Continuing to Spin Their Wheels for the PMC

Bill Alfano's picture
Bill Alfano

Continuing to Spin Their Wheels for the PMC

On Monday, July 29, Amherst residents Eric Heller, 59,  and Bob Newcomb, 54,  concluded their nearly 4,000-mile journey, “Coast to Coast to Cure Cancer,” to raise awareness and money for the Pan-Mass Challenge just in time to ride 190 miles in the 34th annual event.    

During the course of two months, the cycling duo distributed fliers to spread the PMC’s mission and collected donations for the cause. From the coast of Oregon to the Massachusetts shore, Heller and Newcomb stopped at campgrounds, motels, restaurants, and grocery stores and spoke to countless strangers about cancer research and treatment which the cycling duo describes as both a heartwarming and sobering experience.    

 “More often than not, complete strangers would open up to us about their friends and family who are battling cancer or have lost their lives to cancer,” said Heller. “That instant connection that would happen between complete strangers because of what we were trying to do through our adventure was overwhelming, and I know it will always stay with me as the greatest memory of the trip.”  

Each day, the PMC veterans woke up at 7 a.m. and rode their bicycles until 5 p.m. rain or shine, pedaling through all terrains while getting to see national landmarks such as the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia River Gorge and the Erie Canal. People they met along the route were able to follow their ride on Facebook and were invited to add the names of loved ones affected by cancer to a running list on their blog. The spike in likes and comments left by their followers were an inspiration to Heller and Newcomb to continue riding.  

 “I will never forget the story of a man from Montana who grew up and lived on the Cape, said Newcomb. “Many years ago he had three children in treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  Our friendly conversation quickly turned into an emotional event as he went on to tell me how he donated bone marrow and part of his lung, and ultimately lost one of his children to the disease. I will always remember this conversation and I will carry it with me in his honor.” 

Heller is a 20-year PMC cyclist who participates in the annual bike-a-thon in honor of his late mother, Pearl Naomi Heller, who succumbed to endometrial cancer in 2007. Newcomb, a six-year PMC cyclist, rides in memory of his late mother and father, Mickey and Bud Newcomb, who both lost their lives to cancer. Through this experience, the cycling duo now has hundreds of more people to continue to ride for while raising money for the PMC. To date, Heller and Newcomb have raised a collective total of more than $134,700 for the cause, nearly $25,000 of which has been generated from their cross country ride.  

“For me, there are lots of lasting memories of places we rode through, rural communities, great scenic views, and all those parts of the country that we were both seeing for the first time,” said Heller. “There were also incredible memories of the challenges on the bike - long days riding along roads that seemed endless, what felt like insurmountable ascents up mountains, and the unbelievable feeling of accomplishment at the end of each really hard day, each week, and finally making it to Provincetown. But the absolute most vivid, lasting memories I know I'll always have are of the people we met everywhere along the route. They are our inspiration to continue to ride and fundraise for the Pan-Mass Challenge.”

From left to right: PMC veterans and Amherst residents Eric Heller and Bob Newcomb on day 13 of their cross country journey at Rogers Pass in Helena National Forest in Montana, the highest point and coldest part of their ride.

Post courtesy of TEAK Media + Communication