About the Ride
I am cycling across Canada in memory of my son Charlie and because I want people to know that cancer research makes a difference. Lots of kids avoid death because of research. I wish this could have been the case for our Charlie.
It is my hope that Charlie’s Ride for Cancer Research will raise money to support the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute (BHCRI) through the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation (DMRF). DMRF was created over 35 years ago to fund medical research excellence at Dalhousie Medical School. DMRF helps to support the fundraising efforts of the BHCRI. I am proud to sit on the board of the Institute.
It was Charlie’s dream to one day become a biochemist and find a cure for cancer. For me, raising money for BHCRI through DMRF is my way of making his dream a bit of a reality.
Ultimately, I am doing this ride because I want to fund research that can help find better treatments and eventually a cure for cancer - the fewer people who have to go through what we lived through, the better.
When I think about Charlie and what he would think of his dad biking across this great country I know my brave, energetic and fun-loving boy would be onside. I can hear his voice say, “Cool Dad! I want to go with you!”
And in many ways, he will be.
“I want people to know that cancer research makes a difference.”
My name is Chris MacDougall. On July 27th, 2001, my life and the life my family changed forever– that was the day my 11-year-old son Charlie was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma, the same bone cancer Terry Fox had.
Before that time, our family was your normal, average type of family. My wife Karen and I lived busy lives with an active household. Charlie and his older brother Dan – by 20 months – were both good students who loved being with their friends. Our house was always full of kids. Our sons enjoyed all the things that many boys seems to like: skiing, snowboarding, soccer, swimming, skateboarding and video games. While their personalities were quite different both were devoted and loyal friends – as close as any two brothers could, or should be. Together, we were your typical Maritimer family.
But life can change so quickly.
What started as Charlie having a sore knee on the weekend and a skipped soccer practice on a Monday, turned into a doctor’s appointment on Thursday, X-ray on Friday, biopsy on Saturday and a positive diagnosis of bone cancer on Tuesday.
Then chemo started.
Charlie’s treatments were six courses of five weeks each. Either Karen or I were with him 24/7 for eight months. He was so sick he seldom made it home and he almost died of infection twice.
I can’t find the words to describe it – the time, the stress, the pain.
It’s funny how you so often hear great things about people who suffer. I think there is little doubt that cancer changes kids. But I always felt Charlie was a bit unique. One of Charlie’s classmates once said, “You could always tell when Charlie was in a room as it was full of laughter”. This I know to be true. He loved to have fun. He was a loyal brother and a loyal friend. He was tough as nails and nothing ever seemed to scare him. He never once complained about his cancer treatments. While he hated what he had to experience, he always faced each treatment bravely, eager for them to be over and done with.
After months of thinking Charlie would never make it through this devastating disease, a miracle happened. On March 24th, the day before Charlie’s 12th birthday, he was discharged – home free and cured! We rejoiced. We could breathe again. We became “us” - a normal family - again. Life, as we had known it, resumed. It truly did feel like a miracle. We thought maybe this was just a cruel test we had all survived and now we could rest assured, grateful to be that average, normal family, yet again.
But life is never that simple.
Fifteen months later, Charlie’s cancer came back, worse than before. The cycle of treatments and pain began yet again – for Charlie, for all of us.
You see, an illness like cancer impacts everyone – the person inflicted, the parents, siblings, friends, relatives and teachers – we all lived through this with Charlie. Charlie endured untold pain and misery. His family - especially his big brother - shared in this pain. Charlie died at home on December 28th, 2004 – 3.5 years after being diagnosed. He was 14 years old.
Things change. They shift over time. The pain and loss becomes different, but it never goes away. It will always be there.