BOSTON (CBS) —Taking part in the Pan Mass Challenge involves fundraising, months of training and overcoming at least a few anxieties about riding on the road.
Now imagine adding a physical limitation that makes it hard to breathe.
Michelle Sanders is a Bedford pediatrician and cancer survivor and that’s what she was facing when she decided it was time to ride.
Sanders says she’s living proof that almost anyone who wants to ride in the Pan Mass Challenge can do it.
“I’m not a fast rider. I’m never going to win a race. But it’s great to get on a bike and ride for 25 miles for the Dana-Farber,” she said.
Sanders was a cancer survivor at a time when many kids with the disease didn’t make it. The tumor and treatment essentially left her with one lung. Spinal surgeries also took their toll and she used a toddler’s trike or the 10-speed Dream Machine she got after a month in the hospital to escape.
“On a bike, I can go as fast as other people go. It’s a lot of fun, a great way to get around,” she said.
Sanders also thought, it’s a great way to raise money for cancer patients. But for years, she worried the PMC was too long and she’d be too slow, too winded, to participate.
Her mother encouraged her to try it though, and finally, she did last summer – proudly finishing the one-day 25-mile ride from Wellesley to Foxboro.
“The sign says ‘cancer got one lung, so I just use the good one,'” Sanders said. “I was worried about a couple of the hills because I knew one hill was going to get me.”
The ride is now also a tribute. Michelle’s mom died of esophageal cancer in 2010.
“I thought about my mom. I thought about my parents. about too many people I know with cancer,” she said.
It’s powerful motivation for this year’s ride and the next and the next after that. Sanders, who once worried she’d never be able to ride the PMC, says she’ll never give it up.
“It’s challenging. but it feels good. It feels like–unbelievable to look back and you trained for this thing and you did it!”
It’s important to point out, Sanders doesn’t have a fancy road bike. She rides the one-day route on her hybrid and would love to have company if someone’s interested in riding with her.
There are 14 different PMC routes this year with different mileage and fundraising limits. For details, go to the PMC route map.