Jason Reid fought colorectal cancer for 3½ years. His tumor was the size of a nugget, and he joked the “nugget” was a “pain in his behind.” His sister, Jenn Wright, of Eden, watched him suffer. When the cancer took his life last year at the age of 37, Wright refused to stop fighting.
And that is why Wright showed up Saturday morning at the Ride for Roswell wearing a shirt that said “Jay’s Nuggets” across her chest.
“We’re going to be Jay’s Nuggets, we’re going be his pain in the butt, and we’re gonna keep fighting for him,” said Wright, 34, as she headed toward the starting line at the University at Buffalo’s North Campus before the 20-mile ride.
About 8,000 cyclists and 2,000 volunteers participated in the Ride for Roswell, the biggest single-day cycling event in North America. Cyclists, as young as 1 and as old as 86 came from 30 states, the farthest being Hawaii. They raised a record $4.3 million for Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
They began at the same starting point at UB but could embark on 11 different routes, ranging from 3 to 104 miles. Whether participants had cancer or knew people who have been affected by the disease, they shared the same attitude as Wright: They were in it to fight cancer together.
Bill, 55, of Clarence, who asked that his last name be withheld, has lung cancer, prostate cancer and leukemia. But in the 82-degree heat, under a cloudless sky, he and his brother Stu enjoyed a 20-mile ride through Ellicott Park, and along the canal and the Niagara River before heading back to UB. They were among hundreds of cyclists on the same route fighting for the same cause.
Bill has cycled in the Ride for Roswell several times since 2001. He lost his father from cancer 13 years ago and his brother-in-law two years ago. Each time he participates, he hopes his time and money helps Roswell Park find a cure.
“Ideally you’d like to cure it,” Bill said. “Realistically, you just try to buy time I guess.”
He finished his last round of treatment at Roswell Park in February, and now his doctors check him every three months. They haven’t given him a definitive time period of what his life may look like, but he knows his cancer is serious.
Megan Dickinson and 14 of her friends walked their bikes to the starting line before their 10-mile ride at 10 a.m. They wore shirts that said “Laps 4 Lindsay” and reminisced about their best friend Lindsay Gena, of the Cattaraugus County community of Franklinville, who died last year at the age of 25 from sarcoma.
She was “one of the best people you could ever meet,” said Dickinson, 25, who had been best friends with her since they were 4. She began to cry.
“It makes me furious. It’s so great to have something like this, but at the same time it’s like people shouldn’t have to be going through this,” Dickinson said. “You almost wish we didn’t have to raise all this money because cancer just shouldn’t be allowed. It shouldn’t exist.”
Through feelings of sadness Saturday, there was also a sense of hope.
Neil Farmello, 86, of Williamsville, was the oldest rider. He sees hope in finding a cure for cancer because he was at the first-ever Ride for Roswell in 1996 when 1,000 cyclists raised slightly more than $100,000.
“It’s enormously energizing,” said Dr. Donald Trump, Roswell Park’s president and chief executive officer. “To see the families and groups with T-shirts recognizing a loved one, sometimes a loved one has lost the fight to cancer. Oftentimes it’s someone who’s in the fight or is a survivor and just the way in which that unites people based on the common experience and the goal to help make it easier for the next person who has to undertake this challenge, it’s terrifically energizing.”
Cyclists raise funds online and ask their family and friends for donations. Trump says the funds go toward grants that allow Roswell Park scientists to conduct new research in genomics and developing new treatments. Proceeds also help cancer patients and their families to be more comfortable during cancer treatments.
Frann Ciprich, 52, cycled 3 miles in Saturday’s ride to thank Roswell Park. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, Roswell Park doctors performed a lumpectomy and terminated the disease.
Ciprich headed toward the starting line with new friends she met Saturday who could relate to her fight.
“It’s good to give back to the people who saved my life,” she said.