Odette Merchant’s Ride for Cancer journey started in the Netherlands – a country known for its cycling. In 2014, Odette and her family took a trip to enjoy everything the Netherlands had to offer, including bike rentals to see the sites and enjoy the outdoors. This experience had a great impact on Odette, who found complete joy in the experience.

“Before I even returned home to Halifax, I told my family I wanted to get a bike,” says Odette.

Little did she know, it would be a very special bike. Shortly after her trip, Odette was strolling through her neighbourhood during Halifax’s Curbside Give Away Weekend.

“A lady, who I didn’t know, was putting a bike at the end of her driveway as I went by so I stopped and asked if she was selling the bike,” remembers Odette. “She said that she was giving it away and I thought that was so kind.”

It was an older model but in Odette’s eyes, it was like a shiny new bike. Her husband got the bike in peak riding condition and added a beautiful wicker basket. Odette headed out on the trails to enjoy her new prized possession. The local trails became a weekly destination for riding with a friend.

The following spring, Nova Scotia Community College – where Odette works as a manager – invited their staff to an information session about joining the college’s team in the Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal.

“I thought, someone had been so kind to me by giving me the bike that I get so much pleasure from, that I would try to pay that generosity forward and do something good for our community,” says Odette.

Odette quickly joined the NSCC Trailblazers team, training and fundraising for cancer care in Nova Scotia. And she’s continued to do so every year since.

In October 2019, Odette’s connection to the Ride for Cancer became even stronger. Shortly after completing the 2019 ride, Odette was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I never, ever imagined that I was going to become so personally connected to this event and to the community of riders who were all doing so much for cancer care,” says Odette.

Exercise is an important part of many cancer treatment plans and Odette had her special bike to carry her through this journey. Being able to train for the next Ride provided Odette with the motivation she needed to keep going, even on the challenging days.

“I got back on my bike as soon as I was able to and I was determined that I was going to be feeling strong enough to participate again,” says Odette. “The outpouring of support and encouragement from my family and friends and from my team was so positive. They helped me pedal!”

Shortly after Odette started chemotherapy and later, radiation treatments, at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, COVID-19 arrived in Nova Scotia. Odette is quick to point out that, despite the challenges of the pandemic and the quick pivots in health care, her care team worked incredibly hard to keep her safe and informed, and showed exceptional compassion throughout her journey.

In October 2020 – a year after her cancer diagnosis and just weeks after completing her final treatment – Odette completed her fifth Ride for Cancer.

“Ride day was a huge day of celebration for me. I had done the ride for so many years before and then it became even more personal when I had my own cancer journey. I was very, very grateful at the end of last year. Crossing the finish line was emotional.”

One of the things Odette loves about the event, she says, is that it’s for everyone – a fun ride where you don’t need to be an athlete to participate. Odette is also drawn into the atmosphere of the day.

“Ride day is awesome but the build up to ride day is really fun too. We always enjoy our training rides and our fundraising activities. It just takes a little bit of effort and the impact on our community is so profound,” she says.

Today, Odette is feeling really good and is back to work. Already registered for the 2021 Ride for Cancer, Odette’s story doesn’t end there.

Recently, her bike went missing when it fell off her bike carrier while she and her friend were driving on the Bedford Highway. When they went back to look for it, they couldn’t find it. While bikes are replaceable, Odette and her bike had quite a journey together and getting it back would mean the world to her.

“I went online and posted on Kijiji and Facebook and said my bike was missing,” explains Odette.

Her post was shared many times and she received dozens of kind messages from people she didn’t even know, wishing her luck in finding her bike. Then, in a twist of nothing short of fate, someone posted on their own social media that they had found a bike. Many people recognized the bike as Odette’s; shortly thereafter, she and her bike were reunited.

“It’s amazing to have my bike back,” says Odette with a smile. “But what stands out to me is the support I received from the community – the same support that inspired me to do Ride for Cancer the first time.”

You can support Odette’s ride and help fund the fight against cancer by clicking here


 

Rider Stories are presented by:

Our Ride Community is comprised of inspiring advocates, warriors, survivors and fighters. This community is the reason we ride, to make an impact on cancer care for them and for future generations. As a proud sponsor of Ride for Cancer, AstraZeneca helps share these stories and inspires our community to continue the fight against cancer.