Few reasons are more compelling to grab a spot on the 2013 Tour de Rock team than to help give your own son and other children a fighting chance to beat cancer.
Const. Misty Dmytar, 39, is relatively new to the Nanaimo RCMP detachment, but she and her two-year-old son, Griffyn, are well known in the Comox Valley where she served until recently, and to Tour de Rock teams from the last couple of years.
When Griffyn was just four days old he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of infant cancer that presents about 50-70 cases a year in Canada.
Dmytar and her partner had to get Griffyn into treatment immediately.
“We went to B.C. Children’s Hospital and I can remember us walking up to 3B, which is the oncology ward, and thinking, ‘How did we get here – why is this happening to us?’”
They walked by a wall, about three metres long, covered in photos of children who beat cancer, were being treated for it and other who lost the fight.
“Griffyn was the youngest they’d ever seen that had come in with neuroblastoma,” Dmytar said.
Surgeons took a tumour the size of a baseball, weighing 230 grams, off of his right adrenal gland. They took the gland too.
“The people at B.C. Children’s – if you ever have to go there – it is the most incredible, most … there are no words to describe B.C. Children’s Hospital,” Dmytar said, struggling to keep her voice steady. “The people that work there – the nurses, the doctors, even the janitors – are amazing people.”
Initial treatment produced positive results, but an ultrasound taken a few months later revealed a tumour on Griffyn’s other adrenal gland and spots on his liver.
Five months of chemotherapy treatment halted the disease. The tumour shrunk to half its size and the spots on his liver are still there, but the disease has been effectively dormant since 2010. Neuroblastoma is known to do that, and, depending on a wide range of factors, is one of few illnesses that can go into spontaneous regression. For now and hopefully forever, Griffyn has beaten cancer. He returns for more tests this month.
In the meantime Dmytar is training for the tour, which starts in September. Combined with fundraising, it’s a big commitment for a mother of two who works 12-hour shifts.
Riders will cover about 3,500 kilometres in training to prepare for each year’s 1,000 km Tour de Rock. Riders train two nights a week. Each ride is highly strenuous and lasts about 2.5 hours to build stamina on hills or build cardio endurance with speed. Saturdays are long endurance rides of up to 100 kilometres designed to get the cyclists accustomed to covering long distances and spending hours in the saddle.
“I biked before, but nothing to the extent of what we bike now,” Dmytar said. “Hill day is the hardest for me. I’m not very great at hills, but as the training goes on, obviously you get stronger – your legs get stronger – and you’re not as psyched out when you see that really long, steep hill.”
Fundraising will be less of a problem, Dmytar hopes, since she’ll be getting a lot of support from the Comox Valley detachment as well as Nanaimo. She also lives in Ladysmith, a town that always throws a huge amount of support behind riders, especially if they live in the area.
Dmytar has set her fundraising goal, tentatively at $20,000, but says the ride is the least she can do to support B.C. Children’s Hosptial.
“The more money we raise through Tour de Rock, the more chance these kids have and the better the treatments that will come out,” Dmytar said. “The tour is my way of giving back to B.C. Children’s, giving back to the people who work there and giving back to the pharmaceutical companies that make these drugs and help our kids get better. I’m so thankful today that Griffyn is with us.”