A pair of 100 Mile House paramedics are preparing to take part in the 2023 Cops for Cancer Tour de North.
Anna Zintl and Jamie MacPherson will represent the South Cariboo from Sept. 15 to 21 as they bike from Prince George to Prince Rupert. Along the way, they’ll be raising money and awareness for pediatric cancer care in B.C.
“Children’s cancers are different than adult cancers. Adults are exposed to a lifetime of carcinogens while with kids often there is a genetic component with it,” MacPherson said. “They need their own treatment and research so that’s why it’s so important to support this because no kid or their family should ever have to face that.”
MacPherson, who works in Williams Lake and is a volunteer firefighter for 100 Mile Fire Rescue, is a veteran of the tour, taking part as a support member and rider since 2015. This year when she decided to ride she wanted a local partner to train with. She figured Zintl would love the event because she really cares about her community.
Zintl has been working in healthcare for the last 10 years and has spent the last three at the 100 Mile District General Hospital, first as a nurse and recently as a paramedic. When MacPherson first proposed the idea to her she was skeptical.
“She was like ‘hey, do you want to go on a bike ride?’ and I was like ‘man I don’t bike’ but she was like ‘let’s do this Tour De North’ and I was like ‘sure, why not? Sign me up.”
Outside of dirt biking, Zintl said she hasn’t ridden a pedal bike for years so she has had to train hard to build up her endurance. She can currently bike up to 12 km, noting she needs to get up to 120 kilometers by the summer’s end. The Tour De North’s longest day sees participants biking 175 kilometers.
“I’ve already gained a lot physically and I can’t wait for that time when I can bike 120 kilometers. When I get to Prince George and set out I’m going to be exhausted and hating my life a little bit but when I cross that finish line in Prince Rupert it’s going to be so cool.”
The initial inspiration for MacPherson to participate in Tour de North stemmed from one of her childhood friends Avril Chevigny, who lost her battle with cancer when she was in elementary school. Over the years of participating, however, she has heard dozens of heart-wrenching stories from junior team members the team meets along the route.
“You hear the stories from their families and you see the impact it has on them. When I’m talking to people who haven’t been on tour before I tell them you’re going to cry so much on this tour. They’re all cops, firefighters and paramedics and they go ‘yeah sure, I’m not going to cry,” MacPherson described. “Then, they meet their first junior team member family and you see the tears in the rider’s eyes. We see the impact cancer has had on these families.”
On the tour, MacPherson said the whole team becomes one big family and she is looking forward to welcoming Zintl to it.
“Cops for Cancers is one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m excited I’m sharing this with Anna.”
As a healthcare professional, Zintl is well aware of how difficult accessing cancer treatment can be for B.C. residents outside of the Lower Mainland. In 100 Mile House, the closest cancer clinics are in Vancouver. This distance to travel means those who experience pediatric cancer often need to put their lives on hold.
“People in Northern B.C. have to halt their entire lives. They have to stop working, figure out what they’re going to do and then bring their child to a cancer centre to help them which is really crappy,” Zintl explained. “The financial stress is huge and especially right now with everything being so expensive. If you have a sick kid and can’t work, how do you make ends meet?”
Both Zintl and MacPherson have a personal goal to raise $3,000 each with the overall team goal set for $200,000. So far, Zintl said she has raised around $300 and they plan to raise more money through personal donations, bottle drives, car washes, a raffle and other fundraisers. MacPherson is confident they’ll be able to surpass these goals, noting she raised $10,000 the first time she rode.
“I know it’s hard times right now and I think everyone is struggling but if you have the ability to donate, even if it’s a dollar, that’s a dollar forward,” Zintl said. “If you can’t give money even if you just share and spread the word that in itself is a donation.”