As she crested 64 Avenue and Scott Road on her road bike, making her way past the cheering crowd dressed in yellow, the one thing that was going through Lynn Higgins’ mind was that she could finally put her feet down. She had reached her goal.
After 19 grueling hours of pedalling 400-km through an onslaught rain, wind and sun, the South Surrey woman had reached the final point of Ride2Survive.
A year later, Lynn, 52, recalled completing the annual fundraising bike ride as if it had occurred just the day before.
“Finally. I had done it. I had done it with the support and encouragement of people who want to make a difference. Who truly believe that we can find the cure for cancer if we keep looking for it,” she said.
After participating in the life-changing experience last year for the first time, Lynn is gearing up for another successful bike ride on June 22 from Kelowna to Delta, this time with husband Neil, 52.
Lynn first became involved with the Ride2Survive following her enrolment in a spin class led by a husband-and-wife team who took part in the event.
Training for the 400-km journey began in January, as it does each year, and goes on for the six months leading up to the event, Lynn explained, noting that the most unique component was that everything is done as a team.
“You have experienced riders, who know what to expect, working with first-time riders – which I was last year and Neil will be this year – bringing you along and doing the best they can to prepare you for what will be the most mammoth undertaking of your life,” she said.
Last year, Neil was a part of the 50-member volunteer team, which worked like a pit crew at each of the breaks, replenishing water supplies, providing food and more.
“I really wish I had participated last year,” Neil said. “The way we described it last year was that Ride2Survive isn’t so much of an event; Ride2Survive is a living, breathing organism. It takes on a personality and a being all in itself. The ride portion is one thing, I was a volunteer last year and I know it takes a huge effort of the volunteers we have.”
The driving force for the couple lies in their personal experiences with cancer, including the loss of a friend who passed away two years ago, leaving behind two young daughters.
“It was heart-wrenching to watch. Her fight was three years long and you could only imagine what that did to her. But she did it and she refused to die and leave her little girls with no memory of their mother,” Lynn said. “I can’t put into words what this woman went through. But she did it with grace and kindness.”
Last year, Lynn raised nearly $40,000 for the event, which went directly to the fight for a cure. Knowing that the funds will be allocated straight to the research was another reason the Higgins chose to put their support behind the campaign.
“A number of things are unique. Everything we do is funded by riders and donations. There are no salaries or deductions taken,” he said.
While he admitted the idea of the ride is a daunting one, hearing the stories of survivors and those who have been affected by cancer has spurred him to keep training.
“For me when we see the yellow jerseys at the front of the pack and they are the cancer survivors… You know it wasn’t that long ago when we shouldn’t have any yellow jerseys at the front of the pack. Cancer was a death sentence,” he said.
The night before the ride begins, the crew of participants meet at a church in Kelowna where they check bikes and supplies. Following dinner, there is a gathering around a fire where each person shares their story, Neil said.
“From those stories alone, the inspiration strikes, because once again, we’ve got cancer survivors with us,” he said.
“And then to hear the other stories about people doing the ride for their partners that they’ve lost.
“If you’re unsure whether you can do it or not, when you hear everyone’s stories, the whole 400k thing that we’re doing doesn’t seem so big,” he said.
“What we’re doing for one day is nothing compared to what people with cancer face every day,” Lynn added.
So far this year, Lynn has raised $25,200, while Neil is aiming for $20,000.
To donate to a rider or for more information, visit www.ride2survive.ca