De­ter­mined to Ride Again

Fol­low­ing surgery and chemo, Chris Melo won’t let those chal­lenges hold him back

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CANADIAN CLUB - By Tracey Green

Chris Melo par­tic­i­pated in his En­bridge Ride to Con­quer Cancer on a whim. Af­ter his grand­fa­ther passed away from cancer, Melo heard about the event and wanted to hon­our his rel­a­tive. So in 2011, Melo grabbed an en­trylevel road bike, man­aged 35 km a cou­ple times a week and then took part in the big event.

The On­tario Ride is a two-day, 200-km ride be­tween Toronto and Niagara Falls, ben­e­fit­ing the Princess Mar­garet Cancer Cen­tre. This am­bi­tious in­tro­duc­tion to road cy­cling made Melo re­al­ize just what he had signed him­self up for, phys­i­cally and men­tally. “I didn’t know any­body in cy­cling at the time and I just did the ride. Need­less to say, ev­ery pit stop was A5–35 and Advil to get from one stop to the next,” says Melo, laugh­ing. Feel­ing his grand­fa­ther with him dur­ing the en­tire ride and re­ceiv­ing so much en­cour­age­ment from the peo­ple on route, Melo felt en­er­gized by the cy­cling com­mu­nity as a whole.

Af­ter his wife, Lisa, crossed the fin­ish line in the 2014 Ride while seven weeks preg­nant, Melo reg­is­tered the fol­low­ing year. It would be his last ride be­fore re­ceiv­ing his own shock­ing di­ag­no­sis of Stage 3 os­teosar­coma at 35 years old.

“I did my ride in June 2015. In Septem­ber, we moved into our new house. I had an on­go­ing shoul­der is­sue and fi­nally got it checked out. It turned out to be os­teosar­coma,” says Melo. With os­teosar­coma be­ing very ag­gres­sive, doc­tors re­moved the af­fected bone and mus­cle tis­sue in or­der to pre­vent the cancer from spread­ing fur­ther.

Melo was still de­ter­mined to do the ride in 2016, but af­ter 10 months of chemo­ther­apy and surgery, he had to with­draw. “The de­sire to get back on my bike is what re­ally helped me push through. That feel­ing that you get when you’re on the bike? Euphoric al­most. You be­come ad­dicted to rid­ing and I want to get back out there badly,” says Melo.

Melo’s 2017 goal co­in­cides with the Ride to Con­quer Cancer’s 10th edi­tion in On­tario, with sim­i­lar rides sched­uled in Que­bec, Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia. In just nine years, the On­tario Ride has raised more than $155 mil­lion and has be­come the largest cy­cling fundraiser in Cana­dian his­tory.

Af­ter a sec­ond shoul­der surgery in Jan­uary, Melo is feel­ing em­pow­ered. “I want to prove to my­self that I can still do those things that I used to do. I had cancer. I beat it. It’s not go­ing to de­fine my lim­i­ta­tions,” says Melo.

Rid­ers are sup­ported by hun­dreds of vol­un­teers and staff who pro­vide meals, wa­ter and snack pit stops. Gear trans­port, re­strooms, safety and med­i­cal ser­vices are also avail­able to the rid­ers. With camp­sites, hot show­ers and en­ter­tain­ment, an in­fec­tious en­ergy runs strong through or­ga­niz­ers and cy­clists.

“Ev­ery time you pass a group of peo­ple cheer­ing,

“The de­sire to get back on my bike is what re­ally helped me push through.”

mo­ti­vat­ing you, it gives you the added boost. It’s a huge cel­e­bra­tion. At the end of the whole thing, they make a big, huge deal be­cause a lot of these peo­ple, like me in 2011, have never done it be­fore. It’s pretty in­cred­i­ble,” Melo says. Melo’s fam­ily is hugely tied to the ride since four of his ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers will also be par­tic­i­pat­ing. With his wife and two-year-old son ea­gerly cheer­ing him on, Melo says there’s no way he won’t be cross­ing the fin­ish line this year. Get in­volved with the 2017 Ride to Con­quer Cancer. Visit con­quer­cancer.ca

Lisa Evans and Chris Melo with baby Nathan at a spin fundraiser for The Ride to Con­quer Cancer

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