Route 66 Cyclist hopes to raise awareness of oral cancer
Not even Michelle Thompson’s brother can accuse her of being “prissy” anymore. To avoid that label, John Thompson taught his little sister to ride a boy’s bicycle when they were kids.
On October 21st., the 35-year-old Chicago woman started a bike ride on Old Route 66 that will take her nearly 2,500 miles from their parent’s home in Glen Ellyn, IL. to Costa Mesa, Calif., where her brother, 48, is undergoing treatment for oral cancer.
Her goal is to raise awareness about oral and pharyngeal cancers, which claim 8,000 lives a year. About 30,000 are diagnosed annually. She also hopes to raise $50,000 to help his family. She expects her trip, which is taking her through Central Illinois, to take at least six weeks.
“I’m not a cyclist; that’s the irony here,” said the spunky self-employed manufacturing consultant who was awaiting word on her brother’s third surgery. “My odometer reads 630. That’s the only miles I’ve put on a bike in two years.” Michelle arrived in Joplin Thursday afternoon and stayed the night at the residence of Rod and Barbara Harsh, owners of Route 66 Tv Online and local Route 66 activists. According to Mr. Harsh, "There is a network of Route 66 individuals and groups all along the famous Mother Road that are offering Michell assistance and shelter as she makes her way to her brother's home in California. We all want her to arrive safe and sound."
The cross-country trek came about when she saw how cancer affected every aspect of her brother’s life after he was diagnosed last year. His first round of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation didn’t halt the cancer’s progress. He underwent a second surgery which led to the loss of parts of his palate, tongue and jawbone. The latest surgery was to open his esophagus to make it easier for him to eat and drink. “It’s a health issue. It’s a financial issue. It’s a social issue. He is relearning how to talk,” she said. “On a personal level, I want to help him fight this. I couldn’t sell enough brownies to make a difference so I decided on the bike-a-thon.”
She bought a touring bike, a trailer to haul her camping gear and all the clothes and accessories with help from Performance Bicycle, a Chicago-area cycling outlet at www.performancebike.com. A mechanic there showed her how to change a flat.
She launched a website, www.Route2outsmartcancer.com to help spread the word about cancers like her brother’s and to point people toward the Oral Cancer Foundation, she said. She hopes others will have a checkup. Early diagnosis is the key, she said. “If it’s caught early, the cure rate is high,” she said.
How to help:
Pledges & Donations to "Route2outsmartcancer.com" can be made by writing to: P.O. Box 142, Glen Ellyn, IL 60138.