Marc Lavergne spent four years watching his father slowly lose his life, as a non-aggressive form of bladder cancer took away his independence.
“He went from a very strong-willed, physical individual to a person that just had to sit down in his chair and watch life go by. And that was very hard for him,” says Lavergne, ceremonial, protocol and advisory NCO for the Island District RCMP.
“I remember watching him watch people cut his grass – that was one of the most painful things. He was still at home, not physically able to get outside. That really set him back.”
Lavergne, a father of three girls, says it’s impossible to fathom just how taxing going through that experience would be for a parent of a child with cancer. Trying to put himself in those parents’ shoes is what’s helping motivate him through every Tour de Rock training ride, every hill and every pedal-stroke he takes.
“I can do this. It’s by no means an easy task, but I am physically able, and I want to do it,” he says.
Ray Carfantan is in a very similar boat. Also a father of three girls, he knows how fortunate he is that all of them are healthy.
“As a father I’m very lucky. I don’t have kids with cancer. So my hope in terms of the ride and trying to make things better for kids is a bit of an insurance policy in the event their kids are diagnosed with something. I want to do my part for cancer research and treatment, so they’re further down the road than they are today,” says Carfantan, staff sergeant in charge of the Island District general investigation section.
Carfantan, like Lavergne, also watched cancer slowly take his father’s life.
“That process was excruciating. Knowing the end was coming and wanting to have conversations that you haven’t had, deeper conversations that you’ve never really attempted to be able to have,” Carfantan says. “It really hits home when you talk to a parent that lost a child to cancer.”
Those parents will never have the chance to watch their child experience life, he says, and it’s that harsh reality that motivates him to ride.
Jennifer Prunty, while not a parent, had her own cancer scare last summer that put the fragility of life into perspective.
A pink mole above her left knee turned out to be a fast-developing melanoma. She treated it aggressively – having it twice removed and requiring a lymph node biopsy – and thankfully doctors were successful in removing it all.
“That was my wake-up call. Cancer can hit any time, when you least expect it,” she says. “It kind of sent us for a Tilt-A-Whirl, and I decided everything is going on hold next year, and I’m doing the Tour de Rock.”
Prunty, an RCMP officer working for the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crimes Unit, says Tour is her way giving back.
“Cancer is still a really scary word. I just can’t imagine how horrible that would be to hear that your small child (who) you have all these expectations for has cancer,” she says. That perspective makes her want to do as much as she can to raise money for a cure and support programs for these kids and their families.
The three RCMP officers are all members of this year’s 21-person Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team. The team, made up of police officers, members of the media and special guests, will cycle 1,100 kilometres from Port Alice to Victoria next month raising money for pediatric cancer research and support programs.
“Yeah, it would be a lot easier to make a donation, but there’s a commitment and passion involved in the Tour de Rock. It’s my responsibility as a police officer who can do this to do it,” Prunty says. “I’m healthy; I’m fit; there’s no reason why I can’t. There’s a lot of people who are going through cancer treatments who would like to do this who physically can’t so it’s my responsibility to grab it and do it.”