Breaking the cancer chain; cycling for a cure
Shannon Eble is about to embark on a journey unlike any other she has undertaken.
Along with 108 other employees at Bristol-Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical company based in New York City, she will take part in the 2019 Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer Ride, a three-week cross-country cycling fundraiser.
The ride, from Cannon Beach to Long Branch, New Jersey, will cover over 3,000 miles, starting Sept. 4 and ending Sept. 24.
Eble's segment, one of seven, is from Boise, Idaho, to Salt Lake City, a little over 200 miles.
"I've never ridden a road bike before in my life," said Eble, a Portland resident and 40-year-old pathology diagnostic liaison at Bristol-Myers Squibb. "I've done some mountain biking, but I'm from the East Coast, where the mountains are not nearly as big."
Eble and her team trained in New Jersey, where 15 to 20 professional bikers taught them every nuance of cross-country cycling.
"It's a lot harder than I expected," Eble said. "There's so many different components — learning how to pedal with one foot just in case you are unable to get your second (foot) put in at a light or something like that when you're crossing the street."
Eble has plenty of inspiration. She will ride in memory of a good friend, Buddy Meredith, who died in 2012 at age 33 from lymphoma.
Eble met Meredith in high school in New Jersey, her home state. Their first introduction was "random," she said. She was with friends and eating pudding outside of a convenience store when Meredith walked up to her and just had to know why was she eating pudding.
The store was close to her house, she recalled, and "I think everybody said they were going up there, and I didn't want to give up my pudding to walk there."
It didn't take long for Eble and her younger sister to become friends with Meredith. They lived in different towns, but he quickly became one of the neighborhood mainstays. They would hang out at places such as Triangle Park, which the group helped local residents clean for volleyball and softball.
Meredith rode motorcycles and had a big, lifted truck. It was always a good time when Buddy was around.
"He never was in a bad mood," Eble said. "He was able to lift everyone's spirits around him, always wanted to help people. His passion was helping people."
In 2011, on the Fourth of July, Eble was on her way to a barbecue at her brother's home when she got a call from one of her friends: "Oh, did you hear? Buddy's in the hospital." He had a fever that wouldn't break. After tests, he was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Eble was sad, but optimistic Meredith would recover.
"I didn't know a lot about the disease," she said. "I had known people who had lymphoma who had a great prognosis and I was like, 'Wow, that's terrible. Hopefully he gets better soon,' and that was my understanding ... he's going to get better soon."
But after months of treatment, Meredith was transferred to a cancer center, with the lymphoma having reached an advanced stage.
As Meredith battled, Eble would find ways to make time for him. She often spent lunch breaks with him, and after work she would throw on a movie or TV to watch with him. It didn't matter to Eble what they watched as long as she was spending time with Meredith.
"I couldn't even tell you what we watched," Eble said. "I was always there just to be there for him."
Meredith still looked out for Eble. One time, he was insistent that she put in her phone the name of a sandwich shop in New Jersey that supposedly had the best hoagie in the state.
"He wouldn't ask me to bring him the hoagie or anything like that," Eble said. "He just wanted to make sure that I knew that this place existed and that I made sure I got a hoagie from there at some point."
Meredith's death inspired Eble to stay connected to the research side of her work and do what she could to raise awareness.
The goal for Bristol-Myers Squibb is to raise over $1 million for the V Foundation for Cancer Research. As of Aug. 4, they were at $328,623.
"Cancer's still an area with a lot of unknowns," Eble said. "We really, really need to continue to do research in a lot of different areas, and the only way we can do that is with the support of everybody. Any amount to donate is not too little."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.