September is often viewed as a time of change and of starting something new. It’s also cancer awareness month. This September, Vancouver Island’s Tour de Rock is doing what it started back in 1998 — helping to create change in the lives of those dealing with childhood cancer, one turn of the pedals at a time.
Fighting the battles to win the war
Steve Webb’s personal connection to the Tour reaches way back to its beginnings and his own son’s cancer battle. Matt was just shy of his fourth birthday when in February 1996, a seemingly minor medical issue brought a cancer diagnosis and a life-changing battle with Burkitt’s lymphoma.
Treatment for this aggressive cancer requires aggressive chemo, incredibly hard on a young, developing body. While the chemo can destroy the cancer, it can do a lot of damage to still-growing organs, and unfortunately for Matt, other complications came with treatment.
A perforated bowel led to a secondary staph infection that attacked his heart, and more chemo, as scheduled, was going to be too much for his tiny body.
Yet timing is everything, they say. At the time, new information about treatment of Burkitt’s lymphoma had come to light through the fight against AIDS. With the latest research in hand, the doctors felt the cancer was beaten and they could forego the scheduled chemo.
Matt won not only that battle but the war — he was finally on the road to recovery.
Paying it forward
At age five, and finally sporting a full head of curls, Matt and Steve came across Martin Pepper and the Cops for Cancer head shave. Matt decided there and then to shave his head in front of the crowd to help raise money to help in the fight against cancer. Like his son, Steve wanted to do what he could too, and so the whole family got involved with the first Tour de Rock.
This unique-to-Vancouver Island fundraiser unites each rider with a child fighting cancer. Money raised goes to research to find cures and to finding better ways to treat the disease — the same kind of research that had led Matt’s doctors to stop his treatment “early” meaning his young body could begin to recover. “It saved his life,” Steve says simply.
Steve says that for Matt, the Tour and Camp Goodtimes eclipsed Christmas and birthdays on the calendar. “It was amazing how kids went from hiding their baldness or their surgery scars at the beginning of the week to being comfortable with themselves — they gained confidence,” he says.
Steve knows that sharing their experience is important for other families fighting similar battles. Their family has been involved with the Tour de Rock since the start and Steve is now on the Tour de Rock Steering Committee, linking each rider with a family to ride for. “Everyone has a really good reason for wanting to ride for the kids,” he says.
Continuing what he had started at five, 19-year-old Matt was a guest rider with the Tour in 2012, cycling the full length of Vancouver Island, sharing his story as a guest speaker along the way. He’s now married and beginning his career, his whole life ahead of him.
Everyone knows someone who had fought cancer or is currently. For families with children with cancer, the fight is unimaginably hard. Donate today to help more kids like Matt.