Rupertites ride to conquer cancer

Prince Rupert residents are accustomed to living in rainy conditions, but it didn't make a drenching journey any less uncomfortable.

From left: Team Prince Rupert members Steve Weir

Prince Rupert residents are accustomed to living in rainy conditions, but it didn’t make a drenching, excruciating journey any less uncomfortable for this group.

All but one member from Team Prince Rupert met up with the Northern View last week to talk about their 2014 Ride To Conquer Cancer experience.

Starting in Vancouver on June 14, the 2014 Ride to Conquer Cancer had 2,104 participants cycle 200 kilometres to Seattle, with a heavy downpour layering the riders throughout the journey.

But for Team Prince Rupert it acted as a reminder that things can always be worse. A sentiment echoed by all in attendance last week was that the horrendous weather was incomparable to what individuals battling cancer have to withstand.

“The amount of effort we put into [the ride] is nothing compared to what families and people go through … the roller coaster ride they’re on when cancer grabs them,” said Steve Weir, a first-time Ride To Conquer participant. “Two days on a bike is nothing.”

“What a lot of them have gone through is a lot worse than a little rain,” said Team Prince Rupert captain Francis Wolfe, a cancer survivor who has taken part in the event each year since it started in 2009, alongside teammate Gordon Simonds, who also overcame the disease.

“Riding a bike for 200 kilometres is a piece of cake compared to what we went through,” Simonds said.

Wolfe was previously diagnosed with both bladder and prostate cancer, with the disease returning in his bladder this past February. He had to have a tumour removed shortly before this year’s event, and despite not being able to train as much as he would’ve liked, Wolfe decided to participate anyway.

Wolfe’s bladder is still being monitored, but he said “so far, so good”.

Simonds was more fortunate in his recovery, being an esophageal cancer-survivor. While battling the illness, Simonds signed up for the 2009 event and completed it despite undergoing a major surgery only a few months prior.

“I decided since research saved my life, I’d put some money back,” he explained.

Simonds’ daughter Christa was so moved by her father’s decision that she decided to ride alongside him in a few years’ rides, including once with her sister. She said she is hugely inspired by her dad’s dedication to help find a cure.

“It makes me very proud [that my dad continues to ride each year],” she said.

Sandy Giordano joined the team two years ago, reaching out to Simonds after beating non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2007. A stem cell transplant from his sister saved his life, and he wanted to give back to a cause that kept him here today.

Although Giordano was unable to ride this year, discovering he had bladder cancer a few months ago that required surgery, he still lent a hand in the team’s fundraising efforts.

While Tina Cann was no newcomer to the cancer-fighting ride, this was the first year she fundraised and registered as part of Team Prince Rupert. Cann was a member of the Rupert Peddle Pushers in 2013, who rode alongside Team Prince Rupert, but as a separate team.

Weir wasn’t the only Team Prince Rupert novice, with Chris Last also coming aboard for this year’s event.

“I had a good experience throughout the whole ride, despite the weather,” he said, adding he was touched by all the people who came out to show their support of the cyclists, and also by the amount of riders bearing yellow flags, a marking that shows who the cancer survivors are.

So after it was all done with, what did Team Prince Rupert do? The men shared a laugh as they admitted they went for a beer before even showering, signing up for the 2015 event at the same time.

But when it came to expressing their appreciation to all who supported them this year, and past years, the joking demeanour of Team Prince Rupert members switched to serious and sincere. The guys all reiterated how supportive and willing to help the community has been each year, expressing their appreciation to all the individuals, businesses and groups that have aided them in assisting with a cause so important to them.

“There isn’t anybody whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer,” said Weir.

Team Prince Rupert raised more than $21,000 through a number of fundraising events, and through financial assistance from more than a dozen Prince Rupert sponsors.