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City welcomes cancer-fighting cyclists

A group of Magic City-based cyclists is riding to help save the lives of those stricken by cancer, and they are stopping in the Camellia City this Friday to meet, greet, rest and recuperate.

The Champions of Cancer, a group of “ultra-riders” who are part of the Birmingham Bicycle Club, are making their 465-mile “Paul Revere Ride” through the heart of sweet home Alabama this week to raise awareness and funds for cancer patients and research at the UAB Comprehensive Care Center in Birmingham.

The group is departing on Thursday from Ardmore, Tenn. (on the state line) and heading to Huntsville and HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology for a promotional event, before ending their day in Trussville.

Day two will start at the UAB CCC before bringing the cyclists to Montgomery for a meet and greet. They are slated to arrive in Greenville around 6:30 p.m. The cyclists’ second meet and greet of the day will be at L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital and they are set to spend the night in Greenville. Saturday they will roll on down to Gulf Shores and a brief break at the beach before returning to their home base of Birmingham on Sunday.

Warren Smedley, the service line director for cancer at UAB, will be accompanying the Champions of Cancer on their upcoming Paul Revere Ride. He is looking forward to returning to Greenville.

“L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital is a new affiliate partner with UAB Medicine and we have an enthusiastic and growing relationship with the local hospital team,” Smedley said.

“They have graciously offered to help support the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center in our support of this event. We needed a place to stop at the end of day two of riding and the hospital offered to provide dinner, bathrooms, and showers.”

David Norrell, director of business development for L.V. Stabler, says the hospital administration and staff are excited about the hospital’s role in supporting the cyclists and their mission.

“We also have to extend thanks to Francine Wasden and the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce,” Norrell said.

“Our hospital dining room closes at 5 p.m., so the chamber reached out and made arrangements for the group to eat at our local Shoney’s, where they can find the sort of high-carb fuel they will need. The hospital is footing the bill and giving them a place to get cleaned up and changed before their meal. First Presbyterian was good enough to offer space and beds for sleeping Friday night.”

The need to raise awareness and funds for skin cancer research has never been more timely, says Smedley.

“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer with about 87,110 new cases of invasive melanoma diagnosed in 2017,” explained Smedley.

“If caught early and treated, it is almost always curable, but if not, the cancer can spread and then it is very difficult to treat. There are very few oncologists who specialize in invasive melanoma in our region. Until this year, Dr. Marty Conry at UAB was the only oncologist in the state who specializes in treating advanced stage melanoma. Dr. Conry has been involved for many years in research using new immunotherapy agents to treat melanoma, several of which have come to market and he is now using to help treat this dreadful disease.”

One of the Birmingham Bicycle Club’s own, cyclist Wayne Spooner, is currently being treated by Conry. Spooner is participating in the Paul Revere ride.

“We expect Wayne Spooner, and his family to be traveling with the team this coming weekend along with  Dr, Conry’s nurse, Lana McKee,” Smedley said.

The Paul Revere Ride is already making a difference and the cyclists haven’t even strapped on their helmets yet, says Smedley.

“Since we have started working on this event, two cyclists from the Birmingham Bicycle Club have become aware of unusual skin spots and had them checked,” Smedley explained. “Both were positive for early stage melanoma. We haven’t even done the public awareness event and the work has already saved 2 people from a potentially bad situation.”