BY BILL PHILLIPS
A year ago Regan Pearl was undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer.
This year the 33-year-old rode the not-so-easy 200-kilometre Ride to Conquer Cancer as part of the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North team.
Last year, when she was going through treatment, her mother, mother-in-law and godmother rode the Ride to Conquer Cancer in her honour. And while Regan wasn’t entirely sure whether she wanted to ride this year, having undergone her last surgery in March, memories of those she met during treatment helped her decide.
“Going through treatment, you realize how many people are affected by cancer,” she says. “A lot of girls who I met who had the same cancer as myself have passed away and I just wanted to ride for them because I’m here, and I’m alive, and I’m able to.”
And, the fact her family members did the ride last year provide some impetus as well.
“I really wanted to get myself back, to be strong and healthy,” she says. “That was my motivation. It’s so surprising how your inner strength comes out and you can do things you never thought you could do.”
She started training about two months after her last surgery and admits that she didn’t train as much as she should. Like all of the riders, she was hampered by the smoke throughout the summer and had to train indoors.
“The ride was super-hard, it was really rainy and cold,” she says. “But it was also super amazing and inspirational.”
She was joined by her husband, mother, mother-in-law, godmother and a lot of friends on the ride and encourages everyone to get involved.
“If you’re thinking of joining the team, just do it,” she says. “If I can do it, you can do it. It’s so much fun, you won’t regret doing it at all and you will be supporting an amazing cause that it making a difference.”
The Wheelin’ Warriors of the North raised a record-setting $182,000 this year. One of the other 45 riders on the team was James McLellan who is not only a cancer survivor, but is also the clinical supervisor at the B.C. Cancer Centre for the North.
He was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer several years ago and says it is emotional to not only see all the other cyclists in the Ride to Conquer Cancer with yellow flags on their bikes indicating they are survivors, but to have a yellow flag himself.
“To be on the ride and see 150-200 flags, and being able to walk up to someone like me and just get that reinforcement that cancer patients can beat cancer, is a phenomenal feeling,” he says. “Many of these people have walked the same path and overcome the same things and they’re there, pushing that 200 kilometres and making it look easy. It’s outstanding … motivational, inspirational, all those words.”
And McLellan deals with cancer patients every day, so he knows the other side of the story as well.
“We all know that cancer is absolutely indiscriminate, I’ve been treating cancer as a health care professional for 35 years,” he says. “I’ve seen from babies to geriatric patients, cancer doesn’t care, it comes and gets whoever it wants. We’re all touched by it.”
This year’s Ride to Conquer Cancer was McLellan’s third ride. For David McWalter, however, it was his first time cycling the route, which started at a fundraiser.
“I went to a fundraising dance with the Wheelin’ Warriors and at that event I was totally inspired by the speeches from Karin Piche and James McLellan,” he says. “I was probably more emotional at that event than I was at the ride.”
At the fundraising event a bicycle was being auctioned off and David kept putting his hand up and bidding on it. He got the bike.
“I thought, ‘now I have the bike I may as well do something with it.’”
That meant joining the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North team and he trained for a few months, a lot of indoors because of the smoke.
“I trained hard, not knowing whether he would be able to do the entire 200-kilometre distance,” he says. “You get down there and you get totally wrapped up in the event. It’s emotional, it’s inspirational.”
It was tough slog, no doubt about it, as it poured rain for the entire two days of the event.
“I kept my head down, rode my ass off for two days in really cold, wet, crappy conditions, but when you cross that finish line, you feel great,” says David. “And when you reflect on it, it’s only a fraction of what cancer patients go through.”
The Wheelin’ Warriors of the North are already getting ready for next year so it’s never too early to get involved, start training, and start raising money to beat cancer.