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 Just over a year ago my brother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Through Chemo and radiation and quite a few setbacks, John has battled any obstacle that has come his way. Early this summer, John bought a new bike and started riding to help improve his strength, his lung capacity and his quality of life. During one of his earliest rides on the Kennebec River Rail Trail, we set a goal of completing the 10 mile route at the Dempsey Challenge. This was his weekend! Mat & Sam Leighton joined John and I in this effort.

The ride starts and finishes at the Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston.

Volunteers do an incredible job of keeping things flowing smoothly and answering questions. We waited as the other participants left to ride their loops. When it was time, Bill Green from WCSH channel 6 announced our departure and wished us all luck. The first 3 miles was flat and fun. We laughed and talked and just had a great time tooling along. At 3.5 miles we made a right turn and were faced with a tough climb. Similar to his other challenges, John kept focused and we all made it to the top. The route continued to roll through the country hills for another couple miles where we hit the rest stop. My sister Sue, her husband Mike, Anne, and Monty had parked up there to see us ride in. It was a huge boost for John to see all the support. After snacking on some bananas, crackers, and other refreshments we continued towards the finish. John’s longest ride to date was 7 miles and we had just accomplished that. For the next couple miles we settled in enjoying the farms and beautiful scenery and glowing to the pockets of cheer zones that would form along the course and hoot, holler and ring bells in encouragement to all of us participating. We made our way back to Auburn and then crossed the walking bridge back to the park and the finish of the ride! We passed Brian and Charlotte, then Kassidy, Jacie, and Angela and reunited with Sue and Mike right at the finish. Another volunteer put a survivor medal on John and he beamed with pride knowing what he had just accomplished!

We are already talking about next years ride. We want more people to join us. Soon we’ll be creating the John’s Journey 2018 team. The Dempsey Center has provided John with so many resources and services free of charge. These services are supported through events like this and available to anyone touched by cancer. This was such a great time. We’re all proud of you John.