TRURO - Chris MacDougall is doing what any father would for a son losing a battle. He's stepping in to help.
Only MacDougall is taking on cancer, which stole the life of his 14-year-old son Charlie in 2005. It's clear the disease has struck a devastating first blow, one that eight years has done nothing to heal. As MacDougall tries to speak about it, the lump in his throat cuts him off at "I lost." He raises his shaking 58-year-old hand to signal for a moment to fight back the tears before he continues.
"I lost my son eight years ago to cancer," the Truro resident said. "I don't think you can talk to anybody who hasn't been touched by it so whatever I can do, I'll do."
Chris, along with his 24-year-old son Dan and niece Meg MacDougall, 26, is pedaling 2,400km from Banff, Alta., to Boulder, Colo., Sept. 14 to 28 with Give to Live's Big Ride in an effort to raise money for cancer research.
"It's a small thing we can do to help others," said Meg, a Truro resident.
The journey, which will carry the riders in and out of the Rocky Mountains through Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, should take 12 days to complete with riders cycling up to 200km per day.
The mountainous terrain is sure to provide plenty of challenges, but that's of no concern to Chris, who also lost his brother Donald to cancer last October.
"It's not hard and it's not much pain compared to what Charlie went through, so you just push through it," he said.
Charlie battled osteogenic sarcoma for three-and-a-half years. It seemed as if he had the disease beaten after eight months of treatments, but 15 months later it returned.
The times were trying on the MacDougall family.
"It was hell," Chris said.
In spite of a 70 per cent survival rate, Charlie lost his battle.
"Unfortunately he was on the wrong side of that 70 per cent," Chris said.
Since then, the MacDougalls have been heavily involved in fundraising for cancer research. Dan swam across the Northumberland Strait last year as part of Give To Live's Big Swim, raising more than $10,000 and all three rode Give To Live's Big Ride through the Cabot Trail in 2012.
Chris also took part in a ride from Vancouver to Austin, Tx., in 2010, raising $26,000 on that trip.
The entry fee for this year's Big Ride is $150 and riders are committed to raising $5,000 each. All of the money, which comes from donations collected by the riders, goes to the Canadian Cancer Society and the Livestrong Foundation, as riders pay their own meals and travel expenses. Typically they spend the night in sleeping bags in church halls along the route.
So far, 14 riders have signed up, but Chris said the goal is to have 40 participate.
"So there's room for lots more," he said.
Chris said although cancer research didn't save Charlie's life, it can save many others. He cited the fact Terry Fox had the same cancer Charlie did, but when Fox had it the survival rate was only 30 per cent.
"Without research this disease is never going to go away," he said. "Major inroads have been made. Childhood leukemia is very much curable now and without research it wouldn't be."
NOTE: Anyone wishing to donate to the MacDougalls for the Big Ride, or those interested in taking part, can contact Chris at 895-1396 or visit givetolive.ca/big-ride and click the ‘sponsor a rider' tab.
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