Royersford cancer survivor rides to help others conquer the illness

Royersford resident Deborah Pannebaker (right) is pictured here with her daughter. Pannebaker is participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in its first year in Philadelphia, less than a year after overcoming breast cancer. Photo courtesy of Deb Pannebaker
Royersford resident Deborah Pannebaker (right) is pictured here with her daughter. Pannebaker is participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in its first year in Philadelphia, less than a year after overcoming breast cancer. Photo courtesy of Deb Pannebaker

A Royersford resident fought a tough battle against cancer, and won. She is now going to give back to the doctors who helped to save her life.

Deborah Pannebaker will be participating in the 2014 Ride to Conquer Cancer this October. The proceeds will benefit Penn Medicines Abramson Cancer Center.

This is the Ride to Conquer Cancers inaugural year in the Philadelphia region. The Ride is a global movement, the largest cycling fundraiser in Canada and the largest fundraising event series across Australia and New Zealand.

Pannebakers battle with cancer has led her to participating in this Ride.

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I was diagnosed in November 2013; my diagnosis came at the end of a six month period of trying to improve my health, Pannebaker said. I had just completed riding 80 miles for the MS City to Shore ride that September. I felt great and was in the best health Id been in in 15 years.

Then Pannebaker received the diagnosis that she had stage two invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer.

The experience is hard to describe, said Pannebaker. It knocked me off my feet, mentally, physically and emotionally. I had started a walking program at work in April and kept walking. Putting one foot in front of the other was the only way to keep going. I was afraid if I stopped, Id never start again. Co-workers, family and friends were great encouraging, ready to listen and ready with much needed hugs.

Her cancer battle went on for quite some time, with surgeries and radiation, until she heard some very exciting words.

I had two surgeries in two weeks in November. Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning last year, Pannebaker said. January and February were full of daily radiation treatments complicated by weather issues at the cancer center, where machinery didnt work in the extreme cold and then closed for three days with no power. [Its] frustrating when all you want is for it to be over and it feels like it wont ever be over.

March began with [the] feeling of finally being over and beginning to recover from all the trauma. I was told [at] the end of November, after the two surgeries and many other tests, that I was cancer free. Sweetest words I had ever heard and yet still hard to accept.

The ride is a two-day, 150 mile cycling event throughout Pennsylvanias countryside, happening on Oct. 11 and 12.

The money raised through the ride supports breakthrough cancer research, education and patient care programs at the cancer center.

Pannebaker has already begun her fundraising campaign and has raised over $4,900 to date.

Riders will be supported by hundreds of volunteers and crew members, providing meals, water and snack stops, gear transport, portable restrooms, safety on the course, comprehensive medical services and an overnight campsite complete with tents, hot showers and entertainment.

The ride is not a race. Riders will bike at their own pace, and will be supported along the way by road, medical and sweep teams who will monitor all riders, whether they are at the front, middle or back of the pack.

Pannebaker has quite a few other good reasons for participating in this ride, as well.

Biking helped me lose weight and get in shape last year before my diagnosis, Pannebaker said. I also believe being in better shape helped with the recovery from surgeries and radiation.

Pannebaker also noted that she is doing the ride for friends that didnt survive their diagnosis.

In April of last year, I had a dear friend, Margie, diagnosed with sarcoidosis and a co-worker, Junior, diagnosed with gastric lymphoma, Pannebaker said. That was the start of deciding I needed to make changes in my own life.

Sadly Junior died in March of this year, almost a year after his diagnosis, leaving behind a wife and three small children. Margie continues to struggle with the effects of sarcoidosis and the limits it has put in her life. So Im biking for those that cannot.

Riders will be accepting donations online until Oct. 10. To donate to Debs campaign, visit http://ow.ly/BHnji. To learn more about the Ride to Conquer Cancer, visit ridetovictory.org.