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Adam Radziminski is joining The Ride to Conquer Cancer for the third time in 2019. His Ride journey began and continues in honour of his daughter, Emma, who lost her battle to cancer on March 7, 2018 — just one day shy of turning 5 ½.

Emma was first diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2016 and underwent 6-months of chemotherapy in addition to a successful surgery. In February 2017, she was discharged from the hospital and was on the road to living a normal five-year-old life. Emma, just like Adam, loved to ride her bike and couldn’t stop herself from riding in every corner, section and room of even the hospital. And being discharged meant that she would be free to explore the outdoors on her bike that she loved dearly.

However, just nine-months after being discharged, Emma was re-diagnosed in December 2017. Adam says the feeling he had when he heard the news for the second time around was just as, if not more, devastating. Overcome with powerlessness, worry, and grief, Adam and his wife eventually lost hope that month when they were told Emma’s tumors had not only returned but had spread to her spine. And being only five-years-old, radiation was not an option — deeming Emma’s cancer to be untreatable.

Just three months later Emma lost her battle to cancer. Adam says throughout Emma’s entire cancer journey, he and his wife never had time to ponder the “big picture.” There was always so much going on but they also wanted to enjoy the final day, hour, minute and second they had left with their daughter. But since her passing, the grief and disbelief has struck the couple at full force. Adam says that the duo has yet to unpack all of the pain and anguish of losing a child, with the entirety of the situation yet to be processed. He says the whole journey is not only challenging but also conflicting. Nevertheless, the family will come together to honour Emma at the 2019 Ride to Conquer Cancer. His wife and their 5-year-old son, Matthew, will join Adam at the Finish Line in August.

 

Read Adam’s personal statement below:

“I am riding in memory of my hilarious, brave, and wonderful 5-year old daughter Emma. Cancer conquered Emma’s body, but it will never conquer her spirit!

Emma was diagnosed with a rare and malignant brain tumour in summer 2016. After a successful brain surgery, 8 grueling months of chemo, and a stem cell transplant, she was in the remission for the better part of a year.

Then, this past December, an MRI discovered that tumours have returned now to her brain and spine. She passed away at home on March 7, 2018 – one day shy of her turning 5 and a half.

We are as motivated as ever to raise money to fuel the vital research that will fight this disease.

Funds raised through the Ride to Conquer Cancer will support life-saving research and enhancements to care at BC Cancer, bringing hope to cancer patients in B.C. and beyond. I will be raising money to conquer childhood cancers.

Emma has always loved riding bikes, and as her dad I’ve loved taking her for long rides around the city on the back of my bike. Little Emma spent more than 125 days and nights in the hospital fighting cancer. She spent many hours riding her bike down long, empty hospital hallways, attached to a huge medication pole (we would run next to her, pushing it along, trying to keep up!). On days she was not allowed to leave her room, the hospital provided her with a stationary bike so she could keep riding. I will be thinking of her, her bravery, and her love for riding all the way to the Finish Line.”

When Jennie Gjersten was twenty-years-old, she was attending the University of British Columbia and living life just as any other twenty-year-old would. When summer break came around, while working two jobs to save for school, she was hit with a heavy shock that would forever change her outlook on life. During the summer of 2001, Jennie was diagnosed with tongue cancer.

Read Jennie’s personal story below:

 

That Summer of ‘01 

“When I was twenty-years-old, I was attending the University of British Columbia and living life just as any other twenty-year-old would. When summer break came around, while working two jobs to save for school, I was hit with a heavy shock that would forever change my outlook on life. During the summer of 2001, I was diagnosed with tongue cancer.

I had originally thought that the recurrent sore in my mouth was the result of the typical habits of students during their university years living away from home— skipping the dentist, not enough sleep, and far too much fun. However, as the ulcer became more frequent it also seemed as if my tongue was becoming swollen. So my ulcer, swollen tongue and I visited the walk-in-clinic. The doctor downplayed any concern and referred me to a specialist. That specialist took a biopsy; that word was enough to make me understand the gravity of what might be going on. A week later, I was diagnosed. It was a very challenging age to be diagnosed because I really felt like an adult, but wasn’t much more than a teenager—and the type of cancer I had was extremely rare, especially for my demographic. I had never smoked and did not drink alcohol when I thought back to the first occurrence of my symptoms. Luckily enough within two weeks of being diagnosed in Vancouver, I had flown to London, Ontario, been through all of the pre-ops and was in surgery under the care of some great surgeons and nurses. I had two back-to-back surgeries, totaling fourteen hours, and spent about five weeks in the hospital before flying back to British Columbia. After a bit of healing, I went through radiation therapy at Fraser Valley Cancer Centre.

Long story short, I had half of my tongue removed, a “reconstructive” tissue graft from my wrist put into my mouth (trust me when I say that reconstruction is a bit of false advertising…), and five weeks of radiation that felt like a really bad sunburn in my mouth and throat. More than I care to admit, as a young woman, I was concerned with how people would view me. I cared less about the idea of dying, and more about what my scars would look like, how my speech would be, and if anyone would ever want to date or marry me. All I wanted to do was be normal and be with my friends. Nevertheless, I was determined to not let cancer change my life and who I am. I might have taken that statement too literally by going out with my friends to a pub on the night of my diagnosis instead of staying in feeling sorry for myself, and officially telling my mom about my cancer that night outside that pub on Broadway Street in Vancouver (…sorry mom…). But at the end of the day, the entire journey has ultimately brought me to the place I am today. With the support of my amazing family, friends and UBC rugby teammates, I was able to conquer cancer in less than a year. While I am going on my 17th year of being cancer-free, my journey still continues to affect my life each and every day. It has helped me to understand that life is too short to not be happy. More so, it has always guided me personally and professionally, only doing the things that make you happiest, and not settling or putting things off.”

Where I am Today 

“I first came across the BC Cancer Foundation after my initial diagnosis at age twenty. The work that the BC Cancer Foundation does ranges diversely from treatment to care. I am an ongoing patient at BC Cancer and they truly have some of the most selfless healthcare professionals working there that are changing lives. For me, the collaborative nature of the BC Cancer Foundation—amongst other foundations around the country—was what helped me to get the nationwide treatment that I needed to survive. While it may be easier for patients to get lost through the cracks, all of the agencies were remarkable in their efforts to help get me the treatment I needed—and the very reason I am still here today.”

How I Continue to Conquer Cancer

“This year I have chosen to participate in the Ride to Conquer Cancer to raise funds for the amazing organization that not only saved my life but also continues to guide me on the path of recovery and beyond. In addition, I am thankful to work at a company that truly supports and encourages all their employees to participate in this journey to conquer cancer in our lifetime. Not only will fundraising efforts help contribute towards cancer research but will also continue to raise awareness about cancer. I choose to fundraise for the people in my life touched or taken by cancer, for the 20-year-old me and the woman I am today, and to do my small part to help improve the lives of those with cancer in hopes that one day, no one else has to fight the same battle.” 

Marianne Stowe-Thomson is captain of Team Grey Matter. She continues to Ride for her late-husband, Rob, who recently lost his battle to Glioblastoma. Marianne says Rob has been her inspiration behind The Ride and for him, she will continue to bring awareness to finding a cure for GBM.

After experiencing an episode of speech arrest in April 2016, Rob was officially diagnosed with GBM the following August. Marianne says that despite the cancer, he continued to live his life to the fullest and even drove himself to radiation each time.  Rob also went to cycle Mt Ventoux in France & continued daily exercise because his motto throughout his cancer journey remained, “No bad days”

Nevertheless, obviously concerned about her husband’s health, Marianne was reassured having their dear friend Dr. Hazel Park, to join The 2017 Ride, as part of Team Grey Matter! In August, Marianne will continue to Ride with Team Grey Matter — as will their two children. Marianne will be wearing Rob’s jersey and her daughter, Alexa, will be riding his bike so that the family can represent and honour him at The Ride.

“Last year was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever done, alongside and watching my husband live for the last 18 months. It won’t be the same without Rob, but I know he will be with us in spirit. Having our two children Mackenzie & Alexa along with family & friends riding for team Grey Matter (Rob’s creation) will be epic. Carrying on what he started will drive us to the finish line.”  — Marianne Stowe-Thomson, Captain of Team Grey Matter

Paul Chapman participated in his 10th Ride to Conquer Cancer last August. Paul is a cancer survivor who, at the time, was told that brain tumour that was resected in an operation in July 2007 was terminal brain cancer. Consequently, the doctors then informed him that he had only six more months to live. However, Paul’s remarkable persistence and determination—and the inability to leave his daughters without a father—has given him the strength to still be here with us today. Paul says he rides to give back to BC Cancer—the ones who treated him so well that he was able to conquer terminal brain cancer.

Why do you continue to Ride to Conquer Cancer?

“I do this because doctors told me that my Brain Tumour that was resected in an operation in July of 2007 was terminal brain cancer (Grade 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme,aka GBM). A doctor told me I had 6 months to live. I argued with him, but he was persistent in his determination. After repeatedly telling the doctor I was going to live, he settled on perhaps I may live 12 months. Again I disagreed. We parted on that note.

Two weeks later, the thought that I could die in 6 months depressed me. A relative that had been through Cancer told me I had two choices; firstly I could give up and die, or secondly choose to fight and live. I responded that I didn’t have two choices, I had one. This focused me on my mission ahead. With two young daughters, age 1 and 5 I declared that I would fight and win! I would not leave this planet with my daughters not having a father!

The resection of the grapefruit size tumour was step one — and recovery from the operation was complete after 3 weeks. Within the recovery time, some remaining cancer cells formed two new areas of growth. The second step was to shrink the areas with Radiation, and then the third step was to use Chemotherapy to kill the cells. Fortunately enough, my doctors at BC Cancer and my surgeon, Dr. Gul, did a wonderful job managing my medical treatment. I was declared in Remission on March 16, 2008.

Now here I am giving back to the system which treated me so well. Nearly 1 in 2 is the current number of Canadians that will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. This number is offensive to me, and I am determined to ride with my team of Brainiacs and a few thousand others to raise money to Conquer Cancer. You will be our partners in this success. Without you, our financial partners, there would be no Ride. There would be no Conquering Cancer. We put our butts in the saddle for a long and epic Ride and I want to see YOU to take the stride to #ConquerCancer TODAY!” — Paul Chapman, Captain of Team Brainiacs

(PS: Macie Chapman, who was 5 years old at the time, turned 16 and completed The Ride to Conquer Cancer with me during the special 10th year!)

STORIES

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.

Twenty-three years later, he is healthy and already excited about the next 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 BC Cancer.

Who in your life has received treatment at BC Cancer?

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 BC Cancer?

The medical professionals at BC Cancer saved my life. I have an immense amount for 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 BC Cancer’s bedside manner?

They interacted with poise and professionalism. The staff at BC Cancer 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 BC Cancer. 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  BC Cancer 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.

Next August, Tom Lefkovits will be participating in his fourth Ride to Conquer Cancer® Presented by Wheaton Precious Metals™ benefiting the BC Cancer Foundation.

He shares how his passion for The Ride, combined with his national pride, made it an easy choice to sign up for this event…

“I fell in love with cycling in 2009 when I moved to Whistler from Montreal. Being able to do my favourite activity in such a beautiful and breathtaking country makes any ride wonderful. Any time I hop on my bike, the movements feel effortless, as I’m captivated by this country’s beauty…

My father underwent treatment for bladder cancer in Montreal at the Lakeshore General Hospital. He sadly passed away at 68. For my entire life, I have worked in the hotel and hospitality business, which has resulted in a lot of travelling. When I finally got to see my dad, he was on his deathbed, so sedated that he could barely recognize me. I wish I could change this, but I can’t. So instead, I ride.

That I am able to do the sport I love, in the country that I love, all in the effort to raise money to conquer cancer, is a dream come true. I love cycling because I can clear my head, turn off the world and be in my own space… Almost every one of us can say that we know someone affected by cancer, and with the leading work being done in Canada, I think we’re getting closer to having a world free from the disease.

We just have to keep pedalling.”

In 2016, Ali Miri joined thousands of others for the first time in The Ride to Conquer Cancer® Presented by Wheaton Precious Metals™ benefiting the 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 BC Cancer.

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 BC Cancer 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 BC Cancer. 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 November 2015, Jacqueline Zweng was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. The following July, she finished chemotherapy and underwent hormone treatments, which lasted until this past May. She also completed 28 consecutive radiation treatments from August to September 2016 at BC Cancer.

This single mother and Rider shares why it was so important to provide a strong example to her daughter while going through her cancer care experience.

“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 Wheaton Precious Metals™ benefiting the 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. Here she saw me hop on my bike and ride alongside thousands of others, yellow flag standing tall…

Already, I am gearing up for my next Ride. 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.

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!”

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