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31 Jan 2013 | Australasian Dental Practice

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Join the Ride to Conquer Cancer

By Dr Patrick Tseng

Philanthropy, Charity and Volunteering

When I walked into a bike shop in May last year, I picked up a brochure about an "epic ride" to conquer cancer. Having just started cycling in late 2011, I was hoping to improve my skills and stamina. However, after reading the brochure, I was struck by the fact that funds raised for this 200 km ride over two days would benefit the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse at the RPA.


Professor Chris O'Brien was a brilliant head and neck cancer surgeon whose life touched many. Unfortunately, he himself succumbed to cancer in 2009. About 10 years ago, a patient was referred to me for a lesion in the retromolar region which was thought to be a periodontal abscess. However, I was quite alarmed by the appearance of the lesion and I immediately sent the patient to an oral surgeon and the lesion was diagnosed as Squamous Cell Carcinoma. The patient was eventually operated on by Chris O'Brien. Part of her mandible was removed and reconstructed and the surgery was so nicely done that you could hardly tell. To this day, there has been no recurrence of cancer and the patient is forever grateful.

Not having ridden a bicycle since high school, I thought the ride would be a great challenge. However, since it was also raising funds for a great cause (one in two Australians will be affected by cancer in their lifetime), I decided to take up the challenge and I also invited a good friend and colleague, Dr Andrew Ng from Oatley to join me, since he is a seasoned rider.

After training most weekends for a few months, the big ride started at Olympic Park in Homebush (the site of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games) on October 13, 2012. It was a sunny day with no wind; we took off at about 7am after a short ceremony to honour the cancer victims. We rode with over 1,600 riders all wearing the same jersey through Parramatta Park, along the M7 motorway and eventually ended up in Camden oval at about 1pm. Along the way, there were a few pit stops and lunch stop for us to rest and refuel. Since we arrived quite early, we had another lunch with friends and supporters in Camden and explored the town before going back to the camp.

Camping at the oval was an interesting experience. Hundreds of tents were neatly set up like in an army barracks. Apart from a hot dinner, hot showers, massage and entertainment was all provided. However, lights were turned off promptly at 9pm as there was another full day of riding ahead. As it was my first camping experience with such a large group, I was kept awake by snoring from the tents left, right and centre. Even though I hardly slept, the adrenalin rush kept me going the following day. We left the camp at about 7am the next morning and after four and a half hours of riding in perfect weather on a different route, we arrived safely back at the Olympic stadium just after noon with no broken bones but one broken bike frame, one bike shoe and two very tired bodies!

Along the way, there were a lot of people cheering us on. Even though we had to share some of the main roads with other vehicles, we never felt threatened by aggressive motorists. The pit stops along the way were all supplied with plenty of energy foods and drinks and they were all located in picturesque parklands. The ride was very well organised and it was truly an awesome experience.

The event has raised a total of $5.7 million for the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse at RPA. It is the largest single fund raising event in Australian history. Andrew and I have managed to raise over $28,000. I was one of the top 13 fund raisers and I was "honoured" as a Silver Ambassador for my effort.

On a very sad note, Andrew was struck by a terrible tragedy in losing his beloved daughter Isabelle just a few weeks before the ride. To my surprise, Andrew decided to complete the ride in memory of Isabelle. His determination and courage was inspiring. Hopefully his outstanding achievement will somehow ease the pain and grief in coming to terms with the unimaginable tragedy.

After the ride, I am now thinking of fielding a team of riders from the dental fraternity. If there are any keen riders out there who are interested in challenging themselves, be it speed or stamina, or interested in supporting a great cause while improving their riding skills, please email me (ptseng@tpg.com.au) as we would like to start training soon! For our profession, this is an opportunity for us to give something back to our community in raising funds for such a worthwhile cause.

I also like to thank many of my dental colleagues for their tremendous support, without which the fund raising would not have been such a resounding success.

To join Dr Tseng on training for and riding in the 2013 Ride to Conquer Cancer, email ptseng@tpg.com.au.

For more information on the 2013 Ride to Conquer Cancer, see www.conquercancer.org.au In 2013, rides will be staged in Sydney (Oct 12-13), Melbourne (Oct 26-27), Brisbane (Aug 17-18) and Perth (Oct 19-20). The Chris O'Brien Lifehouse at RPA is the charity supported by the Sydney ride only. Peter Mac is the beneficiary in Melbourne; the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane; and the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research in Perth.

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