“oh ferchrissakes, can we please just GO? I’m starving!” I said to the group of us standing inside this chic photography studio in downtown Vancouver. I was there with my girlfriend, Zoe, her husband Jory and a pile of the coolest people in the city. I’d like to tell you about Zoe but it’s an impossible task. It’s surprisingly easy to write about crotch sweat but almost impossible to write about your best friends. This is no place for love letters! We are here to talk about sweat, fitness and the American way. So here’s a little anecdote that captures the relationship between Zoe and Jory. They were newly married at the time and nights like this, mid-week get-togethers with a collection of their huge social network was common and basically the most fun you’d ever have. We all somehow managed to finish drinks, touch up makeup, grab keys and leave the studio. Walking up the street, Jory glanced at his watch and saw that it was almost time for the meter to expire on his parking spot. So we all detoured half a block so he could plug the meter.
crucial side bar: Canadians, environmentalists before it was trendy, have replaced their smaller bill denominations with coins. So the $1 and $2 bills no longer exist but have been replaced by coins. We affectionately call them loonies (for the Loon on the coin, not because we are all a little cray) and toonies (because it rhymes, which is a little cray, I admit). Got it? The loonie is $1 and the toonie is $2:
Jory fishes into his pocket and discovers a few nickels and pennies and a toonie. He only needs $1 to plug the meter until it switches over to free. He turns to Zoe and playfully asks, “For a limited time only, I am buying loonies for $2!” as he holds out a two dollar coin.
Zoe opens up her wallet, pulls out a loonie and hands it to Jory but not before she took that $2 out of his hand and put it into her wallet! I watched this casual little marital exchange and burst out laughing so hard I had to stop walking. The entire group stopped chatting to stare at me, smiling and wondering what had happened to me that I was completely decompensating on the side of the street. Zoe and Jory, puzzled and smiling, turn to look at me.
Through half breaths and choking laughs, I barely squeak out “Zoe took back the toonie!” Jory smiles and says, “Come on. You think Zoe’s just going to hand me over a dollar?” He smiles, shakes his head and starts walking towards the restaurant. I still laugh thinking of the story so many years later, as it describes the lovely, hilarious, and tender relationship between two of the greatest people I’ve ever known. They moved to Toronto shortly after this story and had a couple of children. As careers and families often take up our time, we didn’t see each other as much as we would have liked. Zoe remained a woman I trusted, respected and laughed with. We talked about life and love and motherhood and most recently, her new love of fitness. Zoe had started going to indoor spin classes and become hooked! She loved the intensity, how it made her body feel and of course, she was a more patient person following a 6am class where she could leave it all on the bike.
I flew in to see Zoe and Jory a few weeks after his diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. FYI, the stages start at 1 and stop at 4, so you could probably guess that the diagnosis is nothing to laugh at. Also, this type of pancreatic cancer in a 39 year old, otherwise healthy man is off-the-charts rare. So rare that it wasn’t even on the radar until he was in such crushing pain he had to pull over on the side of the road because he couldn’t continue to drive. And then it still wasn’t on the radar if not for Zoe’s tenacity to find the source. Many hours in the emergency room, and finally, the anvil dropped…. squarely on their heads. You can probably imagine the chaos. So, as girlfriends do in times of crisis, I flew into snowy Toronto in the middle of February, which was very inconvenient I might add. We talked and drank and cried and bought make-up.
But through all of this, she rode. Through the chemo and brutal conversations, through the applications for off-label drug use, through the talks about life and love and the future, she continued to ride her bike. It has been the one thing that has kept her standing up and moving forward. She moved from the studio to the road and tackled some longer races. Then, two weeks ago, she told me that she is really pushing herself to tackle a new challenge, a 7-day peloton-style race from Toronto to Miami, riding over 120km each day. Sure, makes sense, because you know, she doesn’t have quite enough challenges in her to day-to-day. She gave me the hard-sell, hoping I would join her in the peleton, in support of an organization that has supported her through Jory’s devastating cancer diagnosis. I almost said yes but I know I don’t have the training in my legs to be anything but a liability to her on the course. She’s such a badass she’s going for it and she is going to slay this ride. So I figured the least I could do was donate a bunch of loonies and toonies instead.