Q&A: Ride for cancer research takes on personal meaning

MHS?grad takes part in Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer trip

Emily Prince

When Emily Prince signed on to take part in the Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer bike ride with fellow employees of Bristol-Myers Squibb, she counted her work experiences as her closest and most recent connection to cancer and its impact.

Then, shortly after, her father, Randy Prince, of Marietta, was diagnosed with throat cancer.

“It turned from a professional commitment into a personal commitment,” said Prince, who lost her grandmother to breast cancer as a young child. “Now it’s in my house, my family. It made it even more urgent.”

On Tuesday, Prince completed her leg of the bike ride, the final stretch from Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore, a three-day event. The goal of the overall 2,800-mile ride is to raise $1 million for Stand Up to Cancer to advance cancer research. Already, more than $400,000 has been raised and Bristol-Myers Squibb–a global biopharmacuetical company– will match donations dollar for dollar up to $500,000. Donations can still be made at cancerbikeride.org.

“We’re really close to our goal,” said Prince, as she recovered last week from her ride.

Question: How long were you actually riding?

Answer: Three full days. I left the hotel at 7 a.m. Sunday (Sept. 24) in Philadelphia and got to the Jersey Shore at 4 (Tuesday). The total ride time was six to seven hours each day. We would have short breaks to eat or shuttle around construction but they were quick.

Q: What was the longest bike ride you had done before this?

A: Nowhere close to this. I had done 60 miles before. And I didn’t train on hills so that was a shock to my system, going from flat Philly to the hills of West Virginia.

Q: Did you have hilly terrain most of the way?

A: The team started out in Portland, Ore. after Labor Day and every three days a new team would ride. And Sunday was the single hardest day in the country–more hills and more miles and we got that 90-degree weather which was a real surprise. There was a team that went over the Continental Divide in Colorado and we still had more hills.

Q: What kind of training did you do leading up to this?

A: Mainly just a lot of rides. I was a novice. I ride to get groceries in the city but that’s about it. I got a trainer who made a schedule for me. The first time I did 10 miles, which was a struggle. I got up to 50 and 60-mile rides, three days in a row.

Q: Did you get comfortable with that length of a ride?

A: I still am not a strong rider. But I managed to be accident-free so I’m happy with that. It was hard to get used to the race bike and clipping in and I did fall but nothing was hurt–just a bruised ego and knees.

Q: How many people were riding with you?

A: Our team was 11 people. Coast to Coast was 93 total.

Q: What was it like to finish and make it to the end?

A: It was kind of unexplainable. It was so surreal to see all the supporters. We had friends and family and past riders flew out. It was an amazing experience to do as a group. We had our jerseys and on the back it says “I stand up for…” and we were writing in names of people with cancer and people who’ve touched our lives. It was an emotional experience. I felt like we were able to do something to help the world, to give people hope and inspiration. I felt honored to do it.

Q: How did you initially get involved?

A: My company sponsors the event and all riders are employees. It’s a way to give back and encourage research and breakthroughs through Stand Up to Cancer.

Q: Your dad has been fighting cancer as you’ve been doing this?

A: He was diagnosed in May and I signed up for this (earlier) in the spring. I didn’t know yet. It made it so much more real to me. It brought it home.

Q: Did you think of him a lot when you were riding?

A: Yes and no, because every time I did I would start to cry. But he’s the reason I didn’t give up. I thought, if he could do what he did and go through treatment then I can get up this mountain. I got the easy part.

Q: Is he now finished with treatment? How is he doing?

A: He finished treatment and we’re waiting to see what’s next. He and my mom actually got to see me ride. They started off in Pittsburgh and went on to New Jersey with us.

Q: What was the highlight of the ride for you?

A: On the second day we started in Gettysburg and the sun was rising and we were all together. It was a really calm but energizing moment. The first day everyone had struggled and it was really hot and the second day we were ready to get out and do our best. We all came together and realized “We can do this.”

Also, coming into the shore was a great moment. We rode through a half-mile of people supporting us, then unclipping and running right into the water.

Q: Did you see a lot of new places and scenic places on the ride?

A: It was definitely all scenic. We took the back roads and it was gorgeous. Growing up in Marietta, I’m used to western PA but it was so neat to ride through the tiny little towns. We needed a water break at one point and there was nowhere to stop and a man out mowing let us set up in his front yard and barn.

Q: How do you feel the day after?

A: Depleted, I can’t really move. My legs are sore, my back is sore, I’m chugging Gatorade. But it’s odd, I woke up and thought “I could do Day 4.”

Q: Do you think you would do the ride again?

A: I think if I was given the opportunity I would do it again.

Q: Tell me a little more about the work you do.

A: I work in the oncology medical department. I focus on educating doctors, patients and family members on how our drugs work. I worked for hospitals and clinics and felt like I wasn’t impacting enough people. I wanted to do something that would advance research forward. I love what I do. It’s so rewarding. I’m not here selling drugs, I’m helping people understand and make informed decisions.

About Emily Prince

¯ Age: 29.

¯ Residence: Philadelphia, Pa.

¯ Education: 2006 Marietta High School graduate; Bachelors in pharmaceutical science and public health and Doctor of Pharmacy degree from The Ohio State University; post doctorate fellowship at Rutgers University.

¯ Family: Parents Randy and Betty; sister Megan Prince-Miller, one niece.

Source: Emily Prince.