The Journey Begins
Photo’s By Andy Madison
Chris Calaprice came down the stairs one day, and started a conversation with his wife of 15 years, Jennifer, that began something like “Honey, I got this Idea…” and was fully expecting a response like “Have you lost your damn mind?”
However, as a 6 year survivor of pancreatic cancer there is not much he has learned to fear. So he asked anyway (while secretly planning an escape route once the words came out of his mouth), but she enthusiastically agreed and the trip eventually became the Road 2 a Cure journey to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer.
So after almost three years of planning, Chris said goodbye to Santa Barbara, CA on February 20 of this year and began a journey that will eventually wind him and his 2010 Victory Vision Premium Tour ABS with an eye popping purple wrap done by 858 Graphics of San Diego, CA through all 50 states over a nine month span. The mileage, over 42,000 miles in all, represents one mile for each person that will be diagnosed with the disease this year. Sadly, 75% of those diagnosed will not live another year, and the odds of being a 6 year survivor, like Chris, are an astonishingly low 5%.
However, it doesn’t have to be like that, and that is why Chris and his wife hit the road. Diagnosed at 36 years old, Chris was faced with the same grim prognosis as other pancreatic cancer patients, but he wants to spread his hope to others. Speaking to him there is a benevolent urgency in his voice, and this clearly is a family that is not interested in their own celebrity; they are on a mission.
Chris bluntly stated that, “Doctors must quit closing the door on hope, and refer patients early to specialists that are armed with the latest knowledge to fight the disease. We need to foster hope because there are survivors.”
Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cancer killer, but receives only 2% of the federal cancer research budget. This, according to Chris’s wife, Jennifer, “Is why we are hitting the pavement and talking to people.”
First and foremost, Chris wants to plant the seeds of hope among pancreatic cancer patients. He also wants to raise awareness about the inequity in funding for research and early detection of pancreatic cancer, and wants patients to stop taking no for an answer when they share his disease. “When you’re diagnosed, people don’t think there is a chance…and I hope that by being on this bike I can show people that with proper treatment and the will to fight the quality of life can be there.”
And a fight it is. Chris will be receiving chemotherapy treatments while he is on the road, and will be off of the bike for up to 2 weeks at a time to recover from the treatments. Even weeks after chemotherapy treatment, days in the saddle seem a bit longer, but that is alright with him. “Quality of life is subjective, and cancer changes you.” He thinks about seeing sunsets in the rearview mirror, day after day, and thinks about the family that told him he has brought hope into their house so he rides on.
“Motorcycling helped save me,” Chris says, “because when I was first diagnosed it was an outlet. Out there, I could push everything aside and just focus on the ride.” “I am a schizophrenic motorcyclist,” Chris jokes, “I am happy dragging a knee at the track or sitting on this Vision.”
When Victory heard of Chris’ journey they offered their help in the form of a bike to use for the trip. “Victory has been so generous, and as a touring bike I can honestly say I have never found a machine that offers more.”
Despite the tough odds for pancreatic cancer patients, they hope to “Change houses from despair to hope…to create more survivors.” With a broad smile Chris believes that “There is no such thing as false hope.”
That is the driving force behind this grassroots effort. They want to inspire university researchers to attack pancreatic cancer, even though it is tough, and they want congress to spread funding more equitably. They want to find the best science out there, put patients in touch with a supportive and knowledgeable network. They want to be the champion for the underdogs, and believe that with the awareness they are raising, a difference can be made. They want to meet people, hear their stories, share their stories, and let the purple caravan be a beacon of hope.
While in Las Vegas, a man approached Chris and his purple Victory motorcycle. He was with his kids, and calmly said that he had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He is insured, however, his insurance would not cover the whipple procedure, which is a tough surgery that can combat the disease. Through his network at www.road2acure.org he was able to get this man in touch with another survivor with the same insurance company, and help him navigate through the paperwork. “The purple Victory did its job, and that one day,” Chris says, “that one man made this whole trip worth it.”
“People often see the trailer and ask if we are a race team,” Chris quips, “but we aren’t rich.” In fact, they have no cash sponsors and are supported by small donations along the way. Small donations and small steps at a time, and Chris is making a difference while he makes his way across the nation.
“We are making a difference through awareness, but we need help.” Along the route Chris will be participating in rallies and local rides to raise money and awareness so don’t be surprised if you pull into Sturgis and see a 40 foot purple trailer.
To help, visit www.road2acure.org and see if Chris and the caravan are coming your way. Their route and schedule are posted online, so contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in finding out what you can do. Host a ride, offer them a meal, or just meet them to say “Hi!” Donations can also be made through the website here or in person at any of their rally points. “People,” Jennifer says with a big grin, “they are why I am out here.” “We had a guy give us $10…that’ll get the bikes a few hundred miles.”