Chris Bush has a bone to pick with cancer.
In the last few years, cancer has taken his mother, aunt and three friends, the latter of whom were all close to Bush’s age of 53.
His aunt, who died in June, is described by Bush, a Black Press photographer based in Nanaimo, as a “vibrant woman with no reason to shut down at all.”
Not one to normally participate in the seemingly weekly five-kilometre local runs for cancer, Bush decided over many months to participate in something a little bigger – the 2011 Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.
The bicycle journey will take Bush and 21 Island teammates from Port Hardy to Victoria from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7 to raise money for Camp Goodtimes, a retreat for children with cancer, and pediatric cancer research.
Some of Bush’s reasons for participating are selfish, some are to help others, while others still are to do his part to drop-kick cancer into the history books.
He wants to do it while he still can.
“I’m grateful at my age to be able to do this. A lot of people can’t,” said Bush, the oldest member of the team.
“I’ve always wanted to cycle the Island and this is a great opportunity. At the same time, I’m helping kids and getting a better understanding of what it’s all about. It’s hard to overstate how neat this experience has been so far.”
The training rides are gruelling – one in mid-July included a ride up the 18-kilometre Strathcona Parkway to Mt. Washington – but necessary to prepare the riders for the 1,000-kilometre tour that visits nearly every village, town and city along the way.
Hard work, long drives to get to training sites and late dinners aside, Bush said the experience is worth it.
To balance home, work and Tour de Rock responsibilities, he’s had to lean on his network of supporters, mostly his wife Laurie. He has also forged many friendships on the team, a group of people he describes as committed and interesting.
“You really get to like your teammates a lot,” he said.
Team members are made up of police, auxiliary police and media, all of whom need to raise a minimum of $5,000.
Along with training rides, team members are asked to participate in community events leading up to the tour, the most notable for Bush being a visit with children at Camp Goodtimes last week.
“It’s going to be interesting,” he said, before leaving for the camp. “I know it’s going to be emotional. Any time you’re confronted with kids in a difficult situation it’s tough. I won’t know how I’ll react until I get there.”
Until the tour officially begins, Bush said he’s going to continue to keep pace with the increasing demands that come with being a tour rider. He’ll continue to put the kilometres in, do his best to fundraise to meet his goal of $25,000 and continue to have fun.
“You only get one shot at this and that’s it,” he said. “But I’m feeling healthy – healthy as I’ve ever been. My clothes are loose, my lungs are healthy, I’m tired but it’s a good tired.”