Monday Conversation:  Jeremy McGrath

Monday Conversation: Jeremy McGrath

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He is the King of Supercross. He changed the sport forever. He has records for Supercross titles and race wins that will likely never be broken. But more importantly, he's Jeremy McGrath, a husband and father, and he's in for the challenge of his life right now. Kim McGrath, Jeremy's wife, was recently diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia—this after battling and beating breast cancer. Jeremy's family and friends immediately stepped up to help in anyway they could, including pulling together a drive to find donors last Friday at Lake Elsinore through BeTheMatch.org (which makes the search for donors easier by asking people to take a swab test that can register DNA and blood type).

Jeremy himself came out to Racer X Ride Day, where the program was being implemented, to thank everyone involved. We took a few moments to sit down and discuss the challenge facing him, his wife and their two young daughters, Rowan and Bergen.

Racer X: Jeremy, when I see you at the race track, you have your gear on and you are ready to ride, but today, I think this is much more important work. A lot of people have come out to support Kim and the whole fight against leukemia with BeTheMatch.org.
Jeremy McGrath: Yes, unfortunately this is not the circumstances I usually like to find myself in at the track. I would love to be doing an interview with you right now about our team, or the bikes, or really anything else. But I suppose if there's ever a great time to be Jeremy McGrath, now is a great time for it. The motocross community, Supercross, everyone is rallying together for the cause of Kim, my wife, needing this bone marrow transplant. It's amazing, the support we're getting today. I am really thankful to everyone.

It has to feel good to see just how many people have come out here just to lend a hand: riders, team managers, your old rivals, friends, fans—I even met one group of guys that were on their way to Las Vegas for the weekend, but they came here first to get tested!(Laughs) Yes, those were some of my friends from the off-road truck racing community! But yes, strangers are showing up, our friends, fellow riders, everyone is trying to help us find the match, and also be the match for maybe someone else.

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Sipes signs up as a donor.
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We posted something online as soon as Cheryl Lynch (Jeremy's longtime PR agent) reached out to us, and this thing just took off. In fact, the first person who showed up here this morning before the gates even opened, he wasn't here to ride—he was on his way to work but wanted to stop and be tested.
That's really cool, and I really appreciate all of the people who are helping out. We have a lot of friends, and this kind of situation—in these tough circumstances—it's really nice to see. Gosh... The tricky part is the match part.

What can you share with us about Kim's situation?
Well, she had a little spot on her skin, and her having the instinct that she does, she went in to have it checked out and they did a little biopsy on it. It was the safe thing to do because of her past experiences with breast cancer, and it turns out that one of the side effects of what she went through before is leukemia. She was one of the very few—like maybe one percent—that could get this type of leukemia, and it happened.

But we're going to get through this. We're going to soldier on. It is super, super scary, I'm not going to lie, for me and her. We're just unbelievably torn up inside. I have never done so much crying in my life. But to see all of this support, it's amazing for me. And for Kim.

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Troy Lee signs up.
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Things like this should always be a reminder to us that motocross racing is just a sport—something we do for fun—but you become so deeply involved with the people that it becomes a way of life, like we're all a family. And when someone needs your help, whether it's Jeremy McGrath or John Smith, it's inspiring to see all of the people raise their hand and say, “How can I help? What can I do?”
I know, and it's really amazing, people just showing up, saying, “What do you need? How do we fix this?” The motocross community, the off-road community... Andrew Short texted me this morning from Texas and he had a video message for Kim from Lance Armstrong! Monster Energy reached out to their 17 million Facebook users and spread my letter for support.  Supercross is helping out, you guys have hundreds of thousands of readers, each rider is spreading the word. I mean, the line-up of riders here today just blew me away!

There's as much talent here that's NOT riding, but just here to sign up to be a donor. I saw so many national champs under that tent doing a swab, it was pretty damn cool. Heck, even Ryan Villopoto came out to support Kim and sign up, Broc Glover, Buddy Antunez, Jimmy Button, Larry Brooks, Erik Kehoe...
Yes, and a lot of the boys sat down for an autograph session: RV, Dungey, Roczen, Jake Weimer, Justin Brayton, Ryan Sipes... I am really thankful for the support. You don't really recognize and understand the support you have until you're in a situation where you really need it, and I am in that situation right now.

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RV came out to support Kim.
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How is Kim doing?
Kim is doing good—as good as she can be. She's going stir-crazy because she has to stay in the hospital. She didn't expect that. I mean, it screws with your mind when you walk into the hospital feeling healthy and they tell you you're not. She had to start chemo and a bunch of medicines that are going to knock her back down, and she's going to have to basically reset her circuit board all over again. You know, she's the most amazing woman I have ever known, she's super-tough and she's going to get through this.

Are the girls doing okay?
The girls are alright still. They are so young—six and four—that they don't really understand completely. They seem to be doing alright. With the help of my mom and Kim's mom and our friends, we all help out and rotate. I don't want Kim to ever be alone at the hospital, so we take turns. The separation thing is tough for everyone, but thank God for Skype—we're on it all the time. And I can tell you that Kim is torn up more than anything about not being close to the kids right now, but this if for a better cause....

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MC and Broc Glover...14 major titles!
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Okay, a lot of people are hopefully going to read this, and whether it's Kim McGrath or, well, my own dad, there are a lot of people out there who have needed—or will need—a donor for a bone marrow transplant. How can people help in their own community?
Well, I think the best way we can all help, since we can't fix it on our own, is to go to www.marrow.org, or BeTheMatch.org. We have to get in, we have to sign up, we have to get tested, and we have to hope a match can be found. I know you have unfortunately dealt with it with your own dad, and I am dealing with it now, and it's terrible that it's one of those things that you almost have to come across a situation where you realize the importance of something like this—like being a donor. But the great thing about this is that in order to help Kim, we have to be willing to help everyone, and that's the most important thing. We would all like to say, “Hey look, we only want to get tested for our friend,” or whatever, but that's not the way it works best—that's not the best way to find a donor. And while I can't be the match for Kim, I really hope I can be the match for someone else.

So please get out there, join the cause and join the movement, maybe help save someone's life. Not everyone is a Kim McGrath, but maybe someone who doesn't know her is the one that can save her, and in trying to help her, you will save someone else that you don’t know. That's the way it works, and that's why we need everyone's support.

And thank you, thank you all so much.

(The BeTheMatch.org booth will be set up at Hangtown this coming weekend to sign up potential donors. It takes five minutes, but it can mean everything. Please consider this program.)

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Make sure to sign up this weekend at Hangtown.
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