It was a memorable evening for a young Vanderhoof cancer survivor and his family who had dinner with Cops for Cancer Tour de North riders cycling across Highway 16 to Prince Rupert, raising money for childhood cancer research and support services.
“He tells the story better than all of us,” said John Togyi of his son Avery, 7, who was joined with his brother Seb and mom Rhonda while they briefly waited outside Community Event Center on Friday, Sept 17.
Avery was diagnosed with Wilms’ Tumour, or childhood kidney cancer, in 2017.
This year he was the honourary rider in Vanderhoof for Cops for Tour de North 2021.
Avery said he had three ‘big’ tumours in the same spot and had to get what’s called ‘sleepy milk’ almost 60 times during his time in hospital.
Avery’s dad explained sleepy milk is used when staff perform a scan in which they do not want him wiggling around.
“One of the doctors to help early on to help him understand told him a story how he had to go find really sleepy cows last night to milk because the medication looks white like milk, and that’s how sleepy milk came to be,” Rhonda said.
Seb, 11, said one of his favourite memories of his brother’s cancer journey was when they would have the hospital bed jacked up to its’ highest height and play with Lego Star Wars.
They would use their imaginations and build sets switching between characters such as Princess Leia and Chewbacca.
“The hardest thing to do was move them all out of his hospital room,” Seb said. “He had them all displayed on his window and then we had to move them from the window back to Ronald McDonald House.”
Shortly after sharing their story, the riders had arrived from their accommodations, and Seb and Avery, with their parents, filed into the center for more storytelling, laughs and future friendship.
RCMP BC Highway Patrol Inspector Darren Woroshelo, who is this year’s Tour de North Steering Committee Chair and team captain on the road, said the feedback from communities, including horn honking and waving, was amazing.
Some would even pull over and stop to take pictures and videos of the riders.
“It’s when you hit the populous areas, and you see all the feedback and smiles on people’s faces it really makes the hard journey worthwhile,” Woroshelo said.
Woroshelo previously completed the ride from Prince George to Rupert in 2006 when he was posted in Houston and said he had gotten further involved with Cops for Cancer when he had moved back to Prince George from his other posts in 2017.
He lost a close friend to cancer last year who had left two children behind.
“I really wanted to do the ride one more time,” he said. “Just how rewarding it was when I did it in 2006, and it was a good opportunity for me to do it again this year in her honour before I got too much older.”
A total of 18 riders from across northern B.C. were participating in the 870-kilometre journey that began Friday, Sept 17, following their departure from Prince George to Vanderhoof.
On their seven-day journey to Prince Rupert, they had made stops at numerous communities, including Fort St. James and Fraser Lake, with 100 Mile RCMP Staff Sgt. Svend Nielsen serving as lead driver.
“When I first got interested in the ride, my father in law had passed away from cancer back in 2016, and it just lined up for me when I got here [Prince George] to get involved when I was the detachment commander, and then you always have those stories and you end up meeting some of the kids involved,” he said.
“It’s just a great experience.”