Pain Threshold

By Theresa Birmingham

Pain is such a relative word. Childbirth. Marathons. Migraines. Stubbing your toe. Paper cuts.

theresa-birmingham.jpgSeven years ago, I went in for my second tattoo, and damn, it hurt. After sitting there for about forty five minutes, I felt I would give up. The burning and tearing at my back right scapula felt close to torture. I kept focusing on one thought, though.

It’s for Jess.

My cousin, Jessica, was the most vibrant, gifted, and lively young woman. She would jump up on her hospital bed, sing everyone a Christina Aguilera song – because she was on the Christina side of the Brittany vs. Christina debate – and dance around. She was never too tired to put on a show, give a smile, or generally indulge everyone around her. She enjoyed life. That’s probably the hardest thing about a child getting Cancer. For anyone, it’s absolutely terrifying, but for a child, who is supposed to be learning what life is all about, they learn so much more than they bargained for. And Jess did learn.

But she also learned about the beauty of this world. She learned that singing can light up a room; that the boy-next-door is a good first crush; that love and compassion can come from family and from strangers; and that there are so many wonderful and good people in this world willing to put themselves through a shitload of pain just to help another person going through so much worse.

Each year, we meet for one weekend to participate in AngelRide. A ride where people push themselves beyond all measure. Some of these riders have experienced Cancer or other chronic diseases, but others ride because human compassion drives them to push past their own pain, and give all they physically can to support children who sometimes don’t have much left to give – financially or physically.

As a two-year volunteer, it has been an absolute honor to watch the beauty of sacrifice and the magnificence of the human threshold for pain play out at this event. Because whether children living with an illness; families helping our child through a disease; or riders pushing ourselves for a cause, the pain is real. But through AngelRide, the pain becomes much more bearable.