Novice rider set to climb aboard her bike to benefit Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
Diane Stevens will likely finish at the back of the pack, probably straggle in at the end, dead last.
But for Stevens, her placement in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer isn’t about where she finishes. It’s about the fact she joined the race, raised some money to benefit Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, remembered her mom, said thanks for Canada’s medical community and marked her 10th anniversary as a cancer survivor.
“For me, it’s not about finishing first, it’s about finishing,” said Stevens. “I hope there will be one or two people who are as slow as me, and I hope I make some friends along the way.”
Stevens made the commitment in November 2013 to join her TD Canada Trust colleagues on the 200-kilometre ride. She hasn’t ridden a bicycle seriously for more than 30 years, but has been practising on a stationary bike and riding up and down the escarpment along Wilson Street.
Stevens’ successful battle against cancer began 10 years ago. Just a few months prior to her diagnosis of breast cancer, she did a self-examination and detected nothing unusual.
“I don’t do it (breast self-examination) very often, but I was in the shower...there was nothing there and I thought, ‘Aren’t we very fortunate because one in eight or one in 10 women will develop breast cancer and we had none in our family at that point, none of my cousins, my aunts...there wasn’t a family history.’”
Stevens is one of 11 female cousins, so she knew the odds were tilted toward someone in her family being touched by cancer. In March 2004, she became that someone. After enjoying a particularly rambunctious meal, she was brushing crumbs off her chest and realized something just didn’t feel right.
Stevens saw her family doctor, underwent an ultrasound and mammogram. At the age of 45, with 13- and 11-year-old children still needing her guidance, Stevens was informed she had cancer in both breasts. She underwent a double modified radical mastectomy to remove both breasts, followed by six chemotherapy treatments and five weeks of radiation.
“I needed to do everything I could to be there for my kids. Breasts — I didn’t need them,” Stevens said.
Five years after battling breast cancer, Stevens faced another detour along her life’s path. As she neared the age of 50, her doctor advised a colonoscopy. Pre-cancerous cells were detected, and with an almost guaranteed chance of getting colon or rectal cancer, Stevens decided, once again, not to mess around with the disease. She rid herself of a few more body parts and underwent a complete colectomy in September 2009.
“Do I thank God every day for the medical system in our country? Yes. Do I thank God every day for the doctors and nurses? Yes. Do I regret any of my medical decisions? No. It has allowed me to still be here with my family,” said Stevens.
Stevens was hoping her parents, along with her now 23- and 21-year-old children, would be around to help her mark her 10th anniversary and cheer her on as the Enbridge ride travelled through her Ancaster neighbourhood en route to an overnight stop at Mohawk College.
Sadly, Stevens’ mom Helen Radu, a five-year kidney cancer survivor, received news late last year that her cancer had spread to her bones and liver. Surrounded by her loving family, she passed away March 25, 2014.
“I will remember mom, celebrate 10 years and celebrate my other cousins and sister who have not been diagnosed with cancer,” said Stevens of her participation in the June 7-8 ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls. “I will remember the beautiful people I have met along the way, and the doctors and nurses we have here in Canada.”
To donate to Stevens’ campaign, visit the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer website and search for participant Diane Stevens.