Ellen Freeman Roth                      

August 10, 2008

Challenge offers rewards for many

It's time for me to come clean.

For a dozen years I've asked friends to donate annually to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, because each year I bicycle 190 miles the first weekend in August to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I've made it seem as though I'm doing the hard work, but, in truth, they give generously and I reap the reward.

I get to bicycle across Massachusetts on a summer weekend, catching flies with my open-mouthed smile as I cycle under the banner in Wrentham that reads "Cherry Street loves PMC riders," and enjoy the residents serenading us with music, blowing bubbles, and applauding next to signs saying "Thank you. I'm a cancer survivor." I get to feel my heart swell as I see the boy at the Brewster water stop holding his sign, which this year read, "I'm 12 thanks to you." (How he's grown!) I get the thrill of coming upon the balloon garland welcoming us to Wellfleet, to hear the soulful bagpipes as we cycle through the dunes in Truro, and to catch another wind thanks to the Over the Hill Cheerleaders pulling us up a big ascent. I get to feel the unity among bystanders, 5,200 riders, and 2,700 volunteers striving to advance progress in curing cancer.

It seems impossible that we're not curing all the world's ills with such good will and dedication. But we are making tremendous advances against one insidious ill, cancer, which has stung so many.

I tip my helmet to everyone who is contributing to meet this year's Pan-Mass. Challenge goal of $34 million to advance cancer research and treatment. Every rider-raised dollar goes to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the funds are especially precious since government funding for cancer research is flat. All those donations enable lots of people to have a good, long ride.