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Victoria cancer survivor takes on 12th cycling fundraiser challenge

Michael Yarr lost his brother and son to cancer before battling it himself
Victoria cancer survivor Michael Yarr is getting ready to ride in his 12th Tour de Cure fundraiser for cancer Aug. 28. (Courtesy Michael Yarr)

Michael Yarr was a week into his chemotherapy treatment when he jumped on his bike and took part in his 10th Tour de Cure ride for cancer.

The main thing the Victoria resident remembers is the rain – getting drenched so thoroughly he swears it took days to dry out. But he also remembers the infectious energy of hundreds of people riding together for a cause they all deeply believe in. The exhaustion was there, too.

“I’m not sure I could have done it the next weekend,” Yarr said, noting how the chemo really started to take its toll.

In 2019 Yarr rode for his own cancer for the first time, but he had plenty of intimate experience with the disease long before then.

In 1991, his brother passed away from brain cancer and in 2003, his 18-year-old son Tristan died from neuroblastoma. “It had hit our family really hard to say the least,” Yarr said.

READ ALSO: Esquimalt woman with terminal cancer dies a month after dream wedding

In 2009, his boss asked him if he’d be interested in riding to Seattle to raise money for the B.C. Cancer Foundation. Yarr had only ever cycled from work and back before, but he said ‘yes.’

“I never thought I could ride that kind of distance. It never occurred to me to ever try it, but once I’d done it once I knew I could do it again,” he said. Now, 12 years later, he still finds a deep joy in the annual event.

“I haven’t lost any of the fervor for it. When you’re training and you don’t feel that great, you just think of your loved ones who have gone through way worse things and that just buoys you up.”

Yarr’s son, Colin, said the event suits his dad perfectly.

“He’s an incredibly generous person. He loves people – having them over for dinner, going for drinks, or just driving someone to the airport,” he said.

Everyone deals with grief differently, but Colin said he really respects that this is the way his dad pays tribute.

About a month ago, Yarr went in for an appointment to check on his cancer. He was given the all clear. “I’m amazingly lucky,” he said.

READ ALSO: GoFundMe launched for Saanich father of 5 diagnosed with incurable cancer

On Aug. 28 he’ll be hitting the road in James Bay to take on a 100-kilometre tour out to the Saanich Peninsula and back. It’s a less challenging ride than Yarr and others would tackle in a non-COVID year, but Yarr said he’s still grateful to be doing it.

His hope is to raise money and awareness and promote the fact Victoria has the B.C. Cancer Agency. “The people working there, the care they provide, is quite something.”

He’s set his fundraising goal at $4,000 to $5,000 this year. People can register for the event or donate at

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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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