The Rider

July 9, 2010

Riding For Michelle

Filed under: Rider Profiles — The Blog @ 6:01 AM

Michelle loved being a teacher

It was the dreaded phone call, the one that changes lives in an instant, no matter the outcome.

“Michelle was in the middle of teaching class when she got the phone call,” said Chris Theado of his wife, who was a first-grade teacher in New Albany.

The call was from her doctor: Michelle had cancer, a tumor in her mouth.

“She was able to call me, but then she had to go back to the kids and act like nothing had happened,” Chris said. “And it was upsetting for me because I was helpless, there was nothing I could do to help her.”

For a while there was cause for optimism, but Michelle’s cancer kept coming back … and she passed away in early 2009.

“She was always an energetic and positive person,” said Chris 27, who works for Cardinal Health and is a Pelotonia rider. “She was patient and understanding, someone people gravitated to. And she was a perfectionist and wanted to do everything completely and the right way and that came through when she was fighting her cancer. We were given options, to be aggressive or not and she wanted to be the most aggressive. She didn’t like leaving problems half dealt with.”

Chris and Michelle met during their freshman year at Miami University. They hung out with the same group of friends at first … became friends … started dating … fell in love … and decided to get married, tying the knot on Aug. 4, 2007.

Wedding day for Michelle and Chris

“Things were going great,” is how Chris described their life together. He got a job at NetJets and Michelle loved teaching. They bought a condo in New Albany and the possibilities seemed endless. They were young, in love, working at jobs they enjoyed.

Then Michelle developed a sore in her mouth that just wouldn’t go away. The dentist sent her to an oral surgeon who took a biopsy … and then came that terrible phone call.

“We were in shock,” Chris said. “We got through the day and talked about things that night and researched it.”

Michelle was sent to The James. In January 2008 she had her first surgery, followed by six weeks of radiation treatments.

“Things were back to normal, her scars had healed and everything seemed good,” Chris said. Unfortunately, Michelle’s cancer returned. “She noticed a lump on the side of her throat,” Chris said.

Michelle’s cancer had spread, from her mouth to her neck and lymph nodes.

“That was a sign is was extremely aggressive,” Chris said.

The next several months were a blur of surgeries and treatments, with bouts of optimism. But her cancer kept coming back and spreading.

“Finally they told us they were out of options,” Chris said of the January 2009 conversation with her doctor at The James.

“That was the most helpless thing I could ever hear, being her friend and husband I wanted to protect her and there was nothing I could do,” he said.

The next few months, Michelle’s last few months, were difficult, but her courage set the tone for everyone in her life.

“She was in hospice care, in our home, and she was able to visit with family and friends,” Chris said. “She knew what she was facing … and she kept her faith through the whole thing. She wasn’t afraid and we kept her comfortable and she was at peace. She was tired of fighting, it was such a grueling thing to go through.”

Soon after Michelle’s passed away, Chris accepted a job at Cardinal Health, where he is a supply chain manager – and he threw himself into his new career.

“Definitely, work was my escape,” he said. “And the cool thing was, I had a few friends who worked there and knew quite a few other people, so they knew the story about Michelle and I didn’t have to tell everyone.”

Chris said he also found support from his new colleagues – and a team of Pelotonia riders. He was a volunteer at Pelotonia 2009.

“I had such a god time last year I decided to take up cycling and join the Cardinal team,” he said. “There are a couple other people in my department who ride and we ride and train together.”

While Chris is doing the best he can to move forward, it’s hard not to look back.

“The last year and a half have been rough,” he said. “I lost my best friend, my roommate, my wife. It gets easier over time, but there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about Michelle.”

Michelle, he said, made it clear that she wanted Chris and her entire family “to move on and be happy and not let the sadness of her not being there dominate their life,” Chris said. “She didn’t want that.”

10 things about Chris …

Favorite ride

Tour de Cure in Westerville

Dream ride


Current Pelotonia bike

Giant Defy 3

Dream bike

I don’t know

Favorite movie

The Sandlot

Favorite band/singer

Garth Brooks

Favorite TV show

Friday Night Lights

Favorite book

Anything by John Grishom

Favorite athlete

Jack Nicklaus

Favorite post-ride meal

Steak and potatoes


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