In June 2013, Maria Parker will toe up to the Race Across America start line in Oceanside, CA on her Cruzbike recumbent (www.cruzbike.com) and cross a continent driven by the thought of grinding brain cancer out of existence with each of the uncountable number of pedal strokes to get to Annapolis, MD. At age 49, she set the overall women’s 24 hour record (of all categories) at 469 miles riding a recumbent bike, extending the previous record by 30 miles. You can’t help but feel there is much more waiting for this ultra cyclist to set her sights on.
For now she has other things on her mind. Not long ago, Maria considered solo RAAM a foolishly hard race and had no plans to attempt it, no desire to inflict so much on herself. Then in October 2012 her sister Jenny was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, brain cancer. The chances for survival – not very good. Prognosis typically is 12-14 months.
Above: Maria sets 24 hour record in Lumberton, NC
On hearing the news, her close knit family was devastated. For several days, everyone was numb with shock. Competing in an upcoming 24 hour record attempt in Lumberton, NC seemed out of the question. But as most of us feel about cycling, Maria felt compelled to return to cycling and decided to not only compete in that event, but to raise the stakes and enter solo Race Across America. She also decided to commit herself to raising $1 million dollars for brain cancer research.
She is approaching both rather intimidating goals with gritty, calm determination. She, like most RAAM rookies, is feeling her way on how to train for it, since there is no one- size-fits-all training method for a race of this magnitude. She will also have to figure out the nearly overwhelming details of RAAM which include getting a crew together, figuring support vehicles, and building up her race inventory. This feat easily rivals any Mt Everest expedition. Then there are the questions of how to handle nutrition, guessing optimal sleeping schedule, and the dealing with the inevitable extreme exhaustion of mind and body. That is more than enough for most mortals to even contemplate.
Her drive for brain cancer research faces many obstacles as well. But she is also impressively far along in this endeavor as well. Already she has set up a web site, 3000 Miles To A Cure (www.3000milestoacure.com), and has Facebook and Twitter feeds to spread her message to as many as possible. The message is simple, donate $5. If 200,000 people make this seemingly small donation, she has met her goal of $1 million and bringing a cure for brain cancer closer. Remarkably, she has received donations totalling $10,000.
This project continues long after RAAM is over, the finish line taken down, and weary time station, media and RAAM officials have gone home. And no matter what success she achieves with 3000 Miles To A Cure, it will not be in time to save Jenny, who is currently at home, having been through chemotherapy and no change in her prognosis.
So what is needed to cure brain cancer? www.3000MilesToACure.com has a good synopsis of the state of brain cancer research, and I encourage the interested reader to browse this very well designed website. In a nutshell, brain cancer is not a big hitter for pharmaceutical companies to invest in expensive human trials necessary to make drugs available. The economics dictate that drug trials be focused on more common diseases such as colon cancer, prostate cancer and even acne. Thus, promising new brain cancer drugs in human trials have been passed over by the drug companies.
Above: Maria and her sister Jenny
Or have they?
Recently, a few entrepreneurial “venture” philanthropist organizations have had surprising success by targeting for very specific drug testing with relatively limited infusions of cash. Because brain cancer acts very quickly, human trials are much shorter to carry out than diseases with slower progression such as prostate cancer. This very focused approach for now is the ideal approach for the limited public awareness and funding for brain cancer. I encourage the interested reader to learn more at www.3000milestoacure.com/whatweredoing/abc2
The use of racing and recreational events to further public awareness and raise funds for disease research is a growing success story. AIDS is now curable. Breast Cancer is no longer a guaranteed death sentence. Multiple Sclerosis has gone from virtually unheard of disease to a well funded program spear-headed by National Multiple Sclerosis Society whose investment of $760 million moves us closer to a world without MS.
Maria’s pledge to raise $1 million on behalf of brain cancer research continues this great contribution of amateur athletes and sporting events to medical research. Take a couple of moments to visit her website www.3000MilesToACure.com and take part in the cure for brain cancer.
Filed Under: Race Stories
About the Author: Bio Member of the San Diego Luna Chix which promotes cycling for women and raises money for the Breast Cancer Fund. Ultra cycling resume Furnace Creek 508 solo - 2003, 2004 Hoodoo 500 (Voyager solo) 2007 RAAM a bunch of times (2 x Woman team and 2 solo finishes between 2207 and 2012)