MIAMI (CBSMiami) — For the last decade, the Dolphins Cancer Challenge has raised money to help those battling cancer in South Florida, and a Miami Dolphins cheerleader says she has seen the impact firsthand in her own family.
The road to recovery with cancer is never a smooth one. Saturday, riders will race through the streets for the 10th annual Dolphins Cancer Challenge to make the winding road a little more manageable for those with cancer.
Paige Blalock, a Dolphins Cheerleader, says this cause is personal for her.
Her father John was diagnosed with stage-four liver and colon cancer back in 2011.
Paige admits it was a difficult time.
“Watching him be the strong man he’s always been– my coach, my big supporter– and always being on the sidelines, to not being on the sidelines,” she says. “Him growing weak was difficult for me to watch, but when he beat it, I was like, dang, he can do anything!”
Originally only given six months to live, John is now a cancer survivor. He’s been in remission for about seven years.
“When you think ‘cancer,’ your first thought is, ‘Oh my god, I am crossing over,’” John says. “But that’s not necessarily the case, especially with technology.”
His six-month outlook came from a different hospital, and he says he went to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center for a second opinion and felt much more encouraged. He credits his family and those doctors with getting him to this point.
“The fact that John is alive today is evidence that the dollars that have been poured into Sylvester are working,” says Dr. Stephen Nimer, Director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We’re saving people’s lives and providing hope to people who otherwise have no hope.”
For these reasons, Paige did not want to stay on the sidelines. Last year, she dove into her first 100-mile bike race in support of the place that had done so much for her family.
“I didn’t train. I hadn’t been on a bike in 10 years. I was on the wrong bike,” she laughs. “I still don’t know how I did it to this day, but I had a motivation that my dad would be at the finish line.”
This year, however, her father will not be waiting at the finish line.
He is riding in it, too.
“She told me I can’t ride the 100 [mile race.] I can only ride 50. She doesn’t want to worry about me,” John says.
He has been training for months to prepare.
“To see that he’s not only survived, but flourished, and the fact that he is grateful and giving back to others, I think, is a remarkable phenomenon,” says surgical oncologist, Dr. Alan Livingstone. “We’re very, very appreciative when we have patients like him.”
“He’s out every single day, so I have no doubt he’s going to crush it,” Paige says. “He actually wants to wait for me at one of the stops so we can ride in together afterwards, which will be really cool for me and motivate me as a way to get to him.”
They are each other’s number one fan, and they hope to inspire and encourage other families dealing with cancer.
“I just enjoy fighting for a lot more people for an incredible cause, along with the number one person I am fighting for,” says Paige.
Every hill, bump and obstacle, in a race or in life, keeps them fighting to the finish.
The Dolphins Cancer Challenge has raised more than $32 million for Sylvester. The tri-county bike races and 5K take place Saturday, February 29.