PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Chris Spear is an avid cyclist.
The 62-year-old estimates that he’s biked approximately 120,000 miles since he first took up the sport in 1985.
In fact, the Providence native has been participating in the Pan-Mass Challenge since 1989 and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
But in a tragic twist of fate, Spear found himself battling the very disease for which he was fundraising.
“Two years ago, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer,” Spear said. “Part of me wasn’t sure how serious this was, but I realized pretty quickly that this wasn’t good.”
Spear’s doctor told him he would need to undergo surgery to have a large mass of polyps removed from his bladder.
“I was worried,” Spear said. “I was very depressed and worried about what my long-term prospects were.”
“I was trying to figure out what I should do next,” he continued. “What are my chances of this becoming more serious? … and I love to bike, so how would this affect my cycling?”
Spear underwent two surgeries: the first to remove the initial mass and another to make sure the polyps hadn’t returned.
“Since then, I’ve had several rounds of immunotherapy that seem to have been successful,” he said. “I am hoping that long-term, this immunotherapy will help me fight the cancer so I can remain active.”
Spear said his own diagnosis has made participating in the Pan-Mass Challenge all the more special, even though he doesn’t necessarily ride for himself.
“I don’t think about myself that much,” he said. “To me, I’m not the important part. It’s about other people.”
Spear is cycling on behalf of the Ocean State Cancer Crushers this year, on top of becoming a Living Proof rider. He plans on biking approximately 200 miles over the weekend.
“I usually bike 4,000 to 6,000 miles a year,” he said. “It’s not a race, but I always try to see how fast I can do it.”
When asked what he would tell someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer, Spear’s message was clear.
“Be optimistic,” he said. “Treatments have improved greatly over the last few years … think long-term that you’re going to make it.”
The Pan-Mass Challenge officially begins Saturday and wraps up on Sunday.
Johnny Villella contributed to this report.