PEABODY — If anyone has a reason to ride for cancer research, it’s Dave Bethune.
A Peabody resident and an avid cyclist, Bethune has biked in all five A Reason To Ride charity events, which begin and end at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers and raise money for cancer care and research. Each year, he joined the cause because of different people he knew who had cancer.
One year, it was his good friend Howie Rich, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer; he has since died.
“You kind of ride for those people, and you write their initials or write their name on your tag — you feel good about it,” Bethune said. “But I never thought it would be me.”
In January, however, Bethune himself was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
He had no symptoms, he said, other than feeling “the winter blahs.” But he had time to get a routine physical because he was in between jobs and wanted to tie up some loose ends.
He’d been working for a company called Nolij of Beverly, which sold imaging software to colleges, when it was sold to another company. He had a new job lined up at Ebsco Information Services in Ipswich, where he had previously worked for seven years, and scheduled his checkup for the period in between.
“It’s a cool story as far as not blowing off your physical,” said Bethune, a married father of three teenagers. The diagnosis came officially on a Friday, and he was starting his new job on Monday.
Ebsco has supported him throughout, including during chemotherapy and radiation treatments in February and March to shrink the tumor, he said. He then had two months off to rest and then two surgeries in May. It was tough after surgery, Bethune said, but he proved a fast healer because he was in good physical shape.
Bethune said cycling, visualizing being on the bike and knowing how to tough it out in the saddle, played a big part in his recovery.
“The fact that I was riding and in shape made it easier for me to handle this,” he said.
While Bethune undergoes post-surgery chemotherapy, he is also gearing up to ride 25 miles Sunday for A Reason to Ride. Right now, a 10-mile bike ride feels like a 50-miler.
This year’s ride will have special meaning for him.
“Now I’m on the other side,” he said, “and I know how those people feel; and you think, ‘We will raise one more dollar and try to get one more rider,’ and it really hits home.”
“It just shows the need for cancer research,” said Tom DesFosses, a Peabody resident who founded the local fundraiser with his wife, Judy, and friends following his own successful recovery from brain cancer.
Over the years, the ride has raised more than $250,000 for cancer care and research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
This year’s ride is dedicated to Jeff Sugarman, whom DesFosses met through their mutual doctor, Eric Wong, at Beth Israel. Sugarman, who lived in Medford, was 49 when he died from cancer in June 2012, DesFosses said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.
A REASON TO RIDE
What: Sixth annual bike-a-thon
When: Sunday, Sept. 8, 8 a.m.
Where: Start and finish at Liberty Tree Mall, Danvers
Routes: 10, 25 or 50-mile options. Ride passes through Danvers, Wenham, Hamilton, Essex, Manchester, Gloucester, Ipswich, Georgetown and Topsfield before returning to Danvers.
Registration fee: $25 per child, $50 per adult and $100 per family. Additional fundraising is appreciated.
To benefit: Cancer care and research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Information: www.areasontoride.com or fb.com/AReasonToRide