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Declan Rourke, left, is the Stem Cell Cyclists' Pedal Partner in the Pan Mass Challenge. Chris Villani, shown is the right is a member of the team who just completed the latest ride.


Sunshine and Smiles at the 40th Pan-Mass Challenge

The 40th edition of the Pan-Mass Challenge rolled across the Commonwealth last weekend under sunny skies and with the promise of rais- ing more than $60 million to benefit Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The event was a success by any measure, but also a reminder that this fight is marked by both triumphs and setbacks.
This was probably my easiest PMC in memory. The legs were fresh, the lungs in good shape and the saddle discomfort ... minimal. Thousands of riders crossed the finish line with plenty of strength left in their pedal strokes. When one cyclist crashed near the Provincetown line, her teammates and many other stopped, even with the finish only a few miles away. We pick each other up, and no one gets left behind.
The same can be said for our bigger battle against cancer. Not every ride is smooth. My team, the Stem Cell Cyclists, was founded by a veteran PMC rider from Hopkinton who had lost her sister to cancer in 2001 after receiving a stem cell transplant.
After the ride Sunday, a man approached my teammate and I when he saw our Stem Cell Cyclist jerseys. He said his son had been treated by Dr. Corey Cutler at Dana-Farber, the recipient of our fundraising, and had a stem cell transplant. He could not have been more appreciative for the work Dr. Cutler and his team do every day.
We asked how his son was doing and his eyes drifted downward a bit. "It came back," he said before adding confidently. "But we'll try it again."
Perseverance is a crucial part of cycling and battling the steep hills and sharp descents that come with tackling cancer.
But for some, the ride gets smoother. The parents of a close friend of mine named Julia finished the PMC and raised more than $11,000 between them in honor of their daughter, who won her battle with cancer more than 17 years ago after being treated at Dana-Farber and has not looked back since.
The Stem Cell Cyclists' "Pedal Partner," Declan Rourke, took on a rare form of brain cancer and came out on top. He was waiting for us again this year along the route along with his proud and grateful parents.
Sometimes the ride isn't so smooth. Sometimes we crash, but we get back up and try again with the support of our friends, loved ones, and teammates. Because we know, though the road may be rough, nothing feels better than crossing that finish line.




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