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