I spoke with Matt Fenrich of Port Coquitlam, who has a very inspiring story to tell about beating cancer and then contributing to the cause by participating in the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer. Matt will be doing the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer on 27-28 August, and the ending will be especially sweet for him. His wife will be waiting for him – it’s their third wedding anniversary, but only the first on which he will be well enough to celebrate their anniversary. And he’s doing it in heroic style! The BC Ride to Conquer Cancer is presented by Silver Wheaton and benefits the BC Cancer Foundation.
Average Joe Cyclist: Matt, I understand you are planning to ride the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer on 27-28 August, and that the ride coincides with a very special anniversary for you. Could you tell us about that anniversary?
Matt Fenrich: On August 29th 2013, I married the love of my life. In the past 3 years my wife and I haven’t had much of an anniversary due to my cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. She has been my rock even since my diagnosis on April 6th 2013. Her support for me to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer on our anniversary weekend (August 27-28), after never being able to celebrate an anniversary, only affirms her unconditional love. Our wedding day was one of the happiest days of our lives and I am finally well enough to celebrate it with her, and she is supporting me so we can help others. I feel very lucky to have such an amazing wife.
Average Joe Cyclist: I understand you went through 35 radiation treatments and seven weeks of chemotherapy … at one time you were bed-ridden and surviving with a feeding tube. Yet here you are, just two years after completing your cancer treatments, preparing for the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer – a ride that almost anybody would consider a major physical challenge. Can you tell us a little about the journey from the end of your treatments, to where you are now? How did you get here?
Matt Fenrich: There was definitely a time after treatment when I questioned what my physical ability would be for the rest of my life. Day by day I slowly recovered after an intense few months of treatment. I started out by walking our dog down by the river each and every day. I pushed myself to go further and further even when I felt I couldn’t. I am not the type to sit and do nothing, I always have to be moving. Not long after that some amazing friends who own a gym gave my wife and I a membership to help with my recovery. I didn’t have very much energy and I had lost all my strength, but they worked with me to help me build my strength and endurance back.
Matt Fenrich: Ever since I was a child I have always loved being on a bicycle and when I started seeing pamphlets for the Ride to Conquer Cancer I knew it was something I wanted to do for myself – but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it. Participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer then became my goal. A few months later I started going into bike shops and doing some research on road bikes. After trying numerous bikes, I finally found the one. Riding has been much like my fight against cancer, riding is a battle of you vs. the road ahead. A fight that I plan on never losing. Finding my passion for cycling has led me to be able to give back to the foundation that helped save my life.
Average Joe Cyclist: Could you share with us how you are training to do this two-day, 200 km BC Ride to Conquer Cancer?
Matt Fenrich: Training for this ride has been great! I am in my second season of riding and am riding with two cycling clubs. I have a great friend who is a long time cyclist who has helped me keep up with my training and getting out on the road. However, I am sure I could have trained a little more. But life happens, and I am happy knowing that I have done all that I can. I also participated in my first Grand Fondo this year, which was a 160 km race. This is something that I would have thought was impossible just two years ago.
Average Joe Cyclist: Could you tell us more about what has motivated you to do the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer?
Matt Fenrich: The motivation to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting the BC Cancer Foundation comes easy for me. One in three British Columbians will develop cancer in their lifetime. What motivates me is knowing that I am giving back to the organization that helped save my life. Fundraising for this amazing event is what makes sure people facing this horrific disease get the treatment and support that they need. It is because of fundraising events like the Ride to Conquer Cancer that breakthrough research and treatment enhancements are able to happen. How could I not do what I can for this amazing event?
Average Joe Cyclist: Good for you! And do you feel confident you will finish the ride?
Matt Fenrich: NOT finishing is NOT in my vocabulary.
Average Joe Cyclist: How has the fund-raising been for you?
Matt Fenrich: Fundraising has left me speechless. It is amazing to be a part of BC’s largest cycling fundraiser. I have been overwhelmed with love and support from family and friends. Originally I thought that I would struggle to raise funds, but since then I have tripled my goal.
Average Joe Cyclist: Wow – well done! When you think about 27-28 August, what do you think will be the highlights of those two days of racing?
Matt Fenrich: When I think about the Ride to Conquer Cancer, it is hard not to get emotional. I think about what it is going to be like surrounded by thousands of people, listening to the total amount raised that will go to the BC Cancer Foundation, and knowing that everyone is there for the same reason I am. I am also excited to ride from Cloverdale to Seattle on a route that I can only imagine has some spectacular scenery. But, most of all I can’t wait to see my wife at the finish line and ride into her arms. It feels like we have come full circle together. Nothing was possible without her; this moment is truly ours together.
Average Joe Cyclist: What would you say to someone who is thinking of doing the ride, but just feels they would never be able to train enough to manage the 200 km BC Ride to Conquer Cancer?
Matt Fenrich: I would say that I was like you a year ago, or even just months ago. However, organizers and volunteers at the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer are there for you every step of the way. There are support vehicles in place to make sure you finish. There are plenty of organized rides and cycling teams to join that will help you train for the ride. Before you know it, 200 km will be a breeze!
Matt Fenrich: Anyone that is a true cyclist is helpful and not intimidating. As a cycling community, we need to support and promote this sport. We help everyone out, whether it is helping someone with a flat tire, or something as simple as a few encouraging words while we are climbing a big hill. I have been the guy who gets dropped on the big hill or on the flat. However, every day you get a bit better. The Ride to Conquer Cancer is not a race, we are all there for one reason which is the fight against cancer. It is a fun day supported by volunteers with lots of rest and pit stops and a camp celebration complete with dinner.
We are all out there to have fun and conquer cancer!
Average Joe Cyclist: Matt, I’m very moved and somewhat awed by your story. I wish you all the very best for the ride, and for your celebration of your anniversary with your wife afterwards.