Tuesday, June 20, 2017

John Fuoco: Living with a First Finisher

John Fuoco -- Photo by Andrea Matney
            John died Saturday night.
            It wasn’t unexpected.  He’d been fighting the cancer gnawing at his lungs for a half dozen years. 
            But to me, John Fuoco wasn’t dying. He was living. Cancer had many times pushed him to the brink and every time he had pushed back.  Long after others would have given up, John lived.  He lived through the unspeakable torture of countless procedures and chemotherapies.
            He lived to ride his bike, to treat hundreds of his patients, to attend his children’s weddings, to see his grandson born, to love his wife, and to inspire hundreds, perhaps thousands, of us. 
            Only a few days ago, he and I were swapping hopeful texts about riding together again this summer.  Now, we will, but only spiritually.
            Before cancer, John was one of the best ultra-distance cyclists in America. He won races stretching hundreds of miles. He rode among the best in the world’s oldest bicycle event, the 750-mile Paris-Brest-Paris. He held the record for riding across Pennsylvania.
            After cancer, he applied his incredible energy, strength, sense of humor, and discipline to defeating his disease.  Toward the end, he told me he was “failing,” a term of art in his medical profession. 
            To me, John never failed.  In his favorite long-distance cycling sport, Randonneuring, there is no “winner” or “loser.”  But there is a “first finisher.”  And that’s what John was. 
            In life, like on the road, he finished ahead of the rest of us.