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Motorcycle Ride for Dad fighting prostate cancer through research and education

'One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Awareness and early detection is key. There's always advancements in the form of treatments'.

Over three-hundred motorcyclists from across the province and part of Quebec spent Saturday in North Bay to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Nipissing TELUS Motorcycle Ride for Dad.

Since its inception, 3,164 riders have helped raise over $320,000 locally, for much-needed research dollars and awareness in the fight against prostate cancer.

“Our message is ‘Get it Checked.’ The fact that we’ve been able to grow this event every year is a testament not only to the sponsors but the community and the riders that believe in it,” said co-chair John Strang.

Joining in this year’s ride was National Ride Captain and co-founder of the original Ride for Dad, Byron Smith.

Smith, together with Garry Janz, came up with the idea while chatting at an Ottawa coffee shop, back in 2000.

“Garry met a man who wasn’t going to survive because he didn’t get checked early enough, and we realized we needed to start reaching out to people. It’s amazing going to all these events, the number of times we’re approached by men thanking us for saving their lives. They would tell us ‘I went and got checked because of this ride. I had it and they caught it in time. I didn’t know I had it.'”   

There are now as many as 44 chapters across the country.

 “Any money raised locally stays locally and goes into awareness. Our whole role is to kick-start cutting-edge research. We don’t put money into bricks and mortar or treatments, it goes into research. Now we’ve got researchers collaborating across the country,” said Smith.  

The Nipissing chapter was co-founded a decade ago by Chopper Cameron.  

In 2007, at the age of 55, Cameron was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He admits that at the time, he knew nothing about the disease.

“To me, cancer was something somebody got, and they didn’t live very long. So, it was pretty devastating. During that time of trying to research what the heck it was, and what the treatment options were, I kept stumbling across this thing on the internet called Ride for Dad,” said Cameron.

“Being a motorcyclist and going through this thing I thought, I don’t have a lot of information, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people like me out there who maybe don’t know they should be going and getting checked, or knowing what the options are if they do find something. I was part of the local Hog chapter at the time and did a little presentation and suggested we bring this ride to the area.”

Cameron got in contact with Smith, and the following year, Nipissing had its first ride.

Shortly after that ride, Cameron was approached by a man who thanked him for raising awareness about the disease. It was because of the event, that the gentleman and his two brothers made a pact to get checked.

It turned out all three brothers, aged 45, 50, and 55 at the time, were diagnosed with varying stages of prostate cancer.

“They told me they would not have gotten checked if they had not been part of this. We keep hammering that message, get it checked,” said Cameron.

The diagnosis is equally devastating to family and friends.   

Wife Lorrie Cameron said the news was shocking.

“In our case, he was diagnosed basically the same week that he retired. He was 55 years old. We were going into retirement. We were going to plan all these vacations, you know, change of lifestyle.  Well, the lifestyle changed.  It changed with medical appointments and trips to Sudbury. Then it’s the waiting game. Is it going to work? Is it going to be cured? How is life going to change,” questioned Lorrie.

“And it was really hard on his kids too because dad was young, dad is always going to be around. We were lucky that we were young, had a lot of friends, a lot of family for support. He’s very active and very involved with people so we were able to pull it together and get through it.”

Dr. Mike Conlon, a scientist at Health Sciences North in Sudbury, was presented with a cheque for $20,000 at this year’s ride.

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. There’s been a move to try and encourage screening so that it would be diagnosed earlier. There are a lot of treatment options if it is diagnosed earlier, so that’s really important for folks to know,” said Conlon.

“There have been advancements in the form of treatments, there are opportunities to do better-focused treatment with fewer number of days of treatment, so there’s that kind of thing going on. There are new radiation therapy techniques that are used, so there’s been a number of different options and improvements in treatment over time.”   

Statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society indicate one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Unfortunately, most don’t find out until it’s too late.

In 2017, an estimated 21,300 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, on average, 58 men every day.

Women are urged to get the men in their life to make an appointment to get checked.

It’s a simple test that could save their life.