Modesto cancer ride draws 200 bicyclists, helps survivors regain strength

10/20/2013 5:48 PM

10/20/2013 5:54 PM

Sponsors called it the ninth annual Ride to Cure Cancer. But just surviving the deadly disease was good enough for many bicyclists Sunday.

“This helps you heal,” said Angie Gohn, 47, of Oakdale at the end of a 25-mile roll under blue skies east of Modesto.

Last year, Gohn was one year into breast cancer treatment and did not feel like climbing onto a bicycle. By June, she felt strong enough to join a bicycling therapy group for cancer survivors and supporters and began training for Sunday’s ride, another step to regain normal life.

Healing Journey, affiliated with Memorial Hospital Foundation, offers an array of activities aimed at helping patients build strength and confidence, such as Pilates, yoga, water aerobics, walking, cycling and weight training. Gohn takes advantage of the group’s art and writing classes, and Healing Journey also offers photography, music and gardening.

“Everyone supports you,” said Jim Scott, 63, of Modesto, a prostate cancer survivor who trains with 20 or so Healing Journey participants on weekly rides of about 20 miles. “When you’re having problems, people are helping you out.”

“Everyone cheers each other on,” agreed Lynette Scott, his principal cheerleader, fellow bike rider and wife of 40 years.

The nonprofit organization relies on help from Memorial Medical Center, donations and fundraisers such as Sunday’s ride, sponsored since its inception by McHenry Village’s Fun Sport Bikes. The shop’s Brian Zahra said the event has raised more than $40,000 for Healing Journey, the last couple having pulled in about $10,000 each with help from dozens of good-hearted volunteers staffing rest stations and the sag wagon, a van that picks up any riders who break down or get too tired.

“It’s a major (financial) shot in the arm,” said Cheryl Casey, community outreach coordinator for Memorial’s cancer services.

Many of Sunday’s 200 riders were hard-core bicyclists who were happy to help a worthy mission.

“Good cause, good training and good food – they always take care of us,” said Givo Betoshana, 41, of Ripon. He rides with Turlock’s Bell Real Estate Cycling and pedaled Sunday’s 75-mile course option with about 20 friends belonging to various clubs, some in the Bay Area.

Kris Toca, 57, of Modesto rides solo because her FedEx job keeps her busy Saturdays, when many clubs have excursions. She missed last year’s Ride to Cure Cancer because of broken ribs from a training collision with a car and was thrilled to be back for Sunday’s near-perfect weather.

Sunday’s ride was Gohn’s first, but she said it won’t be her last. Her cancer is “still too real,” she said, to move beyond Healing Journey, which helped her cope with the ugliness of chemotherapy and make sense of a senseless disease that kills about 1,600 Americans each day, accounting for nearly 1 in every 4 deaths.

“There was no cancer in my family,” Gohn said, “so they didn’t know what to expect and how to support.” Healing Journey provides inspiration, she said; and now that she’s clean of cancer, Healing Journey gives her a way to help others, which in turn gives her more strength.

“It’s a long journey,” Jim Scott agreed. Lynette Scott added, “The importance of a team is keeping you consistent.”

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