“My name is Carol Mifsud, and I am a cancer warrior.”
Those were the words Carol Mifsud spoke in Toronto last weekend, prompting a large crowd of bicyclists to erupt into applause.
Mifsud, 52, has stage four cancer and her prognosis is not good. However, she has participated twice in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 200km bicycle ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls in order to raise money for cancer research.
This year Mifsud was asked to address the crowd as the “survivor speaker” at the event’s opening ceremonies on June 13.
She explained she is not a survivor yet; she is a “warrior” because she is still battling her terminal illness.
“Everyday I survive is one more day I won from cancer,” she told the crowd.
During the ride, she said she just wanted to make it to the next pit stop.
“The ride itself didn’t go as well as I hoped,” Mifsud told the Advertiser. “I recently started on a chemo drug about six months ago and it really did drain me of my energy. I was able to do almost 60k the first day.”
The second day she cycled about 25km before pulling off.
Her lungs are like “freezer-burned meat,” she said, explaining they have a lot of scar tissue, which makes them inflexible and hinders breathing on humid days.
“I was disappointed I couldn’t go any further, but I kept saying ‘my legs aren’t doing what I’m telling them to do,’” said Mifsud.
A shuttle brought her closer to the finish line, so she was able to finish the ride. “I raised the money, I started, and I finished,” she said.
Mifsud and her husband Battista Vendittelli raised over $6,000 and the donations continue to come in.
“I think a lot of people have the misconception that raising money doesn’t really affect the cure or make a change in someone’s life,” she said.
“But there is nothing I can do to change my outcome; I am terminally ill, but at least I can be a representation for others who think they can’t really do anything.”
Mifsud explained the hardest part is the training and fundraising prior to the event, but the ride itself is achievable by anybody.
She said she spoke to many inspirational people during the two-day ride, including a man with no legs using a modified bicycle, and another elderly man on a tandem bike.
“[The ride] does give you hope; why can’t you think there could be a miracle, or there could be that shot that I might outlive what they are telling me,” she said.
Recent statistics indicating two in five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and one in four will die from it, scare Mifsud.
“It’s unbelievable that we have let the numbers climb to this rate, so we have to find a cure, we have to find a way to slow down or stop this disease,” she said.
More than 4,800 riders raised over $19 million in the 8th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, bringing the total to $138 million raised in Ontario.
“We can’t give up because if I was to give up I would never get out of bed, I would never have a purpose,” said Mifsud. “I look at my children, and I have to live for the future and it propels me forward.”