Guest Blogger: Dana Greenberg on Why She Rides in the Pan-Mass Challenge

At Alex and Ani, our Charity by Design division is committed to raising awareness and funds for charitable organizations. In celebration of our upcoming sponsorship of the Pan-Mass Challenge “Heavy Hitter” Dinner on May 9, we are honored to welcome Dana Greenberg as a guest blogger. Read her inspiring story of dedication to finding a cure for cancer through Pan-Mass Challenge.

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As each Alex and Ani artisanal piece has a meaning, so does every mile of the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), an annual bike-a-thon that raises money to support adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund. For the past three years, I have participated in the two-day weekend event. I ride in honor of my mother, who lost her life to breast cancer, and my father for being an amazing caregiver not once, but twice.

I was just a teenager when I heard about my mother’s diagnosis. My mother kept her treatments private from my brother and I, encouraging us to stay focused on being teenagers, schoolwork and college. She went through one year of chemotherapy and radiation treatments before she achieved remission. When all was said and done, my mother seemed well. Her spirits were high and she was healthy. What a relief.

The summer before my sophomore year at UMass Amherst, I was told that my mother’s cancer had resurfaced and this time was back with a vengeance. Back in the 1980’s there were not as many treatment options available as there are today. As the cancer spread to her lungs, I watched my mother become frail. She went from being incredibly athletic to barely getting herself up the stairs. It was heart wrenching.

In early January 1991, my mother ultimately lost her life to the disease. She was able to make it through Christmas, her favorite holiday, during which she said goodbye to every member of my family. She was only 50 years old.

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Dana with her father, Barry Breslau.

Twenty years after my mother’s passing, I watched my father lay his partner, Diane, to rest after battling lung cancer. Within a year, Diane went from diagnosis to treatments to remission to hospice. My father was a caregiver twice. He is my hero and the reason I began to participate in the PMC, so that no other loved ones are lost to this awful disease.

I had always heard about the PMC but was scared to participate, feeling intimidated by the fundraising minimums and mileage. After completing my first ride, I felt empowered to continue riding, a feeling ignited by the people I met along the 190-mile PMC route and overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride that I felt crossing the finish line.

I bought my first Alex and Ani bracelet at the end of day one of PMC weekend. It was the Jimmy Fund Charm Bangle. Every piece of jewelry I wear has a special meaning in my life. It’s not about the bling. It’s about what each accessory represents. Just as the miles I ride for the PMC represent the journey to find a cure for cancer.

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Dana with her family at the Franklin water stop during the Pan-Mass Challenge.

Each year I have ridden, my father has volunteered as a bicycle attendant in Bourne. He is my biggest cheerleader. This year, my husband will ride for the first time by my side and my kids will meet us at the finish line. Riding in and raising money for the PMC is my way of helping to take control of a disease that has affected too many people.

Dana Greenberg, 42, of Acton, Mass., is a three-time PMC cyclist who to date has raised nearly $25,600 for the cause. On May 9, she will be honored as a PMC Heavy Hitter, a rider who raises $6,900 or more. On June 1, she will host the second annual PMC Acton-Boxboro Kids Ride, one of 37 mini bike-a-thons that involve children in the PMC mission. On August 2 and 3, she will be among more than 5,500 cyclists who will ride in the 35th annual PMC to raise $40 million. For more information, please visit www.pmc.org.

Images courtesy of Dana Greenberg.

This post was written by Brendon Cunha