Joan Thompson, a resident of Christina Lake, is embarking on a bicycle trip across Canada beginning May 14 in Vancouver, with the plan to finish in Halifax on August 1. Thompson is undertaking this endeavour to both honour her sister Sheila Rae Trautman, who passed away in November, 2018 from ovarian cancer at the age of 59, and to help spread understanding and encourage action about the disease.
“My sister was diagnosed at stage three with ovarian cancer which is very typical,” Thompson explained. “85 per cent of women with the disease are diagnosed late and as a consequence the outcomes are often not good. There’s about only one in two women who survive ovarian cancer past five years.”
Thompson has teamed up with Ovarian Cancer Canada for her ride across the country and will be raising personal awareness through education as she travels, stopping to do talks and presentations, stressing the need, as well, for greater public action around ovarian cancer.
“[Ovarian Cancer Canada] notified me of the research and in the past 50 years there’s still been little improvement in outcomes for ovarian,” Thompson said.
She hopes that public understanding and action about ovarian cancer will develop to the same degree that it has with breast cancer, for example.
“There’s now an 87 per cent 5-year survival rate with breast cancer due to significant advances in treatment, like arriving at a very concrete screening test, the mammogram. We’re not there yet with ovarian cancer, so we want to increase people’s understanding and resolve to bring it to similar levels of knowledge and attention.
Before the ride begins, Thompson will present “Cycling Cross Canada – A Camino for Cancer at Studio A 7330 2nd St. at 7 p.m. in Grand Forks on May 8, which is World Ovarian Cancer Day. As well as talking about ovarian cancer, Thompson will also be talking about her background with long-distance cycling and walking. Her trip across Canada will by no means be her first large-scale bike ride.
Thompson, 63, is a retired teacher and has dedicated much of her retirement to ‘slow travel’. She has, for instance, done three camino walks in Spain and France, and cycled through the Italian Alps, Alaska and the Yukon, and in 2018, she rode the Pamir Highway in Central Asia.
“The Pamir Highway ride was quite strenuous .. well it was more than strenuous, it was ridiculously strenuous,” Thompson recalled with a laugh. “It was 130 KM a day on corrugated gravel roads.”
Thompson said she is very much looking forward to riding paved roads in Canada and added that she and her partner Ken, who will be following behind in a support van, will limit their distance to about 100 kilometres per day, in order to allow time to reach out to people along the way. They plan to be riding through Grand Forks on May 20, and leaving Christina Lake on May 22. Riders are welcome to join them, for however long they wish.
Thompson will be blogging and posting to social media about her cross-country journey and people can follow along @OvarianCancerRide or her blog site www.justgojo.com. Here, you can also learn how to donate to Ovarian Cancer Canada, as she has set up a personal fundraising page with them, with all donated funds going directly to the organization.