Cyclists raise awareness, funds for pancreatic cancer

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Lindsay Beaudoin pedals into Riverstone Park, followed by her friend Jenny Hackworth. Both Spokane women rode a 4-mile course on Saturday to raise funds for pancreatic cancer, an event put on by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Taking a break after pedaling 36 miles, with 20 more still to go, Tom Welch leaned on his bike and kept it all in perspective.

"No matter how bad it hurts, it's nothing compared to cancer," the 37-year-old declared.

That was the general idea on Saturday, where more than 100 cyclists from North Idaho and Eastern Washington pumped their legs between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene with a collective purpose, raising funds and awareness for pancreatic cancer.

Riders picked their poison of 57-, 36-, 14- or 4-mile rides, or a 5k walk, all organized by the Inland Northwest affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Welch, a Moscow resident recruited by a friend to endure the 57-mile course, said it didn't matter that he wasn't directly connected to pancreatic cancer.

He had watched his uncle face colon cancer, he said, and why not help anyone else facing similar uncertainty?

"Any cancer is good to focus on," Welch said. "It touches so many people."

And pancreatic cancer touches more than most know, said Kathy Hlebichuk, affiliate co-coordinator of the PCAN.

It's the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths, the Post Falls woman said, and yet the least funded for cancer research and treatment.

"Nobody hears about it," said Hlebichuk, whose sister died of pancreatic cancer 12 years ago. "We have no early detection, so that's why we really need to speed things up. Too many people are being lost."

Like Alex Monteiro's mother-in-law, who passed away on Christmas Day a few years ago.

"It's a pretty helpless feeling," said Monteiro, the PCAN affiliate's event coordinator. "The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is almost a certain outcome."

As he directed volunteers on Saturday at the event, Monteiro said he is hoping by the year 2020, pancreatic cancer's 5-year survival rate will double.

"We can't do that without support," said Monteiro, a Coeur d'Alene resident. "Without a voice in Washington to get more funding for research."

Helping get there one mile at a time on Saturday was Clark Rauer, a triathlete who crossed the 57-mile course finish into Riverstone Park before he turned around to pedal back home to Spokane.

"It's great. I look at the people who get involved, and it seems like it's growing," Rauer said of the event.

A 21-year survivor of testicular cancer, he can relate to facing a disease not widely understood.

"It was something you never expect, and back then, there was really no visibility to the disease," he said.

To bike on top of raising awareness is ideal, he added.

"I'm at peace when I'm on my bike," he said, resting his hand on the bike seat. "This is my psychologist."

Jenny Hackworth coasted across the finish of the 4-mile ride with a smile of relief.

It was a bit of support the Spokane woman could provide, she said, after her mother Teri was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.

"It's really, really heartbreaking," Jenny said. "But she's doing really good. She's going up a big uphill battle and she's winning."

Her friend Lindsay Beaudoin, also riding with her son Eli Rowe, said she was thrilled to see such a large turnout.

"We didn't realize before all this there was such a big organization," Beaudoin said. "I hear it's only going to get bigger."

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