Donna Brooks will be thinking of her sister when she sets off on a 100-kilometre BC Cancer Foundation Tour de Cure bicycle ride this month.
The 54 year-old Ucluelet resident lost her sister Nancy to cancer in March.
“I wanted to honour her by riding in the Tour de Cure and I also wanted to do it for myself and turn something that was really negative in my life into something that’s positive,” she told the Westerly News. “It helped me get out of bed in the morning. It’s tough on the mental health with the grieving. It’s been brutal. It’s helped me to sign up for this ride and, by raising money, I’m helping other people who are dealing with this horrible illness. The money’s going to go towards research and patient care that’s going to make other people’s lives better.”
Brooks worked as a registered nurse in cancer care for over 15 years and said she’s seen major advancements, including better screening leading to earlier detections as well as better medication and a higher quality of life while on treatment.
“Life doesn’t stop when you have cancer,” she said, adding her sister was the mother of three young boys when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 41.
“She was going through chemotherapy, but she still had to run her kids to hockey practice and all the sports…It’s nice that people can keep living and not live with as much fear hopefully too,” she said. “There’s been huge changes, but there’s still room for improvement. Cancer affects people of all ages…It’s so indiscriminate. People are losing their children and sisters and brothers just way too soon. My sister was a healthy person, she was an athlete, she ate well, she did all the right things, but it still affected her and she lost her life at the age of 58 to her disease.”
Brooks said she and her sister Nancy participated in a Ride to Conquer Cancer in 2019, a month after losing their mother to cancer. Nancy was going through treatment at the time and Brooks said the experience was empowering.
“It was a really emotional, powerful experience,” she said. “There’s so much positive vibes being in a large group of people and lots of people on the sidelines cheering everybody on. We were bawling, both of us, by the time we crossed the finish line and I’d love to experience that again.”
The Tour de Cure is being held on August 27, with a main event in the Fraser Valley and riders are also welcome to participate in their home communities on that day.
Brooks said she hasn’t decided whether she’ll be travelling to the main event or staying on the West Coast and cycling from Ucluelet to Tofino and back.
Wherever she decides to ride, she expects the journey to be emotional.
“It’s in memory of my sister, so I’ll be thinking of her kind of being beside me on the ride. It’s going to be hard to not have her there because we used to love cycling together,” she said. “We did many things together but cycling was a shared love that we’d done our whole lives.”
Tour de Cure director Lindsay Carswell said the BC Cancer Foundation event is an evolution of the Ride to Conquer Cancer and made its first appearance last year, though was held virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“There were lots of twists and turns during the pandemic and out of the ashes comes opportunity for us at the BC Cancer Foundation to create a made in BC for BC cycling fundraiser called the Tour de Cure,” he said, adding the event provides cyclers with an opportunity “to fundraise, to heal, to share stories and to accomplish a feat or a goal that they set for themselves.”
He said the foundation is excited to bring back the in person event to the Fraser Valley on August 27 where he expects over 1,500 riders to participate.
“What you’re raising money for by participating is the support and funding for breakthrough research that’s carried out here in British Columbia. It benefits patients in BC with new innovations to care but it’s also shared with the scientific community to provide advancements in cancer screening and treatment throughout the world,” he said.
“It’s a really great opportunity for people to find purpose when they’re looking for it and it’s a really great opportunity for people to heal during a grieving process by meeting others who have had or are going through similar experiences. It’s very rewarding for all who participate.”
Anyone interested in supporting Brooks’ fundraising efforts or participating in the ride themselves is encouraged to check out www.tourdecure.ca for more information.
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