GEAR UP DAY—JACQUELINE ZWENG
In November 2015, I was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. On July 8, 2016, I finished chemotherapy and am continuing with hormone treatments until May 2017. I also completed 28 consecutive radiation treatments from August to September 2016 at the BC Cancer Agency.
I am a single mother and I will be the first to say that going through treatment while caring for a daughter on your own is no easy feat. Still, I made it my goal to show my daughter not to limit herself.
I want her to do what she feels she can do. A cancer diagnosis is scary, but I didn’t want my daughter to associate fear with defeat. So throughout treatment, I biked and ran. Cycling and running helped with my overall wellbeing and helped me work through the physical and mental tolls from treatments. It kept me strong, something I needed to be for my daughter and to better my own health.
The Ride to Conquer Cancer® Presented by Silver Wheaton® benefiting BC Cancer Foundation soon became my focus and I completed my first Ride in 2016. My daughter came with me to the opening ceremony in Vancouver last August. Here she saw me hop on my bike and ride alongside thousands of others, yellow flag standing tall.
One week after completing eight months of chemotherapy treatments, I biked 100 kilometres. This determination helped me prepare for the two-day, over 200-kilometre journey throughout the Pacific Northwest. That is something people say you cannot do when you’re undergoing chemo, but I did it.
Already, I am gearing up for my second Ride to Conquer Cancer in BC. I’ve seen the impact of dollars raised through The Ride, and I’ve experienced the camaraderie leading up to and during the event. Nothing can compare to the feeling of standing in a sea of Riders at the start line, knowing that the impact we’re making will change the future of cancer for our children. This year I am very proud to be a part of Team Nova, a group from Vancouver Island that is dedicated to raising funds and supporting each other during The Ride. My daughter will again be present at the opening ceremony and is set to join our support team throughout the two days.
The Ride’s Gear Up Day is on March 31 and I’m asking you to take the challenge with me. We will sweat, and the stories we hear will make us cry, but with every push of the pedal, we’re helping to save lives!
YOUR IMPACT: MATTHEW’S STORY
Matthew Acheson is a six-time Ride to Conquer Cancer participant, riding to both celebrate his resilience in the face of cancer and support others going through the same experience.
In 1994, at the age of 26, Matthew was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He is now 49 and already excited about The 2017 Ride with Team Taylor. He started to ride after his friend Steve created Team Taylor in honour of his son Taylor who passed away of cancer.
In his own words, this cancer survivor and Rider shares his cancer care experience at the BC Cancer Agency.
Who in your life has received treatment at the BC Cancer Agency?
In the spring of 1994, I was experiencing intense pain that would not go away. After many confusing and worrisome trips to my doctor, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer… Making matters worse, my tumours were highly irregular, growing in sheets rather than lumps and growing fast. My oncologist kept telling me that I was going to be okay, but I never really believed him. Turns out, he was right.
Can you describe how you felt when you first heard the cancer diagnosis?
I dealt with my diagnosis very poorly. I became despondent, living each day as though it was my last, but not in a productive way. It was only thanks to the support of a strong presence in my life that I decided to change my frame of mind.
Beyond the cancer care received, what was it like at the BC Cancer Agency?
The medical professionals at the BC Cancer Agency saved my life. I have an immense amount of gratitude for the doctors, scientists, nurses and staff there. I was angry and difficult, and they never let that get in the way.
What would you say of the BC Cancer Agency’s bedside manner?
They interacted with poise and professionalism. The staff at the BC Cancer Agency always treated me with much compassion and I always felt in capable hands. This hospital is staffed by some of the most genuine people, and I am grateful for the care they offered me throughout my difficult journey.
What has life been like since treatment?
Everything that I have in my life I owe to the BC Cancer Agency. When I decided give back to the world for saving me, I took up The Ride as a discipline. Whether by gearing up to do The Ride yourself or donating to the cause, I encourage you to take this opportunity to support the BC Cancer Foundation in its mission of conquering cancer.
Would you recommend the BC Cancer Agency to others going through the same situation?
Without a doubt. Cancer is a wily opponent; it is an umbrella term for many diseases and each one needs a cure. That is why this work is so important. Please give generously today.
YOUR IMPACT: ALI’S STORY
This past August, Ali Miri joined thousands of others for the first time in The Ride to Conquer Cancer® Presented by Silver Wheaton® benefiting BC Cancer Foundation
Making the 200-kilometre journey alongside his brother, sister, wife and brother-in-law, Ali captained the team Sholeh in honour of his mother who had passed away from lymphoma only a month earlier.
In his own words, this devoted son and Rider shares his mother’s cancer care experience at the BC Cancer Agency.
Can you describe how you felt when you first heard of your mother's cancer diagnosis?
My mom was diagnosed in 2015 with a rare type of lymphoma. It was a very tough emotional journey for the whole family to watch her deteriorate from a very capable woman to a helpless and weak person. Although we remained hopeful that she would recover, reality hit on June 17, 2016, when her doctor told us she had only limited time left.
Can you describe the treatment experience?
It is heartbreaking to see your own mother go from being a strong woman to someone who is not strong at all. After many rounds of chemotherapy, our mom passed away on July 19, 2016… surrounded by family and friends from across the world. Still today, recounting her experience is emotional, but our family is grateful for everything the staff at the BC Cancer Agency did for her.
How has the BC Cancer Foundation impacted your life?
[W]e have nothing but positive things to say about the treatment and care our mom received at the BC Cancer Agency. And while it may have been too late for our mom, participating in The Ride to Conquer Cancer allows us to raise vital funds to make sure no one else has to lose loved ones to this terrible disease.
What has life been like since your family’s cancer journey?
The Ride is 200 kilometres and not without its challenges. However, it’s nothing compared to what my mom endured over the last year of her life. I’m very proud of her for putting up such a great fight and immensely grateful for the staff that made sure my mom was comfortable during even the most difficult times.
What has life been like since your mom’s passing?
My family has truly come together during this difficult time. While I always had a close bond with my siblings, my mom’s battle brought us together even more so through our Ride experience. My mom shared one of her last wishes my sister, saying, “No matter what happens to me, make sure you support each other, as I did for you.”
IN MY WORDS - CHRIS’S STORY
When Chris Howe’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 10 years ago, she was given only four months to live. But with the support of the BC Cancer Agency, Chris, his family and their community had an entire year with this incredible woman.
Several years later, Chris was given his own diagnosis: testicular cancer. He too received care at the BC Cancer Agency and now faces a bright future after treatment.
In his own words, this son, cancer survivor and Rider describes his and his mother’s cancer experiences at the BC Cancer Agency.
Can you describe how you felt when you first heard of your mum's cancer diagnosis?
Uncertainty. The situation was clearly explained to my sister and me, yet I can clearly remember uncertainty being the first overarching feeling. Thoughts such as “we are going to fight this” and “she doesn’t look sick at all” crossed my mind…
How did you feel about your own cancer diagnosis?
I feel lucky to have worked with the experts at the BC Cancer Agency. They treated me with the utmost care and support when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2013. They always ensured that I was aware of scenarios and the body of knowledge behind their decisions. I was turning 22 at the time.
Can you describe what your treatment process was like?
My treatment process could not have felt smoother. My urologist presented both the facts and probabilities of my specific case and made me feel very confident in his hands. After a successful surgery, I opted for the watch and wait strategy for chemotherapy. Thankfully, I got to skip the chemo after regular checkups. My oncologist was very attentive to my specific situation before and after the procedure.
What has life been like since experiencing your cancer journey?
Grateful. I’m the lucky one. My long-term outlook is good after catching early a very treatable cancer. I’ve now been on both sides of cancer in every sense, and I couldn’t feel more grateful for the opportunity to give back.
Beyond the cancer care you and your mum received, what was it like at the BC Cancer Agency?
With the ongoing support from the incredible staff at the BC Cancer Agency over the last few years, I’ve been able to wake up every day living life without uncertainty. I’ve been to the Agency in Vancouver many times, and every time I am treated with warm support.
How has the BC Cancer Foundation affected your life?
I’m a survivor and excited to get serious about supporting an organization that has done so much for me. I am riding for my mum and for what the BC Cancer Foundation has done for me. I’m raising money to help the next person beat it or to just stick around a little bit longer.
LUC BEGIN: A SURVIVOR STORY
“The best part about this whole thing is that our team has built a community since we first got involved in the Ride.” ~ Luc Begin
For countless men and women who make the 200-kilometre journey of The Ride to Conquer Cancer® Presented by Silver Wheaton® benefiting BC Cancer Foundation the adage “the more, the merrier” rings true.
Though The Ride welcomes all participants who wish to make the trek on their own, many people choose to team up for this epic event and enjoy in turn an epic experience that provides far more than better training and fundraising results.
Luc Begin is one of those Riders who has witnessed firsthand how a team can become much more than simply a means to bring in more donation dollars and log more practice sessions.
For Luc, the decision to join The Ride to Conquer Cancer was one fueled by both triumph and loss. His 89-year-old mother is six-decade cancer survivor! Initially diagnosed in 1955 while pregnant with Luc, she overcame the disease after multiple surgeries and radiation treatment.
But in 1986, Luc lost his father to lymphoma. He has also seen the devastation of this disease impact others in his community. Now a grandparent himself, Luc is determined to take action so that his grandchildren don’t have to contend with cancer when they grow up.
In 2010, Luc partnered for the first time with the team Nanaimo Rides Again. A regular presence at The Ride, Nanaimo Rides Again has raised nearly $240,000 for the BC Cancer Foundation. This year, Luc will serve as one of the team’s captains.
While the monetary impact of Nanaimo Rides Again is evident, Luc shares how this group of cyclists is not only a team: “Over the years, we have become more than just riding partners. We are friends, too.” In fact, this community focus is built right into the fabric of the team’s moniker, as Nanaimo is the name of Luc’s town.
Luc is well aware that more Riders mean more donation dollars. So for those who may have just joined or started a team, he explains, “Whether your team is big or small, remember, we are all working together. Everything we do in our teams makes a real difference.”
SELINA ROBINSON: A SURVIVOR STORY
“I was the most fit I’d ever been when I heard the words, ‘You have cancer.’” ~ Selina Robinson
For every person who crosses the finish line at The Ride to Conquer Cancer® Presented by Silver Wheaton® benefiting BC Cancer Foundation there is a story to be told. A story of why he signed up. Why she put in the time and effort to train and fundraise. And for many, why they return to The Ride each year.
Rarely does a cancer diagnosis elicit less than a stunned response. But when Selina Robinson was told that her hysterectomy became a bowel resection due to a tumour found during the procedure, she was shocked. Just weeks earlier, this healthy 42-year-old wife and mother of two had finished a marathon.
Selina notes, “This came out of left field and I didn’t know what was going to happen!” After surgery came drug treatment, which she continues to this day. Now Selina proudly states, “I’m coming up to the 10-year cancer free mark. I have research and effective treatment at the BC Cancer Agency to thank for that. This treatment plan saved my life and it’s why I’ve decided to give back.”
The first Ride to Conquer Cancer was in 2010. Seven years later, Selina will be participating in her eighth 200-kilometre trek across British Columbia next August. She’ll be joined by her husband, as well as the rest of Team Way Hey Hey. Since its formation, this team has raised more than $500,000 for The Ride!
Selina, who happens to be Team Way Hey Hey’s captain, explains why it has been so successful. “[O]ur Ride group has become more than just some people who cycle together once a year. We fundraise together, we train together and we give each other hope.” With over 1,200 kilometres logged, Selina has no plans to stop.
The unwavering dedication of individuals like Selina underscore why The Ride has become British Columbia’s largest cycling fundraiser. Through this epic event, participants can raise vital funds, unite with other committed Riders and celebrate their cancer journey milestones. Says Selina, “I cannot wait to cycle throughout Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest again as a 10-year cancer survivor!”
PATRICK HARPER: WHY I RIDE TO CONQUER CANCER
“It’s hard to watch someone who was always there disappear.” ~ Patrick Harper
For nine years, The Ride to Conquer Cancer® Presented by Silver Wheaton® benefiting BC Cancer Foundation has given thousands of families across British Columbia the opportunity to make an impact for their loved ones and others touched by this disease. Patrick Harper is no exception.
Patrick was just a child when his grandfather was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would come to his chemotherapy sessions. He notes, “I didn’t think the chemo was hard to see because to me I was just hanging with my granddad.” He adds, “[Y]ou don’t actually think about what happens when someone you love dies.” Patrick was 10 years old when his grandfather passed away.
As he now approaches his 34th birthday, Patrick has experienced several times over the devastation of cancer. It was while he and his wife were honeymooning just three years ago that his father was diagnosed with a carcinoid tumour in his intestine. However, because of his treatment at the BC Cancer Agency, Patrick’s father is stable and no longer experiencing the side effects of his disease.
Patrick can happily say the same for his brother-in-law who found out that he had testicular cancer at just 24 years old. That diagnosis came eight years ago and now his brother-in-law is not only a cancer survivor but also a father. For both those that have survived their disease or passed away from it, Patrick rides. In fact, this summer will mark his fourth 200-kilometre trek!
As part of Team Riders for Ryders, Patrick is helping to raise vital funds for cancer patients, and he hopes that others will join as well. “The more people who ride, the more people who conquer cancer.” Through The Ride, a real impact can be made for people right here in British Columbia. Patrick notes, “I want The Ride to show my family and others in BC that we are part of a huge community making change.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR: CHERYL PERRY
“Chris and I celebrated our 30th anniversary last year, and The Ride has given us a way to make a difference together.” ~ Cheryl Perry
The Ride to Conquer Cancer® Presented by Silver Wheaton® benefiting BC Cancer Foundation brings people together from across British Columbia. Some participate to honour a loved one. Others ride to celebrate their triumph over cancer. Still others sign up for this epic 200-kilometre trek simply to make an impact. For Cheryl and Chris Perry, The Ride to Conquer Cancer is a means to do their part in the fight against cancer and a fantastic way to spend time together.
Cheryl completed her first Ride solo, but Chris was there to cheer her on at the finish line. However, his experience as spectator motivated him to sign up the following year. He explains that the emotion of this epic event proved too great to ignore. Having lost his own father to cancer, it wasn’t a difficult choice to make.
Now the couple looks forward to each spring as the beginning of their next Ride journey. Cheryl notes, “The great thing about my husband and I riding together is that we get to spend so much time training together.” This year will be particularly special, as their son Steven is joining their team The Wheelin’ Warriors of the North.
Cheryl and Chris have made The Ride a unique opportunity to strengthen their bond, but they are quick to mention the strength they receive from their fellow Riders. Cheryl says of those she and her husband have met, “The stories shared are so inspirational and remind us of why we continue to ride.”
Moreover, she acknowledges just how much it means to have her husband at her side as they work together to raise vital funds for the BC Cancer Foundation. With the help of this inspiring couple, the BC Cancer Agency can continue to make strides in cancer research and treatment.
DOUGLAS COATES: AN UNBREAKABLE BOND
“I want to raise money for the BC Cancer Foundation to support breakthrough research and enhancements to care at the BC Cancer Agency so more people can live longer, healthier lives.” ~ Douglas Coates
The Ride to Conquer Cancer® Presented by Silver Wheaton® benefiting BC Cancer Foundation brings together men and women of all ages and backgrounds, each with a personal reason why they want to stop this disease.
But for many who make the trek across British Columbia, it is a labour of love that they share with friends, family members or even colleagues. In fact, Douglas Coates of the Canadian Armed Forces has made The Ride a base-wide mission.
For Douglas, The Ride to Conquer Cancer is the perfect way to honour those he has lost from cancer, as both of his grandparents have passed away from the disease. Though he was able to enjoy a relationship with his grandfather before his death in 2012, Douglas was only two when his grandmother passed from cervical cancer.
Now this 36-year-old husband and father is making his passion to end this disease not only a family affair but also a workplace calling. Albeit new to cycling, Douglas has started Team Whidbey Island and Area Warriors to encourage his fellow service personnel to join in his fight to conquer cancer.
Douglas highlights how the local landscape makes training for The Ride an easy task: “Where I’m living, it’s very hilly. I do an average of 48 kilometres a day on my bike. I climb about 1,500 feet within that distance. I live on a pretty big air force base and I cycle with my fellow coworkers regularly.”
He also emphasizes the impact that a team comprised of his colleagues can have on both the base and the greater community it serves: “This team will help everyone on the base develop friendships, while also getting more people involved to help raise money and show support of the BC Cancer Foundation.”
Through his efforts, Douglas and the other young professionals participating in The Ride to Conquer Cancer can create workplace bonds that extend far beyond the reaches of the office and provide the vital funds that may brighten the future for those contending with this life-threatening disease.