Originally published on thechronicleherald.ca.

After years of being extremely athletic and coaching boys’ basketball, Laura Lee Josey found it hard to cope when her cancer treatments left her feeling weak and exhausted.

“Your entire life gets paused. It’s a long, hard process,” says Josey, a mother of three boys who lives in Halifax with her husband.

What kept her going through those dark weeks and months was the love and support of her friends, as they dropped off meals and helped reassure her sons that everything was going to be OK.

“Everybody needs support to get through breast cancer, and the support I had from family and friends was immense,” says Josey. “I’m so lucky.”

Her husband was already a longtime supporter of Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal — a one-day cycling event that raises funds to advance cancer care in Atlantic Canada — and he encouraged Josey to put together a team.

Hosted by the QEII Foundation, Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal has riders choose to cover 25-100km on a trail or between 75km and 160km on a road course spanning beautiful scenery from Mahone Bay to Halifax, all while committing to raise a minimum of $1,000.

Although she was weakened from her cancer treatments and couldn’t even walk at the time, Josey put together a 10-person team — lovingly called “Breast Friends” — and hoped she would be strong enough to ride.

Even though she struggled to climb on and off her bicycle, Josey was also able to cycle the full 50km with her team.

This year’s Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal is set to take place on Oct. 3, 2020 — and Josey’s team has doubled from 10 riders last year to 20 this year. She says this year’s Ride is even more meaningful because they’re fundraising directly for local breast health.

The Ride community has been challenged to raise $1M to elevate local cancer care at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. This year, Ride will bring us one step closer to introducing a new, world-class procedure: a breast seed brachytherapy program.

A tiny radioactive seed — smaller than a grain of rice — is implanted in the breast, delivering radiotherapy exactly where it’s needed. This means that some early-stage breast cancer patients who would ordinarily need to make 30 separate visits to their health centre for radiation will only need one visit that offers improved outcomes.

Josey says this new technology is going to be “life-changing” for the breast cancer patients across Atlantic Canada who will benefit from it, so she’s working hard to help reach the event’s fundraising goal.

“I made it through breast cancer, and now I want to make the process even easier on the next women who will go through it,” she says.

Cancer care never stops, not even for a global pandemic. Dr. Drew Bethune, Medical Director of the Nova Scotia Cancer Care Program, says the dedication of the Ride community to advance cancer care at the QEII and beyond has a “ripple effect” on healthcare workers.

“Because of them, we are inspired to continue our own fight — to deliver the best cancer care for patients and families here at home,” says Dr. Bethune. “Funds raised make a tangible impact locally, and the entire Ride community is making transformational change possible through their involvement in this event.”

It’s a difficult season right now for cancer patients and those who have recently recovered, as they’re among the most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Josey is just nine months out from her last chemotherapy treatment and admits she’s worried. To help herself stay calm while she’s isolated at home, she’s remembering what she used to repeat to herself during her chemotherapy treatments.

“I always thought ‘Stay positive, stay safe,’ and now I turn on the TV and that’s exactly what Justin Trudeau is saying about getting through COVID-19,” says Josey. “When I was going through treatment, I wasn’t even allowed to be around anyone with a cold, and now we’re living through a pandemic. I’m trying to stay positive but it’s not always easy.”

One in two Atlantic Canadians will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, and Josey knows firsthand how important it is to have access to world-class cancer care.

“Someone you know is probably either going through breast cancer or has a loved one going through breast cancer,” says Josey. “As a community, we need to stand strong and provide any support we can.”

This year’s Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal is set to take place on Oct. 3, 2020. To register for the event or make a donation, please visit YourRideforCancer.ca.

Copyright @ 2024 QEII Foundation. All rights reserved. Charitable Business No: 88646 3496 RR0001