L. Smith at 2007 PMC
After finishing chemotherapy and radiation for Hodgkin lymphoma at the end of April 2007, I decided to ride the Pan-Mass. Challenge (PMC) bike-a-thon in August to get back in shape. I had trained all summer, but I’d never ridden 80 miles, not to mention 80 miles two days in a row! Could I make it? I was going to ride with my friends and fellow cancer survivors, Michele Dechiaro Shin and Cindy Hale. Cindy, a Ewing’s sarcoma and leukemia survivor and stem cell transplant recipient, was riding in her seventh PMC, which gave me great hope for my friend, Amy, who was also about to undergo transplantation.
After a restless sleep the night before, my family took me to the Wellesley start and told me I could do this. I had so much (natural) adrenaline running. It was emotionally overwhelming to see the numbers of people who were touched by cancer. Many people who were riding for loved ones had mini-shrines on their bikes and signs on their backs. I shed a few tears but smiled with the knowledge that together we were aiming to raise $27 million to fight this disease.
My ride started Saturday morning, August 3, 2007, at 7:30 a.m. Temperatures were in the 90s. There were all kinds of people riding, including Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and Dana-Farber doctors. They labored up hills with the rest of us. People everywhere came out of their houses to line the route, spray us with garden hoses, and shout, “Thank you for riding!” I said, “Thank you for cheering!” There were water stops every 20 miles, and the ice, Gatorade, and food kept us going. At around 3 p.m. we rolled into Bourne, where we spent the night at the Mass Maritime Academy. The campus was rocking with a band, tons of food, and a very popular massage tent.
Our wake-up call the next day was at 4 a.m. It was great to see my mom and my friend, Carol, already serving breakfast for 5,000 riders. We got on our bikes and started the climb over the Bourne Bridge. This was the part I feared most – day two, first big hill. We had driven over the bridge several times on the way to the Vineyard before the PMC, and every time I thought, “oh no.” But it was actually great. Riding the hills on my way to work and training in New Hampshire paid off. The sun was rising on a beautiful day. Then the climb was over, and we were flying down the other side and cruising down the scenic, hilly Cape Cod Canal.
Before I knew it, the Provincetown tower appeared on the horizon. We were almost there, but then we turned uphill again for a detour around town through the Cape Cod National Seashore. Much to my surprise, my legs were still strong! I powered up the big hills near the dunes. We arrived in Provincetown 10 minutes before our noon goal.
It was such a wonderful feeling to have completed this journey and raised so much money for Dana-Farber. It meant I must be healthy now if I could ride all that way. The PMC has a profound meaning for all of us who help the Institute, mile by mile, get closer to conquering cancer.