Baltimore man rides for cancer and his ‘Queen’

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For Wendell Smith, 150-miles on a bicycle are a challenge.

But, the Baltimore resident plans to ace that challenge because he’s riding for two reasons: love and cancer.

“Cancer took my queen so I’m riding because I’m hoping that something or some drug will be developed to end cancer,” said Smith, whose longtime partner, Regina Turner died in 2014 of pancreatic cancer, a disease that accounts for 3 percent of all cancers and 7 percent of all cancer deaths.

What’s more, medical officials said the incidence of pancreatic cancer is 50 percent to 90 percent higher in African-Americans than in any other racial group in the United States.

With that in mind, Smith and hundreds of others are planning to participate in the 2015 Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day cycling adventure that will stretch from the nation’s capital to Baltimore and Howard counties. The event will take place Saturday, September 19 and Sunday 20, 2015.

Funds raised from this year’s ride are expected to benefit the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Lutherville, Maryland, Sibley Memorial in Northwest, Washington, D.C., and Suburban and Howard County General Hospitals. Organizers said the ride is for anyone who wants to challenge themselves for a great cause.

“All you need is motivation, a bike and a helmet,” according to the slogan posted by the nonprofit organization “Ride to Conquer Cancer.”

The hospitals involved are using scientific discoveries to determine which treatments and screening interventions will work best for each patient, officials said in a news release.

The two-day cycling adventure begins with an Opening Ceremony at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington D.C.

For Smith, the ride will help him to honor Turner and be among others who’ve experienced similar tragedies. Already, it has motivated Smith in ways he hadn’t previously thought of.

“I was just sitting around and the first thing I heard about the ride made me sign up,” Smith said.

Turner, whom Smith refers to as his queen, had initially been diagnosed with acid reflux. But, severe pains and complications led Smith and Turner to the emergency room in September 2013.

“The doctor told us that it was cancer. I looked at that as though god had been preparing me because from that moment I never left my queen’s side,” Smith said.

“Everybody deals with death in different ways and I knew this was coming. I had never experienced the death of a loved one from cancer so it was all new and it was hard because she wouldn’t eat anything,” he said.

Finally, Smith convinced her to take in some broth from chicken noodle soup. “She wouldn’t eat the noodles, so I told her that we’d have a meal together, I’d eat the noodles and she’d drink the broth and she did,” he said.

In March of 2014, after sharing their chicken noodle soup together, Turner died in Smith’s arms.

“That morning, I didn’t have to work so I was at home and it was quite the emotional rollercoaster for the both of us,” he said.

“Seeing my queen like this with her not being able to remember things and seeing her go from 190 pounds to 80 pounds was devastating. It was all strange but it was my queen and I wasn’t leaving her side.”

The Ride for Cancer is another way in which he will again be by Turner’s side, Smith said.

Organizers plan to line the route at every 10-to-20 mile intervals with fully stocked Pit Stops containing lots of snacks and plenty of hydration. Following the first day, participants will camp out and be feted with cold drinks, food, massages and entertainment.

The ride continues the next morning and culminates with what organizers said will be a high-energy celebration.

“It will be nice to do something like this for Regina,” Smith said. “M goal is just like they say in the slogan that there is power in numbers and together we can defeat this thing. A lot of times you really don’t pay a lot of attention to stuff till it hits home and I had no one in my family to die of cancer so I’m doing this for my queen.”

For more information about the ride, to register or to make a donation, visit www.ridetovictory.org.