Pan-Massachusetts Challenge
Rita Papazian
Norwalk-Citizen News

Aug. 4

In 1994, Norwalk runner Theresa Polley, 45, bought a bike because her running friends started doing triathlons. The next year Terri heard about the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, the nation's premier fundraising bike-a-thon that raises more money than any other athletic fundraising event in the country. Last year the PMC donated 99 cents of every rider-raised dollar directly to cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through it Jimmy Fund. Its 26-year contribution to date is more than $145 million.

Polley entered her first PMC because "it seemed a good way to raise funds for a disease that killed my best friend at age 29." In subsequent years, she did four more PMC rides, each extending 190-miles from Sturbridge to Provincetown. Then in May 2005 another close friend and colleague died from brain cancer.

Two months later, Polley learned that she had breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and three weeks after surgery with the memory of her dear colleague on her mind, she kept her commitment to the PMC and rode 70 miles with determination. During the ride she wore a tee shirt that read, "Living Proof.," the tee shirt of all cancer survivors who ride in the PMC. 
She returned home to begin her chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which ended this past March. She's feeling terrific now. She had a mammogram and MRI recently and she's "good to go."

Polley told me the cancer definitely has had an impact on her life. It has given her a different perspective on what is truly important. She cherishes her time with her 19-year-old son and her husband. 

This weekend she will be among five cyclists from Norwalk, among 211 Connecticut riders of the 4,000 registrants from 30 states and six countries.

Her motivation to ride is fueled by PMC's fundraising which goes to cancer research and treatment. "Look what it has done for me," said Polley, an accountant with Financial Accounting Foundation at Merritt Seven. Polley is also a "spin instructor at the Norwalk Y. She instructs cyclists on stationary bikes. She said it's a healthy exercise alternative to riding on the road, especially in bad weather.

Today Polley's strength is back to normal." She described the overwhelming feeling that she gets when she joins the pack of riders at the start. "The energy is unbelievable."

Another Norwalk PMC rider is Lisa Lindsay, 43, an insurance executive for Marsh USA Inc., who has been a cyclist for two years. This will be her second PMC event. She is riding in honor of her 10-year old niece who has been a patient at Dana Farber for the past seven years. "She has benefited from the great research and clinical trials," Lindsay said. Also, she noted, "Cancer has become a meaningful part of my family." Her grandmother and mom are breast cancer survivors. Her Dad is a prostate cancer survivor. "We need more money for cancer research," she said.

In her profile that appears on the PMC website Lindsay writes: "I bought a bike in September of 2004 and decided to do the ride so many of my feelings of anger and unfairness about cancer would be replaced with feelings of hope…It is very easy to let cancer get the best of you. I rode as one of the many people who are trying to get the best of cancer."

Steve Bayliss, 37, a Global Business Director for Schick-Wilkinson Sword in Milford, will be riding for the second year. He takes his hobby of cycling very seriously and is a member of a cycling amateur club, Connecticut Coast Cyclists.

Cancer is no stranger to the Bayliss family. His father is a survivor and his wife Elissa's stepfather and two aunts succumbed to the disease. Recently, her cousin was diagnosed with cancer.

Bayliss rides with a group of eight friends, mostly fraternity brothers from Colgate University. They call themselves Team O-Positive, named for one of their sponsors. He recalled at the end of last year's PMC, a 9-year-old boy came up to Bayliss and said "Thank you." The youngster told Bayliss that he was alive because of the PMC monies raised for research and treatment.

"He put life in perspective," said Bayliss, the father of two young children. He and his friends have set a goal of each rider raising $6,000, the "Heavy-Hitter" status.

Each PMC rider sets a personal fundraising goal. Anyone who would like to make a donation either to the PMC general fund or to assist these riders in reaching their personal fundraising goals should access the PMC secure online website at

Good luck to all the riders doing good work to raise money for cancer research and treatment. 

© Copyright 2006 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.