When a group of cyclists stopped at her home to deliver flowers and offers of support, it meant a lot to Amanda Kearns, whose life had been shaken by a rapid succession of news about cancer. The visit was part of the community outreach of the Ride2Survive, where a team of riders drops by to assure cancer patients and their families that they are not alone.
Both Amanda and her husband Nicky had been involved in the Ride2Survive – a B.C.-based non-profit that organizes one of the biggest independent fundraisers in the Canadian Cancer Society’s calendar – even before their family’s close encounter with cancer. And since then, their commitment has become even deeper.
When the couple now participates in a “ride-by to families touched by cancer, it is a very emotional affair,” says Nicky. “That’s where the rubber hits the road, when you come face to face with the realities of people facing cancer.”
Amanda’s personal journey with cancer started when her mother, who lives in Europe, received a cancer diagnosis. “My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago and had to have surgery. When I came back from seeing her the following September, I went for an ultrasound, which had been booked when my physician found a lump in my neck during an exam,” she recalls. “I had a biopsy and learned I had thyroid cancer.”
Amanda, who was 49 at the time, had surgery the following January. Two weeks later, she found out that her mother had again been diagnosed with cancer. This time, it was Hodgkin lymphoma.
“I went to my doctor and told him that I’d booked a ticket for the middle of April because my mother had cancer, and he replied, ‘Well, so do you,’” Amanda says. “I asked if I could continue my treatment after seeing my mother. He said no.”
Although Amanda’s physician wasn’t happy about her plans, he accelerated her radioactive iodine therapy, which is commonly used after thyroid cancer surgery. She completed the treatment, received a body scan and was on the plane three days later.
“My doctor phoned me while I was away to tell me the scan came back clear, so I wouldn’t be worrying,” says Amanda. Despite the rushed schedule, she was glad to be there when her mother underwent chemotherapy, because the treatment was difficult for the then 72-year-old.
Try not to hide your journey with cancer, be open about what you’re going through and get the support you need.— Amanda Kearns
And Amanda knows that having support can make a big difference. “When you’re dealing with cancer, it helps to share your challenges,” she says. “I was directed to a support group, where you can talk to counsellors and nutritionists and connect with people who go through similar things.”
That’s the key message Amanda would like to share on World Cancer Day: “Try not to hide your journey with cancer, be open about what you’re going through and get the support you need.”
Support can come from family, friends and communities like the Ride2Survive, says Amanda, who plans to continue her involvement with the group and looks forward to the 2020 main event planned for June 20.
In addition to training sessions and visits to families touched by cancer, the yearly ride is preceded by a number of individual fundraisers, says Nicky, who has been involved for six years, mainly as a rider, while Amanda has offered training and crew support. In 2019, the Ride2Survive raised almost $1.2-million, without any donation dollars going to any event, advertising or administrative costs.
“What attracted us to the Ride2Survive is that 100 per cent of the funds raised go to cancer research,” says Nicky. “We know that the money makes a real difference. We get updates about the research that is funded and learn about the outcomes, which are very impressive.”
Cancer research has already changed the outlook for many patients, with life expectancies improving even for cancers that meant a death sentence not so long ago, Nicky explains. “The Ride2Survive is partnering with the Canadian Cancer Society on an exciting new project that is focused on cancer prevention and survivorship. We’re thrilled to support this ground-breaking research.”
Yet for Nicky, being involved in the Ride2Survive goes beyond fundraising, he adds. “It is about the community coming together.”
More information at ride2survive.ca.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.