by John Pitts

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I took part in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. It’s a 200+km, two-day cycling journey from Toronto to Niagara Falls benefitting the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. It was our second ride, and this time, our 16 year-old son joined us. Quinn is an avid cyclist, so the distance was nothing to him, but the experience was life-changing.

For one thing, our fundraising requirement of $7500 was a challenge for one family to raise. We did make that $7500 goal, in fact we exceeded it. But it was a time consuming, year-long effort.

For another thing, it’s a grueling ride. Because it takes several hours to ride a bike over 100 km, it’s painful on the seat. Day one can leave you a little tender. The beginning of day two finds you willing to trade your first born for a seat cushion. The wind was ruthless on day one, to say nothing of the unseasonal heat. We found ourselves lined up to replace the sunscreen that had dripped away with our sweat, and utterly grateful for the few inches of shade we managed to secure under a cherry tree while we broke for lunch.

But speaking with an 88 year-old blind man riding a tandem bike with an equally aged partner – at the 145 km mark, no less – reminded us why we do what we do. Seeing names of loved ones scrawled in grease pencil on the calves of those in front of us, and the carefully secured pictures of smiling faces on the frames of many a bike, reminded us of all that we’ve lost to cancer too – neighbours, friends and family.

Yes, the wind was harsh. But watching it pull at the yellow flags waving on the back of every bike pedaled by a cancer survivor humbled us, to say the least.

We were reminded that our aching muscles were nothing compared to anyone’s personal battle with this terrible disease. And in the end, over $17 million was raised for Princess Margaret. Knowing we were part of that made it well worth the effort.