My wife and I spent the night on a Massachusetts Maritime Academy training ship. The bunk was too hard, the room was too cold, and my aching legs kept me from getting much sleep. When Dolly’s watch alarm went off at 3:45AM, I was eager to get off the boat and get back on my bike.
I ate breakfast and headed for the football field where over 4,000 bikes were racked from the previous day of the Pan-Mass Challenge—the annual bike-a-thon that crosses the Massachusetts to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Since I had finished in the top 100 Saturday, my bike was right near the front. By 4:30AM, I was ready to go.
I rode alone for a while, through the quiet villages and neighborhoods of Cape Cod. It was still early, but people were beginning to gather at the ends of driveways and at intersections to cheer us on. Many had signs encouraging individual riders, others simply saying thank you. My favorite read, “Alive today because of you!”
The support of those battling cancer, those who have survived it, and those whose lives have been touched by the disease has meant so much to me through all 32 of my Pan-Mass Challenge rides. Since my first PMC in 1986, I’ve felt like I’m making a difference in the lives of millions of people around the world.
The PMC took on new meaning for me in 1989. That year, my father passed away from prostate cancer just two months before the ride. I found comfort in the thousands of riders raising money to support Dana-Farber, many of them in support or in memory of loved ones.
Participating in the 192-mile ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown is a non-negotiable in our family. That early August weekend is always booked. My wife and I have scheduled medical procedures so we don’t miss the ride, and we even asked our daughter to reschedule her wedding so we wouldn’t miss it. (She’s done 21 Pan-Mass Challenges herself and is riding again in 2018, so she understood.)
Since 2016, I’ve been a member of the South Shore Health System Pan-Mass Challenge team. Team SSHS provides benefits for its riders, and the funds raised by our team directly benefit the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital. As a Marshfield resident, I know how important it is for South Shore residents to have access to world-class cancer care right in Weymouth.
I’m grateful for my friends, family, colleagues and community, who’ve contributed more than $750,000 to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute by supporting my 32 rides. I look forward to joining Team SSHS on the road during my 33rd ride this August. Here’s hoping for great weather—and great support from those along the course.
Len Bicknell is a Team Captain for Team SSHS. He was also the president and CEO of Alvin Hollis before his retirement in 2016 and served on the South Shore Hospital Board of Directors for 13 years.
To learn how you can join Len and Team SSHS for the 2018 Pan-Mass Challenge, click here.