After a gruelling journey filled with many obstacles, Parksville resident Sharon Hamlyn finished strong by peddling hard down Market Street towards the finish line.
Hamlyn left Victoria on April 29 and rode her bike all the way up island to the Port Hardy cenotaph, arriving in just 11 riding days on May 13.
At almost 60-years-old, why did Hamlyn decide to take on this kind of demanding athletic challenge?
It was in support of her sister, Mary Calt, who was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine cancer a few years ago (Neuroendocrine cancer arises from a group of complex tumours that arise from the neuroendocrine cells, the hormone producing cells of the body. The most common types occur in the lungs, bronchi, thyroid, adrenals, small intestine, pancreas, appendix and rectum).
After arriving at the cenotaph in Carrot Park and being greeted by Calt, her husband George, and friends Shirley Wray and Clifford Mallet, Hamlyn hugged her sister as tears fell from both of their eyes.
Asked about the ride up island, Hamlyn said she started off with the challenge of taking on the Malahat, but she knew she had “the drive in me — it fueled me to get up that hill and once I did that, I knew I could do this.”
She rode all the way to Duncan on her first day, then on to Cassidy and Parksville. Along the way she stopped in Qualicum, Campbell River, Sayward, Nimpkish, and finally Port Hardy.
As for how she dealt with the massive hills that are part of the brutal ride, Hamlyn stated she found going up those hills “was not tough — my sister and all the people I met on the way that have Neuroendocrine cancer, they are tough.”
She added she kept saying “the names of the people I met as I was going up the hills, and that gave me the energy.”
Hamlyn said her sister was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer just three years ago, and Calt noted she’s now stage four, doesn’t have a lot of options left, and has to fly back and forth to Edmonton for treatment.
“If this ride can help just one person — I’ve been giving out brochures this whole ride — and if they can take that brochure to their doctor and say ‘these are all my symptoms’, then I’ve done my job raising awareness,” added Hamlyn, who pointed out the ride wasn’t meant to be a fundraiser, but she said if people want to make a donation they can at CNETs Canada at cnetscanada.org.