Cyclist rides to raise 4k for cancer money and cousin's memory
Melanie Mazanec is planning on spending the coming summer traveling across the country from Baltimore to Seattle. Oh, by the way, she’ll be making the entire trip on her bicycle.
Mazanec will be making the trip with 31 other riders as part of the 4K for Cancer — a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing lives by supporting, educating, and connecting with young adults, and their loved ones, affected by cancer.
While this will be the longest bicycle trip Mazanec, who graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory in December, has ever taken, she does have experience with bicycle tours and feels she’s up for the challenge.
“I’ve been thinking about it. I am doing some training, which basically consists of me riding my bike around Oberlin,” she said. “Also my trips in the past have been good experiences. I’ve been carrying my trumpet and panniers and carrying everything myself.”
Mazanec has logged more than 2,000 miles on a bike over the past few years including a trip through Belgium on, as she says, a squeaky city bike held together by hair rubber bands. She said at one point someone stole her bike lock but left the bicycle during the trip.
The winter of her sophomore year of college, Mazanec cycled along the California coast. She also did some cycling in Spain, while working as a nanny, as well as taking a trip from New Hampshire to Erie, Pa. last summer.
“There’s some elevation there,” she said. “I did a little bit of walking.”
The ride means much more to Mazanec than just conquering the mountains and plains of the United States on her bicycle, though. In her freshman year of high school, her cousin Marty was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“I had always looked up to Marty. He was the cousin who would stick up for me when my plethora of older male cousins teased a little too much, the one who gave me a piggyback ride across a stream when I was afraid to cross it on my own, the one who excelled at visual art, the violin, academics, and sports,” Mazanec said. “He was the one who introduced me to Calvin and Hobbes.”
As her cousin’s illness progressed, two things stood out to Mazanec: Marty’s refusal to stop living life to its fullest, and the generosity shown to her family by others during that time.
“During his last year on earth, Marty gave me a million more reasons to look up to him. He refused to let cancer stop his partying, pranks, and enjoyment of life,” Mazanec said. “Marty continued to play and perform on the electric violin with his band. When he later needed a cane to walk, he acquired some fairly ridiculous, over-the-top canes.”
During Marty’s funeral, the priest quoted the film “The Shawshank Redemption” when telling the family to follow Marty’s example and “get busy living,” a motto they still try follow seven years later.
In order to be included in the 4K for Cancer, riders must raise at least $4,500. The fundraising goes toward supporting the efforts and initiatives of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.
“The reason why this means so much to me is that it’s an opportunity for me to give back the support our family had when my cousin was dying,” Mazanec said. “We have an enormous family, we had this huge community, the Cleveland Clinic was right here, and while it wasn’t easy, we had support networks available that sometimes others don’t have.”
The 4K for Cancer ride begins on May 27. So far, Mazanec has raised a little over $1,600.
For more information about the ride, or to donate money, visit 4kforcancer.org/profiles/Melanie-mazanec or daringiscaring.com.