My Epic Ride for the Abramson Cancer Center: Former Abramson Cancer Center Director Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD shares his journey

On October 11th, hundreds of cyclists and their families geared up at a very cold and rainy starting line for the Structure Tone Ride to Conquer Cancer. The ride took cyclists on a 2-day, nearly 150 mile journey through the hills of the Philadelphia suburbs, and raised nearly $2 million for cancer research at the Abramson Cancer Center.

In this post, the former Abramson Cancer Center Director Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD, shares his experience on the ride.

On My Ride

Chi Van Dang Penn Medicine

I completed the Ride through 150 miles of beautiful Pennsylvania countryside that included some very intense hills. The first day started at 7:30 am with pouring rain—and for a brief moment, sharp pings of sleet beat down on my face. Despite the cold temperatures and pouring rain, over 500 riders came out to support the cause.

I thought of my father and brother Bob, who were both taken away by cancer, as I started and then throughout the Ride.

During the first day, I had a near-miss on the road. As my group was cycling up a hill in the pouring rain turning left in single file, a car going too fast from the other side appeared in my left visual field. At that moment I realized that it was out of control, skidding into our side of the road directly toward me. I quickly ditched to the right and onto the roadside ground; her car slid right up over my front bike tire and slightly bent it. A slightly bent tire and only a minor left leg scratch evidenced the near-miss. At the next pit stop about 2 miles ahead, my bike was tuned, my scratch cleaned, I warmed up, and then got back onto the road towards camp. I know it was my Dad and brother Bob who looked out for me.

During the evening of the first day at camp — I shared that I have a personal reason to ride other than leading the Abramson Cancer Center. There were many cancer survivors who also rode, and when I asked all those who have been touched by cancer to stand, every single person in the pavilion stood. I told everyone to look around for a moment and to take this moment in—it was a beautiful reminder of the reason we were all riding. The evening ended with a band and people dancing, celebrating life and fellowship; needless to say there was plenty of food and drinks.

The next day started at camp about 60 miles north of Philadelphia at 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun was rising up to provide the much needed warmth for the rest of the day. After a few significant hills, the sun blessed the beautiful Pennsylvania farmland, which is beginning to show the multitude of colors of the fall and goldening of the crops. The leaves are starting to end their annual journey in beautiful autumn colors, bright red, yellow, and brown. Farmhouses of all kinds with tall corn silos rose out into view. After a lunch pit stop and 25 miles left, the sky was blue and the sun was fully out for the rest of the day.

Ride to Conquer Cancer

When we came into Philadelphia there were several challenging hills, but the end was in sight. There were people cheering along the ride as well as cheering us into the finish line. Mary, my wife, was there with a big smile, and gave me a much needed hug after being 7 hours on the road.

It was moving to see the cancer survivors completing their ride with joy and pride. The families were there to greet them with smiles and tears; we stayed and cheered until the last rider came in at about 5:30 pm. The sun set and the ride was over, but the incredible weekend is a testament to the strength, courage, and dedication felt within our community that will never be forgotten.

With gratitude,

Chi V. Dang, MD, PhD
Former Director of the Abramson Cancer Center

Please share your experience, and email your rider story to michalg@exchange.upenn.edu.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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