National Kids Cancer Ride

NKCR Day 9 – Atikokan to Thunder Bay (117k)

We awoke this cold morning in Atikokan, and were treated to a hot breakfast of pancakes, sausages and oatmeal at the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre, before assembling for our morning dedication.
Sean was an active 9-year old when he was struck on the hand and a bump appeared, which continued to grow. The bump was later diagnosed as Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that forms in soft tissue. Sean was given a tough treatment protocol: surgeries, radiation and a very toxic cocktail of extremely aggressive chemotherapies. He also ran the gamut of scary neutropenia, blood transfusions and needles. (Sean hated needles.) After 14 months, Sean was cancer free and enjoyed school and activities like other children. One day, about a year later, Sean’s mom noticed a bump on Sean’s leg…the cancer was back. Another battle ensued and Sean won it in fine style. The third time, the chances of beating this cancer were determined to be nil, and the family went for quality of life and no more treatment. Sean died peacefully in 2007 at the age of 13. Today we will ride for Sean.
The Trans Canada Highway in this part of northern Ontario is spectacularly beautiful; a ribbon of fresh asphalt weaving through pristine lakes, forests and dramatic rock cuts. It is a desolate stretch of road cutting through the Canadian Shield, with few signs of life, other than a few eagles flying above us. Ordinarily, this would be a wonderful road to ride; today however, the weather was not our ally, with shifting and swirling winds and cold temperatures making for a very difficult day. Our volunteers, of course, provided us with encouragement, nutrition and hydration along the way, including a wonderful lunch around a campfire to warm us up.
The challenging conditions laid waste to our peloton…we started with 14 riders and finished with 7. After 117k, we called it a day and shuttled the last 30k to our final destination…the Terry Fox Monument in Thunder Bay.

A nine foot high bronze statue, set on a 45-ton granite base with a foundation of local amethyst, commands a breath-taking view of Lake Superior. The statue was erected in memory of Terry Fox, the courageous one-legged runner who embarked on a cross-country run for cancer research – the Marathon of Hope. The site is not far from the place where he ended his 5,342k run, stricken with the disease that ended his life on June 28, 1981. 

Many of our riders and volunteers have lost loved ones to childhood cancer and so the Terry Fox Monument is a very special and emotional place for the NKCR. It also marks the mid point of our ride across the country. We have been on the road for nine days, with nine more days until we reach Halifax. 
After spending some contemplative time at the monument, we jumped into the RVs, vans and trucks, and headed to Lakehead University for showers and dinner. We are now headed to Marathon, where the ride continues tomorrow. The weather forecast is horrible, with heavy rains expected  later tonight and continuing all day tomorrow… ☹️