Joan Thompson passed through the Elk Valley last week on a bicycle trip across the country, raising awareness about a deadly but silent disease.
She left the west coast on May 14 with a bottle full of ocean water and plans to finish her journey in Halifax on August 1.
Thompson is undertaking this endeavour for several reasons. In November of last year, her sister, Sheila Rae Trautman, passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 59. Through this bike ride, Thompson hopes to honour her sister and help spread understanding of the disease.
“My sister was diagnosed at stage three with ovarian cancer, which is very typical,” Thompson explained. “Eighty-five per cent of women with the disease are diagnosed late and as a consequence the outcomes are often not good. There’s about only one in two women who survive ovarian cancer past five years.”
Thompson has teamed up with Ovarian Cancer Canada for her ride across the country and will be raising personal awareness through education as she travels, stopping to do talks and presentations, and emphasizing the need for greater public action around ovarian cancer.
“(Ovarian Cancer Canada) notified me of the research and in the past 50 years there’s still been little improvement in outcomes for ovarian,” Thompson said.
She hopes that public understanding and action about ovarian cancer will develop to the same degree that it has with breast cancer, for example.
“There’s now an 87 per cent five-year survival rate with breast cancer due to significant advances in treatment, like arriving at a very concrete screening test, the mammogram. We’re not there yet with ovarian cancer, so we want to increase people’s understanding and resolve to bring it to similar levels of knowledge and attention,” she said.
Her trip across Canada will by no means be her first large-scale bike ride.
Thompson, 63, has undergone three camino walks in Spain and France, cycled through the Italian Alps, Alaska and the Yukon, and, in 2018, she rode the Pamir Highway in Central Asia.
Thompson said she is very much looking forward to riding paved roads in Canada and added that she and her partner Ken, who will be following behind in a support van, will limit their distance to about 100 kilometres per day, in order to allow time to reach out to people along the way. They plan to be riding through Grand Forks on May 20 and leaving Christina Lake on May 22. Riders are welcome to join them, for however long they wish.
To follow Thompson on her journey, visit her Facebook page @OvarianCancerRide or her blog site Justgojo.com. Here, you can also learn how to donate to Ovarian Cancer Canada. All donated funds go directly to the organization.