Saanich residents ride to conquer cancer

Loss of friends, family inspire participants to raise money for weekend cycling event from Vancouver to Seattle

Brian Spier

Brian Spier had spent very little time on a bike before signing up for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. It was the sudden death of a friend and neighbour – Rey Namoko, a young father – that inspired the Saanich resident to take on a 250-kilometre cycling challenge to raise money for the BC Cancer Foundation.

“Rey was the first time in my life someone that I saw on a regular basis had died of cancer,” said Spier, 44. “Our sons are almost the same age, they play together all the time. I can’t imagine my kid growing up without me.

“I know people get cancer all the time, but when you’re in your mid-30s and he didn’t do anything to bring it on, it’s just rotten luck.”

Namoko was initially diagnosed with stomach cancer a couple years ago. He underwent surgery and treatment, and was given a clean bill of health last year. But just a few months later he started to have back pain, which was chalked up to him having been off work and off his feet for a while.

“In early January his wife took him to emergency because of the pain and they were like, ‘You have bone cancer. You’ve probably only got a week to live,” said Spier, a BC Transit driver.

Namoko held on another three weeks, but lost his battle to cancer in January.

Around the same time, Spier spotted an ad online for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a popular two-day cycling event from Vancouver to Seattle to raise money for cancer research. Despite not being a cyclist, Spier was motivated to sign up.

“I can’t fork out a $3,000 cheque and help fight this (disease). I’m doing this to get more exposure. I know what I’m doing is only a drop in the bucket, but if everybody throws a drop in, that bucket’s pretty full soon,” Spier said.

While he’s behind the wheel of a bus getting to know the roads most days, Spier’s off time is spent training solo for the ride.

Down 14 pounds since he started, he says he’s “as ready as I’m going to be” for this weekend’s ride. He’s just thankful he has the health to do something like this to benefit others.

He’s also thankful for the outpouring of support he’s received from his co-workers, friends and family members.

“We’re all pretty inspired here by his story,” said Meribeth Burton, spokeswoman for BC Transit. “We can all relate to how sudden and tragic cancer can be. But Brian’s story, his commitment, his dedication; we’ve all been touched by what he’s doing.”

More than 2,500 riders are expected to take part in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Last year 2,642 riders raised $10.4 million. The Ride has raised more than $50 million in the last five years.

To support a rider, visit conquercancer.ca.

editor@saanichnews.com

••••

Team Xav

Spier is not the only Saanich resident participating in the event.

More than 160 people from Greater Victoria are registered to ride, including Annette Halsted. Her son, Xavier Pelletier, died while on the Ride to Conquer Cancer last year, when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle.

Pelletier was 16, and was a much-loved athlete at Pacific Christian School.

On Tuesday, the Saanich school hosted a barbecue to celebrate the life of Xavier Pelletier and to raise money for Halsted and Team Xav.

The school raised $500 for Team Xav.

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