Brent and Ray
Brent Long

What a ride!

In 2003 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 31. My wife and I had only been married a year. Fusion was still “young”. I was referred to Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) by my family doctor for surgery, and they removed the affected testicle. After two years of monthly tests, the doctors were worried that there were still signs of the disease, and in 2005 I did a month of radiation. Twenty years from the original diagnosis, fingers crossed, it still appears to be in remission. I was lucky.
Brent and Ray riding bicycles through the finish line for the Ride to Conquer Cancer

But this post isn’t about my cancer story—it’s about what I did after that. It’s about how I became driven to find a way to give back. At first it was small things, like giving blood. Something a decade before would probably have made me pass out. Because my blood had been “tainted” by cancer, I was unfortunately denied the ability to help in this way. So, I went looking for other ways. My wife and I discovered the PMH Walk for Breast Cancer. It was 60KM, 30KM two days in a row. We did it with our long-time friend Lisa. It was our first foray into such an event, and it showed us what an emotional experience it could be.

Brent, Andrea and Lisa doing the Walk
Brent, Andrea and Lisa participating in the PMH Walk for Breast Cancer.
After the walk, outside of the old Fusion Liberty Village office.

We did the Walk two years in a row, and then I discovered the Ride to Conquer Cancer (RTCC). It had only been going for a few years, and the challenge of riding a bicycle 200KM over two days was for some reason intriguing to me. Most people that know me now would relate cycling and the Ride as part of my persona, but at that time I didn’t even OWN a bicycle. As a kid I loved the freedom that my bike provided me, and I was always going on all-day rides either by myself or with friends. But it had been years since I had been on a bicycle. 

I wasn’t going to take the task lightly. The Ride takes place in June, and I knew that I needed time to train before attempting 200KM over two days. In April of 2011 I purchased my first bike with the goal of doing the RTCC in June of 2012. It was not an expensive purchase. It was a solid, hybrid style, Canadian brand (Norco) way of entering the cycling world. It was the beginning of the slippery slope into this very, very expensive hobby. I still have that bike, 13 years later. And I still love it. But, it only took six months before I realized that I needed something more specialized for fast road riding. Another bike purchase, another Norco, but this time a carbon fiber road-specific frame meant for speed and distance. This would be the bike I rode for my first Ride to Conquer Cancer.

Now that I had the equipment, and had been training, I wanted to find someone to do the Ride with. I didn’t really give Ray Brown, one of my best friends, a choice. And as Ray is apt to do, he just said “ok”. That first year, he rode my hybrid bike because he didn’t have one of his own (yet). Maybe he thought that this was going to be a fun, one-time event?

Brent and Ray posing with their bicycles
Brent and Ray in 2012—the first time participating in RTCC.
Brent and Ray holding up their bicycles in celebration.
Successful first ride! Made it to Niagara!

Nothing can really prepare you for the actual event. The RTCC is a hugely physical undertaking. That, you can probably imagine. But what you don’t get from the Ride’s details is the emotion of it all. Lining up at opening ceremonies in the parking lot of BMO Field with thousands of other cyclists, cancer being the common denominator for every single one of us. Survivors, people fighting the disease, families and friends of those who’ve passed on, etc. We arrived there wondering if we could even do 200KM over two days; were we physically ready? And that all quickly fades. None of that matters. You realize that all that matters is that we were there. We had raised the minimum of $2,500 to participate. Together, all of us had helped raise millions of dollars for PMH. The physical stuff wasn’t a big deal anymore; it wasn’t the reason we were there. We were making a difference. 

All along the route there were people with signs, cheering us on. Not just in the city, but in the middle of nowhere. Small groups clapping and yelling “thank you for riding”. It really does motivate you to keep going. And that first year we needed lots of motivation to keep going. 100KM was far. It’s still far. Making it to camp in Hamilton after the first day we were exhausted. Maybe broken was a better word? My Dad came and picked us up and drove Ray and I back to Markham so that we could be at our own houses for hot baths and our own beds. And then he drove us back the next day so that we could reluctantly do it all over again, another 100K from Hamilton to Niagara Falls. Our butts hurt so much sitting back on our saddles that second day. But we did it. and we made it to the finish line. Every pain and ache disappears as you round the last corner along the Niagara River to a fenced in area saturated with hundreds of people cheering for us, including our own families. It’s pretty amazing! A sense of accomplishment like only a few other times in my life. 

RTCC team Fusion
One of the larger groups of riders for RTCC Team Fusion.
Brent with his family at the RTCC
Brent’s family cheering him on!

Ray and I have completed the Ride 11 times in total. We did 10 years straight, and then took a year off in 2022, but participated again a month ago for 2023’s Ride. We’ve ridden every Ride together, most of them just the two of us, but we’ve had up to seven others join us. The Ride changed us. Cycling became a big part of both mine and Ray’s lives. We can’t imagine our lives without this hobby. It’s helped keep us both in shape into our “older” years. It gives us purpose. It helps us make a difference. It makes me personally feel like I’m giving back to the institution that provided me the help I needed when I needed it most. And a way of helping support those that find themselves battling this dreaded disease. And luckily, by doing my little part in this much bigger picture, has been a pretty rewarding one for me, both physically and emotionally. 

Thank you to everyone that has supported me along the way. 

We arrived there wondering if we could even do 200KM over two days; were we physically ready? And that all quickly fades. None of that matters. You realize that all that matters is that we were there. ”

Brent and Ray at RTCC