[From the Times-Leader of Martins Ferry, Ohio.]
By PATRICIA GRAHAM
T-L Lifestyles Editor
WHILE MANY sons and daughters will be traveling across town or even across a state or two to pay tribute to their fathers today, one Adena native has a slightly longer trip in mind.
Kevin Madzia, Adena native and Pittsburgh resident, will be honoring his father, the late George Madzia, with a cross country bike trip to help raise money and awareness about melanoma. The elder Madzia died at the age of 62 from melanoma which spread to his organs in November 2002.
Beginning today, Madzia is cycling from Seattle, Wash. to Glouster [sic], Mass., ending Aug. 21. He stated his group will be on their bikes an average of six hours a day, for 40 to 100 miles at a stretch. The bikers will be sleeping in tents and local churches along the way. They will have one day of rest per week. A van will be carrying the bikers’ gear but tour directors told him “to be prepared for anything and everything.”
“All I really have to worry about is pedaling,” he said.
Kevin emphasized the fact that his father’s deadly disease is often confused with non-melanoma skin cancer that begins in the skin cells and doesn’t spread to other parts of the body. In his father’s case, the disease spread to his liver.
“When a person hears the words ‘skin cancer’ they assume there’s not much to worry about,” he said. “But, some skin cancer, the melanoma form, is deadly. The good news is that although there’s no cure, if caught early, it is very treatable and it’s highly preventable.”
Madzia explained that his father had a suspicious mole from his chest removed in early 2000 and all tests seemed to clear him of any danger. However, a spot re-emerged in spring 2001 in the same site.
“He then began treatments with Interferon which made him very weak,” he said. “He never really bounced back and then more tests confirmed that the cancer had spread to his liver. At that point, there really wasn’t anything they could do to help him.”
Following his father’s illness, Madzia searched for a way to shed light on this disease. His search led him to Steve Farrell, a marathon runner and melanoma survivor who ran the New York City Marathon to help make sense of his own bout with the disease. Farrell began the Miles for Melanoma program in cooperation with the Melanoma Research Foundation in New Jersey, a volunteer-run organization that supports melanoma research in the form of research grants to investigators.
Through this program, Farrel has encouraged and made it easier for other athletes to raise funds and awareness for melanoma, according to Madzia. He then came across an internet site called Coast-to-Coast Community Challenge. Coast-to-Coast Community Challenge is organized by Cycle America, a bicycle touring company that helps cyclists participate in cross-country tours while raising money for the charity of the cyclist’s choice.
Madzia had always loved biking as a child and thought it fitting that he take up the cross-country tour as a way to honor his father, who also loved to ride bicycles with his wife, Sandy Madzia, who still resides in Adena.
“Mom and Dad always enjoyed bicycling, before his illness,” said Kevin, noting it was not unheard of to have his parents traveling 20 miles or so on a Sunday afternoon on their bikes.
Madzia noted he is the first person on a Coast-to-Coast Community Challenge to choose melanoma as their charity. “Also, I believe I am the first person to be involved with Miles for Melanoma as a cycling event rather than a running event,” he said.
To prepare for the event, Madzia spent the winter months working on a stationary trainer and, now that warmer weather is upon us, has been cycling regularly, working his mileage up to about 200 miles.
To date, Madzia has raised $7,000 of his $10,000 goal. The tab for the trip, $4,000, is being paid for by Madzia himself, an independent software developer. In addition, a friend on the board of a Boston foundation, which wishes to remain anonymous, will be matching all donations up to $2,500 to help him reach his goal.
“My friends and family have been very helpful in helping me reach my goal,” said Madzia, noting his mother organized a wine tasting event and friends held a fundraising party/auction to help with the cause. “When I first told them of my plans to bike across the country, they were a little surprised. But once they knew I was serious they all jumped in to help and have been very supportive.”
Those wishing to help Madzia meet his goals, may make donations to The Melanoma Research Foundation, Miles for Melanoma-Kevin Madzia, 24 Old Georgetown Road, Princeton, N.J. 08540. More information, including a complete itinerary, Q & A section, photos and ride information, may be obtained at miles4melanoma.com. Also on the website, Madzia will be updating his progress with tidbits and photos as time permits.
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