BOSTON (CBS) — “For almost half my life, I’ve been participating in the PMC,” said Melissa Jacoby. The Pan-Mass Challenge is a two-day biking fundraising to support cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

This will be the 19th year Melissa is participating. She took on the Pan-Mass Challenge in 2001, motivated to carry on her husband’s memory. “I think the shock of having a 32-year-old, really healthy husband pass away sticks with me.”

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Melissa and Perry Levy had been married for less than two years when Perry was diagnosed with cancer of the small bowel. Four months later, he was gone. “Perry was an avid athlete, cyclist, triathlete. He just had this zest for life,” said Melissa.

Given the physical challenge of the PMC, Melissa saw it as a perfect way to raise money in Perry’s honor.

In Melissa’s first PMC she rode with a close friend. She quickly began recruiting family members, including Perry’s brother, Matthew. “The first year, like Melissa’s first year, I used one of Perry’s old bikes.” Matthew signed up for a one-day ride and was immediately hooked on the event. “From there it’s history, as they say.”

Melissa Jacoby and Matthew Levy ride to remember Perry Levy (WBZ-TV)

The small army of committed cyclists called “Team Perry” has now grown to more than 80 riders. “I think all of us are amazed every year what it has become. It’s taken on a life of its own,” said Matthew.

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“Most of the people on the team, at this point, never knew Perry but ride in his memory and ride for the cause,” added Melissa. The cause of funding a cure for cancer.

Money raised by the team is put to work in an eighth-floor lab of Dana-Farber. “They remind me why I’m working so hard in the lab,” said Dr. Nilay Sethi. He specializes in gastrointestinal cancers, the kind that took Perry’s life.

Part of Team Perry out for a ride (WBZ-TV)

Dr. Sethi is the 13th fellow whose position is partially funded with the money raised by Team Perry. “I cannot say enough about the team itself and the inspiration they provide us.”

“We’ve made enormous strides in 20 years. If Perry was diagnosed today he would probably survive or have a much longer life,” said Melissa. With every mile, Melissa and Team Perry know the cure could be around the next turn in the road, “It’s just this really emotional, overwhelming sense of contribution and making a difference.”

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The 40th Pan-Mass Challenge will be held on the first weekend of August. We hope you will join us for PMC Opening Ceremonies live from Sturbridge on Friday, August 2nd at 7pm on WBZ-TV.

David Wade