’s body.  I didn’t think of cancer as a battle.  It was a nightmare but not a battle.  There was nothing to fight, only things to be endured.
TC: You graduated from Trinity’s Individualized Degree Program (IDP), and now work here at Trinity.  How has your experience at Trinity helped or affected your life?
EG: Trinity gave me the ability to look at language and expression from multiple perspectives.  When I had to think about how to make a bicycle express something, I drew upon many of the things I thought about while studying creative writing with the late Fred Pfeil and literature with Chloe Wheatley at Trinity—a text can be read in many ways, so can a dancer’s body, or a patient’s.  Why not a bicycle?
TC: What is the main difference between Emily Gresh pre-diagnosis and Emily Gresh today?
EG: I like to think that cancer did not change me but the truth is that it changed me immeasurably.  Every day always mattered to me.  But now, every day matters even more.  There is only a one percent chance of a recurrence of my breast cancer, but I have known so many people who have had their cancer return.  I live every day to its fullest and let myself trust each great moment as it arrives more than I ever did before.  It’s exquisite.  I am enjoying life very much, I have to say.
Emily Gresh will be sharing her story live at the 2012 Trinity Relay for Life, on Friday, April 27 at the Koeppel Community Sports Center at Trinity College.  For more on RFL, visit:   Proceeds from the purchase of Avail Inspire bicycles, available through Giant Bicycles, will benefit the Young Survival Coalition.  A list of retailers can be found here:

Giant (Bicycles) Love


Feeling the love for my Avail Inspire bicycle.  If you wake up to a bike like this everyday, rain or shine, you will want to ride it.  Here is my bike on the back of my car before a ride with some nice detail visible.  I will add that thanks to a generous partnership between the Young Survival Coalition and Giant Bicycles, the survivors participating in the Tour de Pink who are in need of a bicycle will receive one of my bikes…compliments of Giant.  Giant love of that.  I hope to see many Inspires out there on the Tour.  Emily Gresh