Imagine pedaling across Canada on a road bike--against time, physical pain, and money--on an impromptu decision that epitomizes personal triumph, or helps in finding the cure for cancer.
Jason Brown is a third-year Sciences major at the University of Calgary with a passion for sports--cycling, running and swimming. Along with friend Kaitlyn Botterill and a handy caravan, he will embark this summer on a three-week adventure across the country, cycling an average of 175 kilometres per day to his final destination: Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Cycling across the country is one thing, but having a reason to do so is another. Two years ago, Ryan Adams--a close friend of Brown--was diagnosed with leukemia. After undergoing treatment he went into remission, but during winter break this year the cancer resurfaced. Adams is currently undergoing a second phase of chemotherapy in his hometown of Thunder Bay.
At first, Brown's biggest concern was how his friend was going to pay for the medical bills. The idea to cycle across the country had already been on his future agenda, but to cycle with a purpose--to raise money for his friend--struck Brown's mind after Adams fell ill.
Adams was fortunate enough to have his costs covered, but this is not the case for many of the 136,900 new cancer patients diagnosed in Canada each year.
"After I was assured that his parents would be able to cover the costs [of the medical bills], I thought it would still be a good idea to raise money for the cause," explained Brown.
Treatment for cancer patients is covered by provincial health care, but certain drugs--depending on the type of cancer and type of treatment--are not paid for and are extremely expensive.
Funding is also needed within the research facilities. The National Cancer Institute allocated $47 million to the Canadian Cancer Society in 2002, but the costs of research are enormously high and only half of the projects judged to be worthy get funded.
For Brown, it is not enough that he is physically capable of embarking on such a strenuous trip. He is determined to finish. In fact, had it not been for Kaitlyn Botterill accompanying him, his pace would have been faster. The main goal at the end of the road lays not so much in physical ability as it does in the capability of raising money.
"The cycling is really the easy part," Brown reasoned, "but I'm scared to do the fundraising."
Brown's and Botterill's goal is to raise $20,000. Albeit a small part of a $47 million cancer research budget, it is a big accomplishment for two students who, without hesitation, will donate three weeks of their life to a cause that has infected them with the need to make a difference.