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Rare cancers are my lemon. Cycle for Survival is my lemonade.
There is no question that cancer can be scary—there’s so much uncertainty, and the physical and emotional challenges after a diagnosis can be completely overwhelming. Even more daunting is having a rare cancer since they often lack a proven treatment plan. That’s exactly what we experienced when my beautiful, vibrant wife, Jen, was diagnosed with sarcoma shortly after we got married.
When I think back to her diagnosis, I very clearly recall that we were shocked and, of course, scared. However, we made a very conscious decision to take that fear and try to place it to the side. Every patient has their own approach; we decided that it was best for us to embrace a fearless attitude. We wanted to do everything we possibly could to help Jen and her fellow patients.
The first step was to do further research. We quickly learned that we weren’t alone in our struggle. We read about a range of cancer types, including brain, pancreatic, ovarian, thyroid, stomach, leukemia, lymphoma, and many others. Each of them affects less than 200,000 people so they are considered rare cancers. However, we were surprised to discover that when you add them up, 50% of people with cancer are battling a rare form of the disease. Just as you’d imagine, research on rare cancers is underfunded.
I would have given anything to make Jen healthy again. We had the best doctors in the world at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), but the treatments only worked briefly, or didn’t work at all. For more than seven years, I was by my wife’s side for hundreds of medical appointments, six intense surgeries, and twenty different types of chemotherapy.
We focused on Jen’s health while also living every day to the fullest, determined not to let cancer stop the life we began together as husband and wife. We also had a desire to help others in need of new cancer treatments. That’s how Cycle for Survival started – as a way to feel empowered in the fight against cancer. It was how we could channel our emotions into a positive effort and include our family and friends.
That little event is now a national movement with indoor cycling rides in 13 cities across the country. The growth is thanks to MSK, which has owned and operated Cycle for Survival since 2009, the founding partner Equinox, and more than 150,000 donors and participants committed to the cause.
Since 2007, when Jen and I started Cycle for Survival in one NYC studio, $60 million has been raised – 100% of every dollar goes to cancer research studies and clinical trials. The donations are allocated within six months of the events, so every supporter has a powerful impact.
It broke my heart when Jen lost her battle on July 20, 2011. She was only 40 years old. She was the most creative, energetic, and inspiring person I’ve ever known, but I don’t think even she could have ever imagined that today Cycle for Survival would be the fastest-growing athletic fundraiser in the U.S. It’s a special legacy, but it’s also a testament to MSK, Equinox, and every single person riding for a better future.
Through this journey I’ve learned that we don’t have control over the challenges we face in life, but we definitely have a choice in how we react to them. My choice is to fight back and do everything I can to help other rare cancer patients.
Cycle for Survival is about responding with determination to make real progress possible. It’s so much bigger than Jen and me now. Many people fight back through Cycle for Survival to remember loved ones lost, celebrate their lives, and honor everyone still fighting. Through research, Cycle for Survival is changing what it means to receive a rare cancer diagnosis.
One of the greatest parts about Cycle for Survival is that truly anyone can participate, regardless of athletic ability. We always say “pedal hard or hardly pedal!” The music is awesome, the Equinox instructors are incredible, and the energy is unforgettable.
For anyone who wants to fight back against cancer, we welcome you to be part of the movement. Gather your friends and family members, ride together on teams, and make an impact. I hope to see you there! Join the Battle!
If you’d like more details or want to register or donate, go to CycleforSurvival.org