“Hi, I’m Paul and I’m cycling across North America for metastatic cancer research,” reads the tagline on Riding4Research.org, the launch pad for Paul Rudershausen’s campaign to raise funds, in his mother’s memory, for Duke Cancer Institute.
“On March 9, 2014, I stood in my boyhood home as I watched my mother draw her last breath while in a morphine-induced coma,” recalled Rudershausen, a PhD fisheries biologist with North Carolina State University and Philadelphia native. “I was still in complete shock that such a strong and vibrant woman had lost her life to lung cancer only five months after being diagnosed. The pain of her loss burned in me, her youngest child, and I vowed that something good would come out of her life being taken by such a horrible disease. I promised myself that I would contribute to fighting cancer in some personally meaningful way.”
It would take three years for Rudershausen’s contribution to take shape.
A 15-year resident of Morehead City, on the North Carolina coast, he’s clocked thousands of miles biking, swimming and running — including four cross-country cycling trips, the last two benefiting a local wildlife charity.
But this past December, still grieving his mother’s loss and nursing a recent break-up, Rudershausen realized he hadn’t gone on a biking adventure since his mother died.
The last such trip — from San Diego, California, to Atlantic Beach, North Carolina — was in winter 2013. So, Rudershausen decided to unite his passion for cycling with his need to properly memorialize his mother.
To make his vision a reality, Rudershausen, 49, turned to Jason Somarelli, PhD, a friend who researches the mechanisms behind metastasis. As part of the Duke Cancer Institute Canine Comparative Oncology group, Somarelli studies the genes that promote metastasis in both dogs and humans. Researchers hope that by identifying the common causes of metastasis in dogs and people, they’ll find better treatments for both.
Rudershausen first met Somarelli through Somarelli’s wife, a research colleague at the Duke University Marine Lab.
“When I was looking for people to team up with in the medical community, it was really logical to reach out to Jason,” he said. “I’m hoping to raise $20,000 for his cancer research.”
He’ll start his Riding4Research trip in Anchorage, Alaska on July 18 or 19, following mainly The Great Trail across Canada.
Rudershausen said he’s as comfortable biking solo across uncharted (for him) territories, as he is navigating the open seas for work.
His mom and dad taught him to ride and sent him on river paddling expeditions as a child. Very early on, the northland, as he tells it, became “part of my fabric.”
Rudershausen invites visitors to track his route, see his photos and read his posts about where he goes, who he meets, and the kinds of adversities he tackles on his Riding4Research blog.
An important part of his ride, he said, will be “spreading that everyday essential goodness that was my mother and finding that goodness in people that I will meet, both virtually and in person, along the way.”
Rudershausen plans to bike about 100 miles per day through off-road and paved trails. Carrying “all the stuff I need to survive, but no more,” he’ll go where people rarely go in The Yukon, Alberta, and northwest Saskatchewan, and hopefully end his trip in the Canadian Maritimes.
On his packing list, a change of clothes, raingear, a tent, sleeping bag, cook stove, bike mechanic tools, spare tires and tubes and old-fashioned maps. He’ll wild camp and overnight at campgrounds as weather permits and stay at hotels if needs be.
Working against him, possibly, his age and history of multiple surgeries from “the overuse and accidental abuse” of his bones and joints.
“I’m a little worried about that,” he said. “I’m not as sprite as I used to be, but once I get into the groove on the ride, everything should work out fine.”
Somarelli is impressed and moved by his friend’s mission for a cause that’s also deeply personal for the cancer scientist. Somarelli lost his grandmother and uncle to metastatic cancer.
“We're so grateful to Paul for his generosity of spirit,” said Somarelli. “He's really putting himself to the test to help raise awareness and funds for our research. His ride and the donors who support it will help us take the next step in finding better treatments.”
Follow Paul Rudershausen’s journey on his Riding4Research blog and Facebook page. Support Ruderhausen’s bike trip to benefit cancer metastasis research at Duke Cancer Institute with personal donations or sponsorships.