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Harry Dhaliwal is a Captain of Team Conquistadors of Cancer, he shares this title with Co-Captains Colleen Franks and Surj Sandher. His journey with The Ride began in 2012, when he sponsored riders Colleen Franks and Paul Dhillon who were colleagues in the dental field that challenged one another to complete the ride. The following year, Harry joined The Ride for first time and in 2014, Paul, Colleen, and Harry created Team Conquistadors of Cancer.

Harry says he continues to participate in The Ride because it is not only an incredible event, but also a unique one: “The same common goal unites us all — it is a game changer and amazing community. You only see some participants once a year, during event weekend, but yet you feel like you have known them for so much longer.” Each year, alongside The Ride community, Harry rides for family and friends who have been affected by cancer and for the hope of a cure for cancer in our lifetime – There are two cancer survivors on the team and other riders who have family members that they have lost to cancer.  The Conquistadors of Cancer ride with all them in our heart.

In addition to the incredible stories of survivors and loved ones, the support of the entire team is what allows Harry to keep going. With a heavy emphasis on the rule of “nobody left behind, and Rule # 5” Harry tells us that being a part of a team makes the entire experience so much better — and is awestruck at just how much the team has grown: “What stands out the most is how much our team has grown since 2012, when it started. It increased from 2 to nearly 30+ riders and comprises riders of all levels of experience…Every year, we train as a team and support one another as we prepare for The Ride. The memories we make on training rides and on ride weekend are ones we talk about for years on end.”

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.”

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Strength in Hope

I didn’t get to spend much time with him in the hospital. In fact, I could only wave to him through the door because children under 16 were forbidden to enter. They avoided letting him near anyone who could make him any sicker than he already was. I didn’t understand – I didn’t have a disease, or even a cold, and neither did my brother, so why couldn’t we see him? I was too naïve to truly understand at the time. Maybe it was a good choice, though. I was quite afraid of hospitals. Not to the extreme, but just enough that I paced and fidgeted with unease during every visit. In the end, our parents escorted us to another room, one for the restless children like us that weren’t allowed to see the ill.

The diagnosis came the day after he graduated. I don’t remember when I heard about it. I’ve forgotten a lot of facts and details about those early days—not by choice, but because that’s how I have always been, and I hate it. Forgetting all the good memories I had with him was one of the worst parts of those two years.

Sometimes they come back to me.

Once, it was as if he visited me in a dream. We played basketball in his backyard, something we did a lot when I was much younger. So innocent. So carefree. So happy.

I woke up sobbing.

I’ve always wondered where my fear of hospitals stemmed from. It’s always existed, swirling around in the back of my mind, taunting me. It’s funny, I’ve never been to the hospital for myself. I’ve never had any serious injuries, so all my time in the hospital has been spent visiting others. Friends, family. Perhaps it’s just the thought of seeing people who are sick and hurt that caused medical settings to instill such fear in me. They’re so full of pain. So full of dread.

Rhabdomyosarcoma, noun, medicine

  1. a rare malignant tumor involving striated muscle tissue.

Pediatric cancer. Age 18. A star football player and future veterinarian with a loving family: his mother, father, two brothers, and girlfriend.

Unfathomable devastation.

And yet, they all hung onto hope, because there is strength in hope.

At his age, being diagnosed with pediatric cancer, the doctors were unsure if they should treat him as an adult or as a child. Pediatric cancer is defined as childhood cancer, usually between the ages of 0-14 years old, but it also will include 15-19-year-olds. He ended up being treated as an adult. I found out later that his chemotherapy treatments were the reason why kids weren’t allowed to see him. The treatments made him so ill, that any hint of disease in the room could make him sick. For a whole year, we all held our breath, just watching, waiting for signs of improvement.

And our hope shined through, because, in 2015, his tests were finally clear of cancer.

For a few blissful months, life became normal again. My family’s visits to the hospital ceased, and we all let go of the breath we were holding. This is another part that I don’t remember. There’s just an empty space in my memory during that period of time, and it’s so frustrating. I want to remember the good times, the joyful moments, the blissful feelings of not having to worry.

But I don’t.

I do remember some of the little things, though. Like the time he asked us to buy him some new pyjama pants. They had a Superman print on them, a symbol of his strength, and how he was a superhero in all our eyes. It’s the sweet, little things that hurt the most.

I remember when it came back. The cancer came back and brought all the emotions we had left behind with it. All that hope built up inside us suddenly came crashing down. All the worry, the pain, and the hospital visits returned in full force. Relentless. Unforgiving. Harrowing.

We raised our hope back up and rallied to support him.

But not even hope can cure the incurable.

A few months later, my family and I went to visit him. We had visited many times in between, but this visit was the most important. He had been moved to Canuck Place, a children’s hospice centre, a few months before. I had drawn him a card ahead of the visit. The game “Pokémon Go!” reached its peak popularity around this time, and he was an avid player. His brothers went out and played for him when his body wouldn’t let him. I drew some characters from the game on the card and was told later that it made him really happy. It was very gratifying but led to a bittersweet realization two days later.

When we visited on Sunday, his lack of strength – seldom seen as it was – showed. Quiet, pale-faced, head down in pain. It hurt to see him, a symbol of such vigor and vitality, in this state. Still, he persevered, we persevered, and the day went well. We went and sat on the swinging bench in the corner of the garden. We followed the winding stone path, just watching the butterflies and gazing at the summer flowers. Such a beautiful day. So peaceful. Heartwarming.

Two days passed. I woke up on the morning of August 16th, 2016, to the sound of my parents crying. I feared the worst. And, for once, my fear was justified.

Tentatively, I stood up and opened my bedroom door. My stomach was coiled up tight in pure anxiety as I poked my head out of the doorway. My mother noticed me across the hall and, with tears streaking her face, ran towards me. She embraced me, a tempest of heartache. With her arms locked around my shoulders, she cried harder, and spoke.

“Kristian’s gone.”

She’s never been a loud woman, but the anguish and despair in her voice deafened me. I immediately collapsed into myself. My arms went limp, my legs wobbled, and, with the faintest of voices, I whispered, “No…”

But this is not the end of his story.

I could write about the weeks that followed his death, and how I felt. How we all felt. How I couldn’t leave my room for the next two days. I could tell you about our family trip to the waterpark so soon after, and how we all tried to keep it together. I could write about the day of the funeral, and the expressions on the faces of his family and friends. I could tell you about how much I miss his big bear hugs, warm as the sun’s embrace. How he lit up every room, like a sunflower.

Instead of reliving heartbreak, why not write about all the good that emerged?

Kristian was one of those people who brought everyone together. As he did in life, so he did in death. He impacted so many individuals in the community, and upon hearing of his passing, they all rose up in support. The sheer number of guests at his funeral proved just how important he was. And is.

Shortly after their loss, Kristian’s family created a non-profit organization in his honour. Their goal is to help young people find opportunity after adversity. They also advocate for young adults with cancer, a group that is not as well-supported as children and elders with cancer. The most important part of this organization is that it heals people like us, his family and friends. Through work in the community, his life carries on.

In the end, that’s all anyone could really ask for. Someone doing good in your name. Someone honouring you. Someone carrying on your legacy.

You are remembered, Kristian.

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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