In Atlantic Canada, it’s safe to say we’ve all been affected by cancer, whether through a personal battle or through a loved one’s experience. With approximately 15,000 Atlantic Canadians facing a cancer diagnosis every year, it’s no surprise that this year’s Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal reached capacity when more than 800 riders registered, all with their own reason to ride.
Emotions ran high on Sept. 28 as more than 1,000 people, including riders, volunteers, sponsors and friends, faced the fight in Ride for Cancer’s milestone fifth year. Hosted in partnership by the QEII Foundation and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal is Atlantic Canada’s largest one-day fundraising cycling event.
This year, the ride honoured the late Dr. Stephen Couban, former QEII hematologist.
Sue Pleasance, Ride participant and cancer survivor, worked alongside Dr. Couban for many years. Sue took the stage to pay tribute to Dr. Couban during the event’s opening ceremonies.
“I want to discuss a remarkable man who would be here today if cancer had not taken his life,” says Sue. Dr. Couban joined the QEII’s Division of Hematology in 1997. Since then, Dr. Couban revolutionized how transplants were done in Nova Scotia by introducing chemotherapy and radiation on an outpatient basis, increasing the capacity to see more patients and decreasing wait times.
“On January 9, 2019, Stephen advised us of his diagnosis: pancreatic cancer. Two months later, we received the devastating news he was gone. How could this happen to a man who gave so much of himself to fight against this disease?” says Sue to a teary-eyed crowd.
With fond memories of the first time the QEII’s hematology team took part in Ride during its inaugural year in 2015, Sue says, “Stephen was the first one to cross the finish line that year — he gave it his all and I know he would want us to do the same today.”
Feeling inspired for the day ahead, riders embarked on an epic journey, cycling from Mahone Bay to Halifax via a range of routes through the Rum Runners Trail and by road. The group of riders — comprised of veteran cyclists, rookie riders, cancer survivors and family members who have been touched by this devastating disease — all shared a common goal: to transform cancer care for patients and families in Atlantic Canada.
Ride for Cancer participants worked diligently in the months leading up to the event to fundraise in their own personal communities, asking friends, colleagues and their families to support this local cause. This year, Ride for Cancer participants and their donors raised $891,506 net, and counting, to advance local cancer care. The event was powered by title sponsor BMO Bank of Montreal for the fifth year and was supported by many others who made this incredible impact possible.
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of riders and a community of donors, the QEII Health Sciences Centre will soon be home to new state-of-the-art colposcopes. A colposcope is a minimally invasive instrument that helps diagnose and prevent cervical cancer and treat precancerous cell changes before they develop into cancer. New colposcopes will be purchased and used during procedures for the 150 to 200 Atlantic Canadian women who visit the QEII’s Gyne/Colposcopy Clinic each week.
Funds raised through this year’s Ride will also help bring Atlantic Canada’s first surgical robotics system to the QEII, which will treat a range of cancers with a focus on prostate cancer. Surgical robotics can give cancer patients superior outcomes and a better overall experience — less pain after surgery, shorter hospital stays, quicker recovery times and, most of all, more precise treatment or complete removal of cancerous tissues, which decreases the risk of cancer advancing or recurring.
Groundbreaking research to discover new treatments for blood cancer patients and individualized patient and family support programs will also be funded through this year’s Ride.
With the overwhelming success of the fifth annual Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal, planning for next year has already begun, with even bigger goals on the horizon. To learn more, visit YourRideForCancer.ca.