Sisters the inspiration driving Victoria road bike team

Olynyk twins fight back-to-back battles with cancer

Team Spaghetti Factory riders Jill-Marie Moreau

On the surface, Stacey Olynyk appears built for road bike distance riding.

Young, fit and healthy looking, with a beaming smile that does little to hide her positive attitude, the 25-year-old Victoria woman seems well-prepared to take part in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer from Vancouver to Seattle in June.

It wasn’t always that way.

Two years ago, Olynyk and her twin sister, Karen rushed to be with family in Saskatchewan when their father died suddenly. While there, Stacey encountered an itchiness all over her body that she couldn’t explain.

Tests later showed she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph tissue that can also present such symptoms as swollen glands, night sweats, fever, loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.

Having put on hold thoughts of riding in the cancer fundraiser and still grieving the loss of her father, Olynyk put all her energy into battling her own cancer. Her best friend, Karen, was there every step of the way.

By mid-2012, Stacey was declared cancer free and rekindled her desire to ride with Team Spaghetti Factory, led by former boss and restaurant owner Mike Gonzalez.

But there was another potential hitch to the plan.

Last fall, Karen was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and embarked on an aggressive treatment regimen of her own.

Stacey, in classes at Camosun College, could have put the ride on hold again. After much soul-searching, she sent Gonzalez and her teammates a simple text message: “Let’s do this!”

Stacey’s goals are simple: “I want to be able to raise money for cancer research and to help my sister. Riding now creates a whole new perspective on things.”

In an Oak Bay Avenue café with her teammates, she spoke of her surprise at the outpouring of support since she and her sister took their stories public. Not only has Olynyk received well wishes and donations from friends and former co-workers with whom she had lost touch, last month Oak Bay Bikes gave her a Specialized road bike.

“I’ve just been amazed at the humanity of people,” she said.

Gonzalez said the plan to do the ride in 2012 started as a way to keep a promise to Olynyk, to raise a little bit of awareness about cancer research and to help out Karen with expenses while she is undergoing treatment.

“No one expected to get the type of response that we’ve received,” he said.

Not only have Victoria media taken the story and run with it, Gonzalez has heard from Spaghetti Factory alumni around the world through the team’s Facebook page and website.

“Working at the Spaghetti Factory, with the friendships and relationships you develop, you don’t get that just anywhere,” Stacey said.

Team rider Jill-Marie Moreau, who currently works at the restaurant along with teammate Charlene Love, said there’s plenty of buzz about their efforts and the story of the twins.

“Everyone’s talking about it,” she said. “And everyone is so inspired by Stacey.”

That level of support shocks Olynyk.

“I never thought that I could be an inspiration,” she said. She stopped for a moment to remember her own inspiration to get better and stay healthy, pro triathlete Laurel Wassner of New York City, who beat Hodgkin’s and now campaigns for cancer awareness with twin sister and fellow triathlete, Rebeccah.

“So many people have a connection to cancer,” said Love. “They have very personal reasons for wanting to donate.”

As of Thursday the team had raised more than $6,200 toward its goal of $15,000 with more than four months to go. A separate fund, to help with expenses for Karen while she is undergoing treatment, is also available on the team’s website and has so far brought in more than $600.

To help out or to find more information, visit teamspaghettifactory.com or go to conquercancer.ca.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Man arrested in Colwood sentenced for trafficking fentanyl

The man was arrested in February and has been sentenced to three years imprisonment

Local leaders of all ages honoured at National Philanthropy Day event

Awards in six categories given to Victoria residents who are leaders in giving back

West Shore youth looking to give back this Christmas

Chase Doucette will hand out bags of warm apparel to the homeless

Fill the railcar to help feed Victoria’s homeless

A community food drive for the Salvation Army

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Greater Victoria holiday craft fair roundup for Nov. 16 to 18

Check off all of the items on your shopping list at these great events

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

B.C. teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

Agassiz high school students say they had the experience of a life time

Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

The trade agreement, forged after 13 months of tense negotiations between Canada and the U.S. is scheduled for Nov. 30

Most Read