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CANCER Hopeful survivors inspired by Tour



Published: Tue, July 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Some participate in Tour of Hope, a cross-country bicycle ride to raise awareness.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Two days after undergoing surgery for skin cancer, Mary Kreis opened up the newspaper and saw a picture of Lance Armstrong.

The Tour of Hope, a cross-country bicycle ride to raise awareness for cancer research, was coming to Pittsburgh and the college professor from Belle Vernon knew she needed to be a part of it. So she made the trip to PNC Park with some family members, marveling at the number of cancer survivors who lined the outfield.

"It was the first time that I realized that I was going to be a cancer survivor," Kreis said.

Two days later, Kreis learned the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

But she was ready to face a second surgery, thanks to the inspiration she took from those who had gone through similar experiences.

"I really honestly think that if I had not had that Tour of Hope experience and seen those cancer survivors and now put myself into that group, that I wouldn't have had that same strength to go through that second surgery," she said.

Teaming up

Now, less than 11 months after her first operation and 51/2 months after her daughter Viva was born, Kreis is one of 24 riders who make up the 2005 Tour of Hope team, sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

A collection of survivors, family members of those afflicted with cancer, physicians and researchers, the team will begin a nine-day relay ride of more than 3,300 miles on Sept. 29 in San Diego.

Four members of this year's team and one rider from last year -- all wearing yellow jerseys -- were in Central Park Monday to talk about the Tour, what they hope it accomplishes and the importance of cancer clinical trials.

"I remember even as a child myself, you didn't say the word 'cancer.' It was kind of a bad word," said Dr. Margy MacMillan, a pediatric oncologist and team member from Minneapolis.

"And now, I think [Armstrong] has involved people to converse about it, and there are discussions, and it's out there in the conversation."

The team, which has trained according to a regimen laid out by Armstrong's coach, Chris Carmichael, will ride in squads of six.

That will ensure the Tour can go 24 hours a day.

Armstrong will be with the team at the starting point and the finish line, and will also drop in at certain points along the route.

When they finish up in Washington, D.C., Oct. 8, the riders hope they will have helped to raise awareness of the need for more participation in cancer clinical trials.

And they want to prove to many that there is life after a cancer diagnosis -- even for people who aren't world-class athletes.

"Lance is so inspiring because of what he's been through and what he's done," said Meg Bert & eacute;, a Hodgkin's disease survivor from New York City and former soccer player at Harvard.

"But I think for all of us, we're normal people. We work. We have families. We're not cycling as our job. And yet we can undertake something that is pretty extraordinary."




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