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Life cycle: Cancer survivors' road back boosted by CT Challenge riders

Updated 8:27 am, Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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  • Over 1,000 cyclists participate in the 8th Annual CT Challenge Bike Ride, a benefit for cancer-survivorship programs Saturday, July 28, 2012 at the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, Conn. Photo: Autumn Driscoll / Connecticut Post
    Over 1,000 cyclists participate in the 8th Annual CT Challenge Bike Ride, a benefit for cancer-survivorship programs Saturday, July 28, 2012 at the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, Conn. Photo: Autumn Driscoll

 

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CT CHALLENGE BIKE RIDE
Friday: 89 miles, Lakeville to Westport
Saturday: Rides offered of 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 miles
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Like many people, Brad Kimmelman believed once a cancer patient was done with treatments and declared clear of the disease, the battle was over.

That was until his mother was deemed cancer-free several years ago and what he thought would be a huge relief to her was only the beginning of her struggle.

"What I realized was that after her treatments were over, there was not a lot of support or care," said Kimmelman, 50, a Stamford resident. "It is a very lonely and scary thing going back into the world while dealing with being a survivor. There is depression as well as physical problems caused by the chemo still being inside you."

He also found there was nobody to help his mother with her physical or mental needs or teach her how to live a healthier lifestyle after treatments.

In 2012, the CT Challenge Center for Survivorship opened in Southport, downstairs from the office where Kimmelman worked.

He was amazed by what he saw and what the center offered. Kimmelman knew right away he wanted to get involved.

He did so by participating in CT Challenge's biggest event, the CT Challenge Bike Ride, on Friday and Saturday.

CT Challenge participants can choose from one-day rides on Saturday of 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 miles or the Two-Day Ride, starting with an 89-mile ride on Friday from Lakeville to the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, followed up with any distance they prefer the next day.

Last year, Kimmelman organized the office of William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty in Southport to work as volunteers along the course, but this year he went a step further, organizing a team to get on bikes.

When Kimmelman, an office manager at William Pitt, went to the president and CEO of the company, Paul Breunich, to present the idea, Breunich did not just write a check and walk away.

He asked where he could sign up to ride.

Breunich was not alone. The COO of the company, Vin Socci, also decided to ride on the team of six.

"In any form of leadership you have to walk the talk, it's not just throwing money at it," Breunich said. "We share an office with them in Southport and once I saw the facilities and found out what they were doing, it was very moving. There are not many facilities that focus on patients after treatment."

Breunich will be taking the 10-mile ride after having knee replacement surgery this past winter while Kimmelman will be tackling the 25-mile ride.

The CT Challenge Center for Survivorship in Southport, a building cancer survivors can visit to exercise, learn about proper nutrition and receive mental support, opened in 2012 in part due to funds raised by the CT Challenge.

Ten years after the inaugural Bike Ride, the CT Challenge has grown to support programs that impacted over 54,000 cancer survivors last year, throughout the region and at any stage of their cancer journey: programs that include the CT Challenge Center for Survivorship and The CT Challenge Survivorship Network of 19 hospitals and cancer centers throughout Connecticut.

It is all something Kimmelman wishes his mother had at her disposal where she lives in Florida, but is glad it helps anyone going through the same thing she did.

"I firmly believe we are all just one diagnosis away," Kimmelman said. "This place is like a spa where people can go for walks, do yoga, Pilates. It is just an outstanding organization. It is important for survivors to have a place to go not just for physical treatments but to learn about the effects of the drugs that they still have inside them."