It’ll be an uphill battle for fourth-generation Cloverdale-area resident Robyn Wells and her two daughters during a tough cycling fundraiser this summer.
The 64-year-old will attempt her second Cypress Challenge on Aug. 11, when hundreds of cyclists will pedal the road up Cypress Mountain “to help change pancreatic cancer outcomes across the province.”
Last year, it took Wells about 65 minutes to complete the Challenge.
“Some of the guys are up in 30 minutes, which is incredible,” Wells said.
“I ride recreationally but I’m not a cyclist, as such,” she added. “Last year I rode my 12-year-old hybrid (bike) but I have a newer one this year. It’s uphill all the way – there’s no forgiveness, that’s for sure. The hills of Cloverdale are good for practicing.”
The Cypress Challenge cause is one Wells is deeply connected to, having lost both of her parents and two uncles to pancreatic cancer.
Her father, John, was diagnosed with the disease in 2010 and passed away just two weeks later. Her mother, Sharon, was then diagnosed in 2015, a year after two of her uncles (Clarence Heppell and Gary Heppell) had also been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her mother died in 2017.
By fundraising and taking on the Cypress Challenge, Wells said she hopes to change the story for other families who may be facing a similar health situation.
“A pancreatic cancer diagnosis is horrible, and I hate to think of how my family suffered,” Wells said. “It will be wonderful when there are better outcomes. Every dollar of support counts, and I feel confident we will see even more advancements in my children’s lifetime as a result.”
For the Challenge this time around, Wells will be joined by daughters Brianna Noon and Mackenzie Wells, and niece Claire Stewart. They are the “Collins’ Cruisers” team, a reference to Wells’ maiden name.
“My mom always wanted to do whatever she could to help with the future of pancreatic cancer research, and by participating in the Cypress Challenge, I can help carry on that legacy,” Wells said.
“Mom and Dad would be pleased.”
According to BC Cancer Foundation, more than 800 British Columbians will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death after lung, breast in women, colorectal and prostate in men, according to the organization. “It is difficult to detect at an early stage and is often resistant to treatment.”
Close to 800 cyclists took part in the 2018 Cypress Challenge, now in its 12th year. Event details are posted at cypresschallenge.com.
To train for the ride, Wells has been cycling around Cloverdale and also attends spin classes at the local Spinco studio, which she says will donate proceeds from “Spin-It-Forward” classes in August to the Cypress Challenge.
“I like sports, generally, and I play field hockey still, with the Surrey Sharks,” Wells noted.
Her family roots runs deep in Cloverdale and the rest of Surrey.
Her mom Sharon Collins (nee Heppell) was raised on a Cloverdale-area farm that still exists. Her father was raised in Newton, and her parents met at a dance in Cloverdale.
“My great-great-grandfather, Joseph Figg, homesteaded in South Surrey and died in 1885,” Wells explained. “He is the first one buried in the Surrey Centre Cemetery. (He was) my maternal grandmother’s grandfather.
“And then on my maternal grandpa’s side (my mother’s father), they settled in Cloverdale in 1906. He was the first twin in Surrey along with his brother Lester (who also died of pancreatic cancer). They represented Canada and carried one of the flags for the opening of the Peace Arch.”