After hearing his doctor’s diagnosis, farmer Dave Pendray drove straight to his daughter’s house, where she dug out a medical textbook and looked up amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. What they read wasn’t good.
“We just looked at each other and bawled,” Jennifer Pendray says.
She was, in fact, crying while recalling this in an Okanagan hotel room this week. It has been seven years since her dad was found to have ALS, and six since he died at age 57, but it still hurts. The cruelty of Lou Gehrig’s disease, as it is known, isn’t soon forgotten.
That’s why it felt so good to be riding the ALS Cycle of Hope, a 600-kilometre fundraiser that rolled out of Kamloops last Thursday (Mayor Peter Milobar gave them a nice send-off) and ended Wednesday in Keremeos. Finding a cure would mean others need not experience the same pain.
“Nothing I can do can bring my dad back, but everything I do can help others in a small way,” says Pendray, one of the 10 Victorians who make up the team.
This is the second year for the Cycle of Hope. It hasn’t all been a pleasant pedal through the countryside. On Monday, Jeanette Carlson, whose father died of ALS last October, flew over her handlebars and broke her arm.
There have been more high points than low, though, including the day supporters joined the cyclists for 30- and 70-kilometre rides in Kelowna.
Among the participants were 14 friends and relations of Vancouver’s Scott McComb, who was diagnosed with ALS in February. McComb cycled the 30-kilometre route. So did his eight-year-old nephew, Carter, who raised $4,865 on his own.
“It choked me up beyond words to see this family come together,” Pendray says.
Pendray, a registered massage therapist, was at the Beijing and London Olympics as part of Canada’s medical team. On the cycleofhope.ca website, she lists those experiences as highlights of her life — right after staying at home with her father during his battle with ALS.
“At the time, it was awful,” she says of the 13 months between her dad’s diagnosis and death.
Every day brought new challenges as the ALS, a progressive neurological disorder, weakened a vital man who had been a pillar of B.C. agriculture.
Pendray now calls it a “blessing” that she was in a position to help when needed.
The ride has been rewarding. Truckers honk encouragement. So did a locomotive engineer.
Drivers pull up at stop signs, roll down their windows, share their own family stories.
Last Friday, outside Salmon Arm, the cyclists were lured off their bikes by a picturesque, 110-year-old farmhouse tilting in a field of cornflowers. When the owner came rattling down the driveway in his truck, Pendray, knowing how farmers feel about trespassers, stepped up, identified herself and told the man why they were riding.
The farmer, recognizing the Pendray name, said, “You guys live in Saanich” and made them feel welcome. It was a nice moment.
After the dark days, it has been good to get out in the sunshine, sharing the road with friends riding toward a common goal, doing something positive to fight ALS.
“It’s exactly where I belong,” Pendray says. “It feels fabulous.”