Battling cancer mirrors stage racing

Breakaway from cancer, Lifestyle Festival raise awareness
By: Sara Seyydin
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As far as endurance goes, the 2011 Amgen Tour of California’s peloton has nothing on Brittany Thayer. While they may be battling it out over hundreds of miles of California’s most scenic and grueling terrain, Thayer, 23 of Modesto, has battled cancer since she was 17. She was one of several cancer survivors who had a VIP view of the Stage 3 start in Auburn, Tuesday. Before taking their posts in the Breakaway from Cancer Survivor’s tent, Thayer and her husband Gavin, walked with their son Nixon, in the Breakaway Mile and parade. Thayer said she could see some parallels between the stage race and her fight against cancer. “It’s just kind of the same as a lot of endurance sports,” Thayer said. “When you have cancer it never stops. Even when you are cured, it is still something you worry about everyday for the rest of your life. It’s one battle at a time, kind of like the race is one stage at a time.” Thayer was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia at 17. As an avid soccer player, she grew worried when she felt intense pain in her knees. After being diagnosed, she took chemotherapy pills to manage the Leukemia. The pills came with tremendous side effects though, so Thayer opted to undergo a bone marrow transplant. The transplant was unsuccessful. Since then better pills to treat CML have been developed. Thayer said that as long as she takes a pill everyday, she is fine and experiences no side effects. She is living proof that breaking away from cancer is possible. Jim Northey, head of Breakaway from Cancer at Stage 3 in Auburn said since he last saw Thayer she has gotten married and started a family. Thayer also mountain bikes and participates in events to raise cancer awareness. Celebrating cancer survivors like Thayer is at the heart of Amgen. Along with the creation of the Amgen Tour of California in 2006, came the Breakaway from Cancer initiative. Each stage of the race features elements designed to put the areas of cancer prevention, fighting cancer, financial assistance and survivorship on an international stage, along with world-class cycling in California. Each finish city features a Breakaway Mile. Auburn was the only start city to host one. Hundreds of cancer survivors and supporters, followed by sheriff’s hummers and police cars, traversed Downtown Auburn. The parade and walk, which started just past 8 a.m. was just one element honoring the fight against cancer. Amber Small, 33 of Auburn, also participated in the Breakaway Mile as a survivor. She said events like this are an important platform for finding new cures. “It’s a great cause,” Small said. “Anything supporting awareness or finding a cure, I’m all for it.” The Lifestyle Festival, which began at 8 a.m., was one component of the Stage 3 start aimed at cancer prevention. Local bike shops, food vendors and health groups had booths for spectators to meander through to advocate living a healthy lifestyle. The Auburn Community Cancer Endowment Fund hosted a breakfast and lunch, with all proceeds going the local fight against cancer. Bart O’Brien was one member of the Auburn Community Cancer Endowment Fund manning the meal tent. “It’s been really fun,” O’Brien said. “We’ve had literally hundreds of people come by and buy breakfast. I hope to have time to look at the rest of the festival before we start lunch.” Debbie and Tim Hughes, of Granite Bay, took the day off to catch the cycling spectacular — and some of the endowment fund’s breakfast. “The breakfast is fantastic. The eggs are cooked to perfection,” Debbie Hughes said. “The bacon is crisp and most importantly the servers were over the top and happy and excited to serve customers.” Tim Hughes said he was glad to see another vendor important to the local cycling community. “I always like the Trailhead Coffee guys,” Hughes said. “I stop in there when I ride my bike from Granite Bay.” Other health-aimed businesses such as Whole Foods of Roseville and Herbalife passed out free samples to spectators. Though the event, which was originally slated to end at 4 p.m., was rained out shortly after the race, spectators still had a few hours to tour the health-themed bazaar. The riders and team cars were also inspiring to many. “It was cool to be right by the side of the stage to see riders sign in,” Debbie Hughes said. “Its great, great for the local community,” Reach Sara Seyydin at ______________________________________________________ Ways to learn more or help Amgen causes n For more information or to donate to Breakaway from Cancer, visit n For more information or to donate to the Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital Foundation, call (530) 888-4557 or visit n For more information or to donate to the Live Strong Foundation, visit n For more information or to donate to Team Type 1, visit