Every day, nearly 5,000 people will hear their doctor say these dreaded three words, “You have cancer.”
Like millions of others, Tammy Wysk has been touched by the tragic effects of the disease, and she has supported friends and family members as they fought the hardest battle of their lives. Through her experience, she knows firsthand the devastating effects that cancer has on those who are diagnosed and their loved ones, especially after watching her own mother battle lung cancer.
“When she was diagnosed, it was kind of a punch in the stomach,” said Tammy. “It was the last thing you ever think you’re going to hear. She had some respiratory issues, and when they come back and say that it’s cancer, it takes the wind out of your sail.”
Though her mother passed away over 20 years ago, Tammy still feels her presence every day. When she came across the Pan-Florida Challenge Cancer Ride in 2021, she knew she had found a way to honor her mother’s legacy while doing something she loves – cycling.
The Pan-Florida Challenge Cancer Ride brings together dedicated cyclists to fight cancer. The ride will be held on March 26 and 27, with starting lines in both Tampa and Fort Myers. Routes range from 10 to 200 miles, so riders of all skill levels who hope to celebrate survival or honor a loved one have the opportunity to participate. Every dollar raised goes directly to the Pan-Florida Challenge’s mission to fund cancer prevention and research at Moffitt Cancer Center, sponsor educational programs and provide cancer-fighting weekend backpack meals (PFC Power Packs) to hungry children.
To Tammy, riding a bike 200 miles doesn’t compare to the pain, exhaustion and heartache felt by those who are fighting cancer. Over 1.6 million people are diagnosed each year, that’s nearly two million mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons who hear the devastating news and begin their own fight against the disease. Tammy sought an opportunity to represent as many individuals who have been touched by cancer as she could during the ride, and it occurred to her, she could carry them on her back.
“I always tried to find a reason to ride, whether it was for somebody or some other reason,” said Tammy. “The whole thing behind my jersey was it held me accountable. I put something out on Facebook and told my friends, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this ride and I’m going to wear all these ribbons, and once you put it out there, you can’t back away. You can’t say, ‘Ah, I don’t think I’m gonna do this today.’ So you do things that keep you going forward, and that makes you accountable for your rides.”
One by one, Tammy added ribbons to her jersey for the ride. Each ribbon represented a person, someone she knew, a loved one, a friend, who was diagnosed with cancer. Names of survivors, fighters and people who lost their lives to the disease filled her jersey, and she carried them on her back the entire 200 miles.
“I felt honored to be able to do that,” said Tammy. “I felt that when the times got tough or I thought they were tough, I was able to reflect and think back on all of the names on my jersey. That’s the reason I was out there. No matter how hard it was because I know that people with cancer suffer a lot more than I did riding a bike. That helped lift me up and keep me going.”
Pedal & Fight Cancer. Join Tammy and hundreds of other passionate cyclists in the 2022 Pan-Florida Challenge Cancer Ride. Every dollar raised by cyclists who are participating in the annual ride goes directly to fighting cancer and providing hungry kids nutritious foods to eat over the weekend. To learn more about the Pan-Florida Challenge and to register for this year’s ride, please visit www.panfloridachallenge.org/the-ride/.