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'It has been a journey'

Krystle Wagner • Oct 3, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Although Bonni Norwood hasn’t been on a bike in years, she recently spent three days riding through three states.

The Spring Lake woman was among more than 90 riders participating in Bristol-Myers Squibb’s 2017 Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer Ride. The ride spanned 21 days and 2,800 miles from Oregon to New Jersey.

The goal of the ride was to raise $1 million, which will go toward cancer research. Norwood, a Bristol-Myers Squibb employee, said the company will match up to $500,000 of donations.

Norwood, 52, rode from Kansas City, Missouri, to Indianapolis.

“It has been a journey,” she said.

Norwood said she participated in the ride for several reasons — she is a cancer survivor, and she rode for friends who have also had cancer diagnoses.

In 2002, Norwood was living on the east side of the state and had four young children. A week after a friend’s nonverbal child kept scratching at a mole on the back of Norwood’s arm, she visited a dermatologist. A week later, she received a melanoma diagnosis.

At the time, Norwood was 36 and the diagnosis left her feeling shocked.

Although the mole was removed, Norwood said it grew back three months later and she had it removed again.

Norwood said they caught it at Stage 1, and she now has yearly checks.

Norwood said her cancer journey drives her passion for wanting to help others batting the disease.

On Sept. 18, she flew to Missouri to begin her leg of the Coast 2 Coast ride.

Although she started training for the ride in April, Norwood said she was not prepared for it. Instead, you just have to put your head down and do it, she said.

On the ride, Norwood carried with her the wedding rings of her grandparents, who raised her, on a necklace. Ten years ago, Norwood’s grandfather died from lung cancer. Her grandmother had breast cancer.

“It’s touched my family quite hard,” she said.

The hills provided some challenges for riders. Norwood said she found the best way to overcome it was by following the advice of a fellow cyclist — put your head down and pin your legs, and eventually you’ll make it to the top.

And that is similar to a cancer patient’s journey, she said — they have to get through the treatment and they’ll make it to the end.

Norwood said it was also “grueling” as they faced the 90-degree-plus weather and wind.

Although Norwood said the ride was both an emotional and physical battle, she would do it again in a heartbeat.

At the end of her three-day ride, Norwood said she would have continued on if her team needed her. She said the support and mindset of their mission is “incredible.”

Donations for the 2017 Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer Ride are still being accepted, until Oct. 15. For more information, visit: do.eifoundation.org/site/TR/SU2C/StandUpToCancer?pg=entry&fr_id=1430.

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