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So we don’t have to hear the words, ‘you have cancer.’

Eva Patten, with her yellow survivor’s flag, during the Ride to Conquer Cancer.

There’s strength in numbers.

The first time Eva Patten cycled in the Ride to Conquer Cancer was in 2011 and  she rode with her son and daughter.

This past weekend she participated in her second Ride to Conquer Cancer … this time as one of the 81 members of the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North and the support and camaraderie of the team makes all the difference.

The two-day, 250-kilometre cycle trip through the Fraser Valley is never easy, but that first ride for Patten eight years ago was challenging for many, many reasons.

“I was still doing chemo at that time,” she said. “It was a bit of a rough ride.”

In 2008, she sensed something was wrong after she began suffering from kidney problems and internal bleeding.  After undergoing a series of medical tests and eventually a bone marrow biopsy, Patten was diagnosed with multiple myeloma – a little-known blood cancer of the plasma cells. She was 41.

In May 2008, shortly after her diagnosis, Eva received a stem cell transplant. Sadly, her condition continued to worsen, and she was placed in palliative care. Eva was given six months to live.

A new treatment was offered to Patten and she is still here to talk about it and to help raise funds to for cancer research in B.C. After some convincing from Karin Piche of the Wheelin’ Warriors, Patten decided to do the ride again this year.

Every survivor rides with a yellow flag on the back of their bike which, of course, included Patten.

“It’s encouraging to see how many people are riding with yellow flags,” Patten said. “We’re all survivors, we beat the odds. It’s a pretty emotional experience. It’s amazing to see how many people are here, also remembering there lots of people riding for loved ones they’ve lost or loved ones who are still fighting.”

There were more than 2,000 riders in the Ride to Conquer Cancer this year with close to 70 of those being Wheelin’ Warriors of the North.

The Wheelin’ Warriors of the North raised over $207,000 this year, bringing the team’s overall total to about $960,000. The team will undoubtedly hit the $1 million mark next year. Collectively, the 2,100 riders raised $9.1 million for the BC Cancer Foundation for the 11th annual Ride.

The weather was perfect, not too hot and not to cold, but Patten still had some trepidations heading into start of the ride Saturday morning.

“I honestly didn’t know if I could do it,” she said. “I didn’t get the training time in that I wanted. I convinced myself to go and give it a try. I think everyone can surprise themselves at what they can do … You just see so many different levels of abilities.”

She made it through to the end … maybe not as fast as some but the Ride to Conquer Cancer isn’t about being first, it’s about fighting cancer.

“Everybody’s out there for the same reason, to better the odds of  beating cancer, finding less invasive treatments, finding more treatments,” she said. “So we don’t have to hear the words, ‘you have cancer.’”

The key, of course, is to raise funds to help fight cancer and Patten is living proof that the fundraising pays off.

“I’m grateful, every single day that I’m here, and it is because of the fund raising and all the money that comes in for research,” she said. “That’s why I’m alive. That’s why I’m here are able to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer.”

She won’t be resting on her laurels, though, as she has already signed up to be part of next year’s Wheelin’ Warriors of the North team, she will be leading the third annual Prince George Multiple Myeloma March on Saturday, September 14, at 9 a.m., starting at the Otway Nordic Ski Centre, and she will be participating in the Terry Fox Run September 15.

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