AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) — It’s been almost a month since this cancer survivor rode 240 miles on her bicycle in support of cancer research, and she couldn’t be prouder.
Auburn local Susan Glisson joined the Bristol Myers Squibb Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer fundraising ride to take on a segment from St. Louis, Mo., to Indianapolis across three days in a cohort of 14 riders.
“This ride, it was very personal,” said Glisson, who fought breast cancer in 1997 and 2015.
She continued, “It’s time for me to live my life and put cancer behind me and show the world … that cancer – don’t let it steal your joy, and live your life.”
The three-day ride was, in Glisson’s words, “absolutely amazing.” Relative strangers before they set off, Glisson and the other riders were best friends by the time they reached their destination. Even now, a month after the ride, Glisson said the group talks almost every day.
“We were struggling together, we were experiencing new areas, new things all together,” she said.
Despite a few falls, riders always got back on their bikes and pushed forward, Glisson explained proudly. The importance of the ride to those who were doing it far outweighed any pain, tiredness and soreness they experienced throughout the endeavor.
According to Glisson, the five months of training that each group member endured before the actual ride successfully prepared them for the challenge. The riders often found themselves surprised at how their bodies felt at the end of each day – a little tired but not overly sore.
“The biggest challenge for me, and everybody, is getting out of our head[s] and realizing we have done the training,” said Glisson. “We had to trust the training, that we could do it.”
On the way, Glisson and her crew had many meaningful encounters.
They met V Foundation CEO Shane Jacobson, whose organization will put funds raised by the cyclists and Bristol Myers Squibb toward cancer research programs across the country. Glisson said the CEO was “humbled” by the challenge the riders planned to take on in support of the foundation.
Cyclists also met Priyanka Verman, a researcher at Washington University School of Medicine whose work V Foundation funds will directly support.
Perhaps the most meaningful story, though, according to Glisson, was an interaction with a man at rest stop who saw the group’s pink jerseys and asked what they were doing.
The group directed the man to their website. Later, as he was walking out of the store, the man turned around to thank them, tearing up as he revealed he was a stage 4 colon cancer survivor.
Glisson said, “I went and grabbed a marker and said, ‘Hey, write your name on my jersey.’”
Others in the group joined in.
“We are going to ride for you today,” Glisson remembered telling the man.
Though Glisson’s group represented only a single segment of the ride, 126 cyclists participated in the event which took them on a nearly 3,000-mile trip from Cannon Beach, Ore., to Long Branch, N.J.
In total, Coast 2 Coast riders raised over $900,000 for cancer research. Added to an additional $500,000 contributed by Bristol Myers Squibb over $1.4 million in funds was raised for the V Foundation.
For Glisson, this year’s ride may have been the first of many to come. She said, “If they said, ‘Get on your bike tomorrow and ride,’ I would do it in a heartbeat.”