Biking for a cure
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Best friends and biking buddies, Anne Messick, left, and Tracy Smith, are in training as they prepare for a 150-mile bike Ride to Conquer Cancer in October.
Tracy Smith of Palmerton is in training.
She's biking her heart out and is planning on participating in The Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 150-mile bike ride Oct. 11-12.
Conquering cancer is a personal crusade for Smith. Her father, Manuel Muniz, recently lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.
Even closer to home, her husband of 27 years, Scott, is currently battling the incurable multiple myeloma, which he was diagnosed with four years ago.
Scott Smith has been going to Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia for treatments and had a stem cell transplant three years ago.
It is one of the leading hospitals in the world for cancer research and is also a teaching hospital.
His doctor is tops in his field and travels the world speaking about multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in the bone marrow.
Plasma cells normally make proteins called antibodies to help fight infections.
In multiple myeloma, a group of plasma cells (myeloma cells) becomes cancerous and multiply, raising the number of plasma cells to a higher than normal level.
Since these cells normally make proteins (antibodies), the level of abnormal proteins in the blood may also go up. Health problems caused by multiple myeloma can affect the bones, immune system, kidneys and red blood cell count.
"The hospital is trying desperately to keep him and others with this cancer alive long enough to find a cure. His cancer does not have remission and the average life span with this diagnosis is seven years," says Smith.
"A lot of research is being done, so hopefully as new drugs get approved, it will extend his and other lives."
To that end, The Ride to Conquer Cancer is being held to raise money to support Abramson Cancer Center's breakthrough cancer research, education and patient care programs.
Each participant must raise a minimum of $2,500 each to be permitted to ride, so she is reaching out to the community for help.
"It's hard to imagine someone's life that hasn't been touched by cancer," she says.
Smith, 55, who is a secretary at Palmerton Area High School, says she has had an overwhelming response from her co-workers in the school district, who have raised well over $1,700, but she still has a way to go.
"I'm surprised at people's reactions to my request. I think it's because everyone has been affected in some way by cancer. I've received donations from people I don't even know. I'm blown away by that," she says.
Smith has a passion for biking, so when she found out about the two-day, 150-mile cycling event throughout the surrounding Philadelphia countryside, she knew she had to give it a try, even though she's never biked more than 50 miles at a time.
"I'm taking on this challenge because I know that I can make an impactful contribution to conquering this disease," she says.
Tracy talked her biking buddy and best friend, Anne Messick, 56, of Palmerton, to also sign up for the event.
Messick lost her mother to brain cancer a few years ago. She is being supported by her daughter, Catie Messick, and grandson, as well as her colleagues at Tobyhanna Army Depot.
As part of their training, Smith and Messick bike together four times a week. Smith also works out in a gym three times a week.
Scott Smith, 55, takes a chemo pill every day and receives intravenous twice a week. He continues to work at home in design and layout of chips for cellphones.
He thinks what his wife is doing is great and totally supports her, as do their two children, Amy Buck and Zach, 26 and granddaughter, Payeton, 12.
In the meantime, Smith is focusing on two things she loves.
"I love to bike," she says. "My husband's life is in their (Abramson Cancer Center) hands. It makes this bike ride a little more personal."
For information, go to www.ridetovictory.org, and click on Philadelphia.