Residents ride against cancer
The battle against cancer has inspired two Trumbull resident warriors to help the fight. Michael Ruszkowski and Stephanie Schwartz will be riding this year in the 35th annual Pan-Mass Challenge charity bike-athon.
They will ride up to 190 miles through 46 towns across Massachusetts to raise $40 million for adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund.
Both participants have their own story and reason for supporting the cause. Ruszkowski, for example, is riding in honor of his son Mason, who was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma at the age of 18 months.
“He is now three years old and thriving,” said Ruszkowski. “Though, we scan/test every three months, as the fear of relapse is never far from our minds and is an unfortunate reality for many children in my son’s situation.”
Ruszkowski said Mason’s care has been split across Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and Boston Children’s/Dana Farber.
“Approximately 600 kids a year in the U.S. are diagnosed with neuroblastoma,” said Ruszkowski. “There is no known cure, which is why events like the PMC are so important.”
This is Ruszkowski’s first year riding in the PMC and his first time cycling in a bike-athon. He said prior to purchasing his bike for spring training he had never owned or ridden a road bike.
Stephanie Schwartz is no stranger to the PMC. This year will be her second PMC experience. Like Ruszkowski, she is riding to support her family and friends who have been diagnosed and lost their lives to cancer.
She said her biggest inspiration for riding is her father, Stuart Schwartz, who has also suffered through some health issues. He has battled Lyme disease three times, had both his hips replaced and underwent back surgery.
Stuart Schwartz has ridden in the PMC three times, beginning in 1999. Over time, his health forced him into retirement from the PMC but last year he got back on his bike and encouraged his daughter to ride with him for the first time.
Together, the father and daughter have raised $19,000 for the cause.
Stuart Schwartz said his initial plan was to ride with Stephanie this year in honor of his late mother Cookie, and close friends Jeff Blueweiss and Sylvie
Poulin who have all succumbed to the disease. However, he was recently hospitalized and was therefore forced back into retirement.
In addition to the PMC, Stuart Schwartz has supported the fight against cancer by becoming the chair of Bike Along the Sound in 2001. He was involved with the cause for one year and helped raise $75,000.
Ruszkowski and Stephanie Schwartz, along with 5,800 other cyclists from ages 13 to 90, will ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown on Aug. 2 and 3.
To donate to either rider visit pmc.org, click “donate” and search their names, “Michael Ruszkowski” or “Stephanie Schwartz” to make a contribution. Or call 800-WE-CYCLE.