Mike Parsonshas experienced first-hand both the impact of cancer and the difference advanced research and state-of-the-art medical care can make in a patient’s care journey.
Mike first heard about Ride for Cancer in 2016 through his wife, Fiona. Having recently lost two family members to cancer and with a passion for cycling, he joined her workplace team for a fun challenge and to contribute toward the fight against cancer.
Little did he know, he would soon benefit directly from the funds raised during this ride. In July 2017 at the age of 45, Mike was diagnosed with primary myelofibrosis, a rare form of chronic leukemia that impairs the bone marrow’s ability to produce healthy blood cells.
Almost two years later, Mike doesn’t let his cancer diagnosis hold him back.
In the Ride for Cancer’s 2019 marketing campaign, he proudly wears the word “FIGHTER” written across his face.
“The biggest change I’ve made since diagnosis is not taking things for granted, and doing my best to live in the present,” Mike said. “I’ve also made deliberate changes in both my personal and professional life to focus on my priorities – like spending more time with my family and friends, and taking care of my physical and mental health.”
For both Mike and Fiona, staying active has become incredibly important. “Ride for Cancerhas been a big part of that,” Mike explains. “I’ve always loved to bike since I was a kid, and our team name “Mikey’s Bikers”, is actually named after a little bike I had when I was about four years old,” Mike laughs. “Since my diagnosis, the Ride has provided a great opportunity to focus on doing something I really enjoy while also helping support cancer patients and their families,” he says.
Mike has not let his cancer diagnosis prevent him from living the best life he can. “For Christmas last year, I decided to treat myself to an indoor bike trainer for the first time. I just thought, there’s no time like the present” he says. “Since late December, I’ve ridden about 1000 km in my basement while the local trails are covered in snow.”
Mike also highlights the importance of keeping stress under control following a cancer diagnosis. “Getting diagnosed with a cancer, as I’ve learned, is also a mental game. You can choose to obsess over searching the internet and worrying about the future, or focus on the things over which you have control like diet and exercise,” he says.
When Mike was first diagnosed, he wanted to learn everything he could possibly know about his blood cancer. As a scientist, he spent time poring-over the medical literature and talking to other patients and experts in the hematology community. “But at one point or another, I just had to shelve it,” he says.
“I said to myself, okay, so that’s what this is all about. I understand more about my own prognosis, what the treatments are, and what I can and can’t control. Since that time, especially over the last year, I’ve really tried not think about all that stuff. I very deliberately don’t want to dwell there more than I need to.”
Mike says he doesn’t see himself as “the guy with cancer.”
“I also don’t want others to see me that way,” Mike explains. “I’ve got a lot more going on than just cancer. It’s important for me to keep living the best life I can, despite this diagnosis. That’s been a big part for me – I try not to stress about the little things. I just don’t have time for that in my life these days.”
Mike’s cancer diagnosis, and his experience with the Ride for Cancer, has changed his own perspective on the importance of taking care of one’s physical and mental health.
“It comes back to just not taking things for granted. It sounds cliché, but none of us know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Mike says. “Each day, I do my best to focus on the present and try not to worry about what might happen in 5, 10, or 20 years. Thanks to support from fundraising events like the Ride for Cancer, I know that there is all sorts of groundbreaking cancer research underway and remain cautiously optimistic that I will benefit from new treatments and possibly cures in the future,” he says.
Ride for Cancer won’t be the only bike adventure Mike takes this year. In making sure he is prioritizing fun and active living, Mike is about to embark on a 100-mile bike ride in early May through the desert in Canyonlands National Park in Utah with family and friends—a trip that’s been on his to-do list for at least a couple of decades.
Team Mikey’s Bikers currently has 13 riders and a $25,000 fundraising goal for 2019. They’ll be riding the 75 km route along the Rum Runners Trail from Chester to Halifax.