Simon Douthwaite is a currency trader from Swartz Bay, but he’ll be calling Nanaimo home by the time this year’s Cops For Cancer Tour de Rock gets underway.
Each September a new team of police officers, firefighters, ambulance paramedics and guest riders set out to on an 1,100-kilometre journey across the Island to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society to fight childhood cancer and support Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp for children with cancer and their families.
Douthwaite and his family are currently in the process of moving to Nanaimo.
As a guest rider with the 2019 Tour de Rock team, Douthwaite is acutely aware of what the tour means to families with children battling cancer. His daughter Chelsea, 7, fought leukemia for three years and is a Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock junior rider, one of the children who represents what TDR teams fight for. She’s been clear of the disease for two years now.
Chelsea’s older sister Sophie, 8, is a junior rider too, because Cops for Cancer recognizes the impact the disease has on a family, especially siblings of children with the disease who require disproportionate care and attention from parents who must often spend time away when a child is in hospital for treatment. As junior riders, siblings of child cancer patients get to take part in events and activities available to their brothers and sisters.
“She was a very supportive elder sister. Very protective even though there was only a year [between them],” Douthwaite said.
He started supporting Tour de Rock by giving speeches at and helping out with fundraising events several years ago after a team came to his daughter’s school during her illness.
“It was very exciting when they came to Chelsea’s school. Hearing the sirens, it was a wonderful moment and it was this amazing feeling of real support … You hear them coming in, then they’re cycling in and it’s hard to put it adequately into words how I felt in the middle of a crowd of kids and thinking all these people are here for my little girl. “It’s not that they were, necessarily, but it’s a wonderful feeling and I want to do that for other families,” Douthwaite said.
Last year he was asked if he would be interested in training for the tour. Douthwaite was a mountain biker, and training with road cycling team is a completely new experience that presents new challenges of learning to ride at high speeds in a tight formation of cyclists. The toughest physical aspect of the training, he said, is sprint training when riders must go flat out for a given distance, slow down for an interval and then sprint flat out again, repeating the cycle for perhaps a dozen kilometres.
“The training is a big-time commitment … but I’m definitely getting fitter and it’s such a good group of people. It really is … [but] the emotional side is more than I sort of thought through ahead of time,” Douthwaite said. “We’re about two years since Chelsea finished her chemo and everything and … every time after training I have a little tear in the car on the way home. You hear the stories and you think especially about the [children] that don’t make it. That’s what gets me.”
Douthwaite’s fundraising goals have been modest and started with the minimum suggested $5,000 goal set for the riders. So far he’s raised more than $7,000 so he is continually reassessing his expectations.
“It’s really rewarding to be doing it because it’s horrific, childhood cancer, and it shouldn’t exist and if we can change that in any little way … and it’s changing every year. It’s getting better and I hope when Chelsea is 20 she’ll look back and think chemotherapy was medieval, you know?” Douthwaite said.