For a guy still going through chemotherapy treatment for colorectal cancer, riding 220 km with his butt perched on a hard bicycle seat seems an unlikely way to spend a weekend.
But for 35-year-old Graham Fenn, participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer is an important milestone on his road back to health as well as a way to give back for the top-notch care he’s received since he was diagnosed last February.
Fenn, a director of manufacturing for a paper and notebook company who lives in Port Moody, said he’s always been pretty active, playing soccer, snowboarding and traveling for work. The busy schedule, along with some upgrading courses he was taking at BCIT in the evening, left him tired.
But last Family Day weekend, Fenn was stricken with stomach pains so bad he went to St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver to get them checked out.
The diagnosis of colorectal cancer was a shock, Fenn said.
“I thought it was really minor,” he said. “It was a bit of a difficult time.”
Within a week, Fenn had surgery to remove a piece of his colon, as well as some lymph nodes to determine if the cancer had spread, and three weeks later he was getting chemotherapy treatment.
It was during a discussion Fenn had with his oncologist, Dr. Jonathan Loree, about the impact the disease would have on his activity that the doctor told him about the Cancer Derailleurs, a cycling team he captains that’s seeking to raise $500,000 to advance development of liquid biopsies to make it easier to diagnose cancers and track a patient’s response to therapy.
Fenn said he’s “more of a motocross kind of guy,” but he liked the idea of riding a bike to maintain his fitness while he recovered.
He reached out to his cousin, former Canadian Olympic mountain biker Warren Sallenbach, who loaned him one of his old road bikes, a steel black and orange Ritchey. His first ride, last May, was with a couple of friends, down from his home on Heritage Mountain to Barnet beach for a picnic.
“It was really fun,” Fenn said. “About halfway through the ride, I couldn’t get the smile off my face.”
Since then Fenn’s upped his training to a few rides of 30 to 80 km a week.
He said getting on the bike offers an escape from the drudgery and nagging uncertainty of treatment.
“It’s like a form of meditation,” Fenn said. “Your mind drifts. There’s a lot of introspection.”
More importantly, Fenn said, riding has helped make him feel healthy again, even as he continues chemotherapy treatments every two weeks.
“It’s pretty important to have that,” Fenn said.
• The Ride to Conquer Cancer is Aug. 24 to 25. Proceeds benefit the BC Cancer Foundation. To find out more, register as a participant or to donate to a rider, go to ride.conquercancer.ca/vancouver19/.