The “C” word—it’s
a phrase people often use when referring to the group
devastating illnesses that take the lives of more
than half a million people in the United States each
More than 1.3 million people will be diagnosed with
the “C” word this year alone, according
to the American Cancer Society.
Lance Armstrong and the Tour
of Hope riders are asking people around the
country to make the Promise—a personal
commitment to help themselves and others learn
more about this life-threatening disease called
cancer. By making the Promise, people can honor
a loved one who has been touched by cancer
and show support for the importance of cancer
I promise to support the search
for a cure by:
• Knowing my risks, getting
screened, and learning about cancer.
• Supporting my family
and friends through their health care decisions.
• Advocating that cancer
research become a national health care priority.
• And, if faced with the
disease, discussing with my cancer care team
the options available, including possible participation
in a cancer research study.
Sign up at www.tourofhope.com/promise.
The team will deliver the thousands of Promises
via U.S. Postal Service trucks to Washington,
D.C., following their journey.
But this October, a few more positive “C” words
will take the spotlight.
Cycling. Compassion. Colleen Chapleau.
Chapleau, associate director for the Iowa Marrow
Donor Program and the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant
Program at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics,
is one of 20 men and women cycling with cancer survivor
and six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong
from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., Oct. 1-9, in
the Bristol-Myers Squibb 2004 Tour of Hope. Tour
participants hope to raise awareness about the importance
of cancer research studies and clinical drug trials.
Chapleau’s life illustrates the all-too-real
point that cancer touches everyone. She is a cancer
survivor. So are several of her family members. Her
father currently is battling prostate cancer.
And she has dedicated her career for the past 19
years to helping find life-saving bone marrow donations
for those in the greatest need.
“I have seen too many people suffer from cancer.
As much progress as I’ve seen, frankly it’s
just not enough,” Chapleau says, pointing out
that studies show 85 percent of people diagnosed
with cancer do not know that they could be participating
in clinical trials, taking experimental drugs that
could save their lives.
Of those who do know about clinical trials, she
says, very few actually get involved.
“That has to change. That’s why we’re
going to be out on the road, cycling and spreading
the message across the country,” she says. “I
want to make people aware that every drug we use
here at the hospital came from a clinical trial.
The cure for cancer may be in a lab right now, but
we won’t know if we don’t do clinical
trials. They’re so important.
“Too many people are suffering. It’s
got to stop.”
Picked to pedal
Chapleau’s connections to the “cancer” family—personal
and professional—as well as her interest in
cycling were what landed her an elite spot on the
Tour of Hope team. Nearly 1,200 people applied; the
team is comprised of men and women from 18 different
states and all walks of life.
Chapleau’s fascination with cycling started
five years ago when she rode her first RAGBRAI. Then
she started cycling more regularly, joined Bicyclists
of Iowa City (BIC), and took spinning classes at
the Field House.
Last year, she participated in Ride the Rockies,
a weeklong ride through mountain passes in Colorado.
She also rode the last leg of the Tour of Hope in
2003; a heartfelt essay she wrote about how cancer
has affected herself and loved ones helped land her
on the 2004 relay team.
Words may have gotten her on the team, but a grueling
training regimen that started in May has kept her
going. She eats a special diet, watching her protein
and carbohydrate intake, and rides her bike daily,
keeping track of miles traveled, miles per hour,
heart rate, and so on.
She also talks daily with her team’s personal
trainer from Carmichael Training Systems—Armstrong’s
coaches in Colorado Springs.
And she has attended several training camps with
her teammates over the summer, racing up mountains
and learning how to ride in the dark going 20 miles
an hour with her wheel six inches from a teammate’s.
“Suffering together builds strength,” Chapleau
says, reminiscing about the real inner strength of
her fellow teammates.
They include one woman who has had two bone marrow
transplants, a man who survived cancer years ago
and is now watching his 5-year-old son battle leukemia,
and a firefighter whose wife and mother-in-law both
died from breast cancer and who now fights to ensure
his 7-year-old daughter never meets the same fate.
An emotional Chapleau says: “These are people
who do not give up. Ever.”
Neither does Chapleau. In the weeks leading up to
the tour, she rode three hours a day each weekday
and 100 miles a day on Saturdays and Sundays.
The training may seem monstrous, but compare it
to the actual tour. The tour’s 20 riders are
split into four teams of five riders, who will ride
relay-style, 24 hours a day for nine days, nearly
3,500 miles cross country.
That is, all 20 riders and Armstrong ride out of
Los Angeles together. Then one team continues to
ride for about the next five hours, while the rest
of the participants are bused ahead to the next transition
point, when another team takes over. They’ll
all complete the ride with Armstrong in D.C.
Chapleau will end up doing 4- to 5-hour sprints,
at 20 miles an hour, every 16 hours. She won’t
get more than five hours of sleep at a time during
Between sprints, teams make personal appearances
and give speeches. Chapleau will be talking about
the vital cancer research being done at the University.
She also will be spending time on her team bus,
eating meals prepared by her team’s personal
chef and receiving massages from her team’s
personal therapist. So there are a few perks, Chapleau
admits with a laugh.
An Iowa inspiration
Chapleau’s friends, local riding buddies,
and coworkers have all razzed her a bit about the
special attention she’s been getting.
“I have noticed that Colleen’s speed
and endurance have improved a lot. She has inspired
us in many ways,” says Barry Carter, BIC member
and professor of clinical and administrative pharmacy
in the College of Pharmacy. “All of us are
happy for her but still rather envious of the special
training she is receiving and her opportunity to
ride with Lance Armstrong. I know of at least one
BIC member who will fly out to Washington to ride
the last leg with the tour.
“We’re all very proud of her, and proud
that she’s representing Iowa City in such a
Chapleau’s parents and her children, ages
20, 17, and 14, also will join her in D.C., cheering
her on. And they’ll get to meet Armstrong—a
reward for putting up with the wacky training schedule
and late dinners the past few months, Chapleau jokes.
Throughout it all, she has remained upbeat and positive.
Her supervisor, Roger Gingrich, has noticed an increased
zing in her already-spirited zest for life.
“I think if Colleen was bubbly and optimistic
before, she’s even more volcanic now,” says
Gingrich, professor of internal medicine in the Carver
College of Medicine and director of the Iowa Marrow
Donor Program. “This has given her a way to
channel her enthusiasm, an organized way to blow
off her enthusiastic energy and take her message
beyond bone marrow donation to the wider cancer audience.”
by Amy Schoon