Biking toward a cure
Dana-Farber's Pam Arinello rides in memory of her mother and sister.
"Dedicated to Discovery...Committed to CareSM" is both Dana-Farber's motto and mission. But for Pam Ariniello, the words take on multiple meanings. As a patent counsel in Dana Farber's General Counsel's office, Ariniello is working to trademark the phrase.
As a staff member and former immunologist, she has seen firsthand the strides made here against cancer. And as a woman who lost her mother and sister to the disease, she believes these are not just words, but a promise for a future without cancer.
With hope in her heart for a healthier tomorrow, Ariniello donned her "Team WOW" shirt for the sixth year on Aug. 6-7, 2005, to ride in the 26th Annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. She undertook the bike-a-thon to benefit Dana-Farber's Jimmy Fund with approximately 4,000 others, including numerous Dana-Farber staff and patients, and close to 200 cancer survivors cycling to bring that promise to fruition.
Founded by Billy Starr in 1980, the fundraiser was originally a pilgrimage across the state for him and a small group of friends in the name of cancer research, as well as a way for Starr to channel the grief from the loss of his mother, uncle, and cousin to the disease. Now, with cyclists hailing from 35 states and six countries riding on one of six courses between Sturbridge and Provincetown, the bike-a-thon expects to raise $21 million this year. Along the way, it has become a positive outlet for many.
"These rides are always emotionally and physically challenging for me," explains Ariniello, who lost her mother to lung cancer five years ago and her sister, Cynthia, to pancreatic cancer in 2002. "The last three years were particularly hard because my sister wasn't there to greet me. In the past, she had waited in heat and hurricane-like weather at the finish until I finally staggered across."
"Without question, the PMC will bring me a great deal of satisfaction for having completed a difficult event," continues Ariniello, who added spinning to her training this year to help cut her first day's time on the two-day ride from Wellesley to Provincetown to under nine hours. "On a higher level, this is a way to channel my physical, mental, and emotional energy into something much greater than the athletic accomplishment gained by riding up to 189 miles. I ride because I can, to help others who cannot."
The PMC has become the most successful venture of its kind, raising and contributing more money to charity than any other athletic event nationwide. It takes 2,200 volunteers, many working year-round, to make it happen. Counting this year's tally, organizers expect contributions since the event's inception to exceed $143 million to support the search for cancer cures.
Though her husband helps her train, Ariniello's racing partner, Lee Ferrande, is a breast cancer survivor. They both ride for the WOW team (Women's Oncology on Wheels), one of approximately 35 teams participating this year.
Eric Winer, MD, director of Dana-Farber's Breast Oncology Center, launched Team WOW in 1999 to raise money for the Women's Cancers Program at Dana-Farber. It started as a staff-building exercise that expanded as Winer and his colleagues began inviting their patients to sign up. This year's squad of 59 included caregivers, support staff, patients and survivors, family members, and friends.
Ariniello, who always likes to challenge herself, says she also enjoys showing her two kids and two grandkids that she is able-bodied. "It's good to know I can still do physical things. It may take a long time, but I get there."
Her philosophy is "personal challenge spurs an individual's growth." After graduating from law school in 1994, Ariniello wanted to "do something for someone else." At the time, she played some tennis and did a bit of running, but never considered herself particularly athletic.
She decided to "give back" on an AIDS ride from Boston to New York that she trained for on a clunky old bike. Ariniello found the experience addictive and participated in two more before becoming a Dana-Farber employee and joining the PMC. She says she doesn't really exercise unless she has a goal, which is how she got seven marathons under her belt. Now, Ariniello is thinking about competing in next year's Boston Marathon® with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team.
"I believe with enough time and financial support, researchers will soon find more cures for cancer," says Ariniello. "That's why I dedicate so much of my time and energy to the cause."