Like many Albertans, Kevin Coflin’s life has long been touched by cancer.
His father and brother died from the disease in their mid-50s, while two other brothers, and Coflin himself, are living with the disease. So it makes perfect sense that he became team captain for Shell in the 2015 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
Coflin also saddled up to prove he could do it, he says. He had finished treatment for his second cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, just months before last summer’s ride. “I would say it was quite selfish. Before I started my chemo last year I said, ‘I am going to need some kind of goal or physical activity so I can bring myself back,’ and so that’s literally my rationale [for doing the ride].”
When doctors found Coflin’s first cancer – in his prostate – back in 2003, he had the choice of being treated at Houston’s world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center or Calgary’s Tom Baker. He chose the latter and is thankful. That’s also part of the reason he started the Shell team: “Just the day-to-day mechanics of chemo and your family getting through it with you is a tough thing. But I saw how well [the Tom Baker] managed the side-effects and that was clearly from people being involved in clinical studies and the medical staff being there to be responsive,” he says. “That’s when I started to see it from the bigger picture of not just my personal goal of trying to do something physical, but the overall benefit of what impact this type of funding can have for cancer patients.”
While Coflin had his doubts about finishing Day 2 of the gruelling fundraising ride last August, he credits his fellow Shell riders with getting him through. “Still to this day, I don’t know how I finished the second day because I’d gone through six rounds of chemo and done a stem cell transplant in January. I went through all of that very well, but I didn’t fully appreciate how much the stem cell transplant and the high-dose radiation would kick the hell out of you. In January I could barely walk 50 metres, so I was not in shape enough to ride.”
The 2015 instalment of the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer raised $7.8 million for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, with $80,000 of that coming from Coflin and his team’s 18 members. “I was very proud of the fact that we were able to do that,” he says, adding plans are in the works for Shell’s 2016 team.