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Ocean-to-ocean journey raises funds for cancer

Aug 15 2012
After cycling more than 8,000 kilometres over 70 days, John Lowe, left, and George Chan's Journey for Hope completed its cross-Canada ride Tuesday in Victoria. 

After cycling more than 8,000 kilometres over 70 days, John Lowe, left, and George Chan's Journey for Hope completed its cross-Canada ride Tuesday in Victoria.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford , timescolonist.com (August 2012)

"Cancer can be beaten" was the mantra of two survivors who completed a coast-to-coast bike ride Tuesday at Mile Zero.

John Lowe, 61, and George Chan, 56, were diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Last year, they decided to raise awareness about cancer and contribute funds to research.

Their 8,000-kilometre cycle, dubbed Journey for Hope, raised more than $14,500 for the B.C. Cancer Foundation. It launched in St. John's on June 1, with the Pacific Ocean as the finish line. The goal was to dip the bike wheels in each ocean, beginning at Deadman's Bay in Newfoundland.

After the two grandfathers - both experienced cyclists - arrived to applauding family members in Victoria, they reflected on the long journey that began with their cancer diagnoses.

"It's like the whole world crumbles in on you," Chan said. He learned in 2007 that he had lymphoma after going to the doctor with a complaint of chronic back pain that turned out to be unrelated. After a few weeks, he said, he focused on gaining control.

"At least you can plan the future ahead," he said. "I came to the conclusion that I should focus on healing."

Lowe and Chan drove from their homes in Vancouver to Newfoundland. Their friend Bill Lindsay was with the team for the entire ride and another companion, John Wong, joined them for the Vancouver-Victoria leg.

For Chan, the journey meant seeing more of Canada than ever before.

"I appreciate Canada much, much more," he said, adding that beautiful landscapes were a perk of the journey. "Before this, the farthest east I'd been was Toronto."

The ride had a rough start. Gusts of wind and heavy rain challenged the men in the initial days but the weather cleared to allow for mostly sunny days. Before leaving Newfoundland, Chan collected a small vial of water from the Atlantic Ocean, which he emptied into the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday.

Lowe and Chan met in 2010 through their families and quickly realized they had a lot in common.

"You share your stories about how you battle cancer," said Lowe, who was diagnosed with renal carcinoma in 2006.

Both men attributed their current health to loving support networks as well as cancer researchers who develop cutting-edge therapies.

"I truly believe that [support] opens up yourself to treatment," Lowe said.

On Tuesday afternoon, they went to the B.C. Cancer Agency to see how their donation could impact research.

"The battle to finance the work has got to go on to find a cure for cancer," Lowe said.

"There wasn't a person we talked to [on the journey] who didn't have a family member or close friend affected by cancer."

cclancy@timescolonist.com

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