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As part of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer Research ride, 109 company employees rode from Oregon to New Jersey to help raise funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
You’d never know Julie Haag hadn’t ridden a bike since she was a teenager. Last month, the Kansas City native rode approximately 225 miles as part of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer Research ride to raise funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
For the fifth year in a row, Bristol-Myers Squibb launched the month-long cross-country bike ride, which consisted of 109 company employees who rode from Cannon Beach, Oregon, to Long Branch, NJ with the goal of raising $1 million for the V Foundation. Since 2013, the company has raised more than $3.3 million for cancer research.
The employees who participate in the ride are novice cyclists who trained over a five-month period to prepare for the 225-mile trek as part of a 3,000-mile relay. Haag herself rode from Kansas City to Indianapolis.
Inspired by her own journey with melanoma, as well as by her mom — who passed away from leukemia in 2006 – her dad, who is a two-time cancer survivor, and her two friends recently diagnosed with breast cancer, Haag was excited to finally throw her hat into the ring.
“It’s always easy to write a check or give a donation, but this year I wanted to do something different where I could push myself way outside of my comfort zone,” she said in an interview with CURE. “I wanted to give back and peddle for patients that are going through cancer or future ones to give them hope.”
Riders broke in to seven segments across the country: Cannon Beach, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City, Utah; Denver, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Indianapolis, Indiana; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Long Branch, NJ — passing the baton from one segment to the next from Sept. 5 to 25.
During her three-day leg of the relay, Haag continually reminded herself why she was doing this ride: herself, her mom, her dad and her two friends. “We all wore kits that had the names of who we were riding for on the back of our jerseys, and we would look at those names when our bodies were telling us they couldn’t go any farther,” she said. One thing I learned through all of this is: cancer patients don’t sign up to be diagnosed with cancer. We signed up for this ride and my goal was to accomplish it, and help everyone else get through it.”
With that, Haag added that one of her favorite moments was crossing the finish line to see her husband and daughter cheering her on. “My daughter had a shirt on that said, “My mom, my hero.” That’s where I know this has impacted my family and showed my daughter that you can push yourself, and you can fight and accomplish anything.”
As the funds raised from the ride go to the V Foundation for Cancer Research, it was only fitting that Haag had one piece of advice for others who may also be going through their own cancer journeys: Don’t ever give up.
“That is one theme that I learned through my mom. She did not want to go. She wanted to live here with her babies and experience life. She fought until that last breath,” she added. “With my family and friends, (I want to) help build awareness. And take support from your family and friends, so that when you are weak, they can hold you up. But don’t ever give up on fighting. That’s the best advice I could give.”