For Michele Fountain, a second-year cyclist in the Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Sibley Memorial Hospital, Suburban Hospital and Howard County General Hospital, there is more than one reason why she gears up and rides. Having worked at Johns Hopkins for over 30 years—12 of which have been spent within the Kimmel Cancer Center—Michele feels compelled to ride. “It’s been a privilege to be a part of the Cancer Center’s family,” she says. “I’ve met so many dedicated people working hard each day to change the course of cancer, and I feel like I want to give back. This is the way to do it.”
Michele is also motivated for a more personal reason. “I lost my husband to cancer three years ago,” she says. “He was a patient at the Cancer Center for many years, and it was through his care and treatment here that I truly learned to appreciate the commitment of the physicians, the nurses and the staff. They have all been an inspiration to me, and I’ll be forever grateful.”
Having successfully completed her first two-day, 150-mile ride at the inaugural event last fall, Michele is even more committed to the cause now. “In the second year riding, I think I’m addicted. The 2014 ride was probably one of the most rewarding, challenging experiences of my life,” she says.
Of course, no matter how deeply connected one may be to the fight to conquer cancer, there is no denying that the ride is a challenge. From the physical training process to mastering the intricacies of fundraising, Michele asserts that it’s challenging. “But once you have the mindset that it’s a ride, not a race, and you’ve got all of these amazing people riding with you of all ages—some survivors, some expert cyclists and some just like me—that makes all the difference.”
In addition to the physical challenge of the event, the $2,500 minimum fundraising requirement for each rider can certainly seem intimidating at first. But Michele, who successfully raised over $9,000 toward last year’s event, offers this advice: “If you reach out to everyone you know—professionally, personally, your family and friends—and share a little bit of your story, that really hits home for people. This is something that impacts everyone, and there’s camaraderie in that.”
As for this year’s event, which takes place on Sept. 19 and 20, 2015, Michele is more motivated than ever. “I want to be part of this team,” she says. “We are all working toward the same goal of conquering cancer. I know in my heart that we are getting closer every day. It might not be in my lifetime, but it will hopefully be in my children’s and grandchildren’s lifetime, so to be a part of the ride is an honor to me.”
And for those who may still be on the fence about accepting the challenge to conquer cancer together, Michele shares these words: “I just can’t express how rewarding it was to get to that finish line. I knew in my mind that I wanted to do it, that was my goal. But 150 miles? That was an amazing feeling.”