TOUR de ROCK: Hitting close to home

Comox Mounties have many people they’re riding for in battle against cancer

James Matsuda

James Matsuda

Steve Trevor is riding for Griffyn who, despite having yet to reach his first birthday, has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy.

James Matsuda is riding on behalf of several people – including his late father – who have succumbed to or are battling cancer.

Both are part of the 22-person Canadian Cancer Society Cops For Cancer Tour de Rock team that will cycle the length of Vancouver Island this fall.

Trevor, an RCMP constable who grew up in Port Alberni, has volunteered at previous Cops For Cancer red serge events. This winter, the tour hit close to home when Griffyn – whose parents are fellow Mounties at the Comox Valley RCMP detachment – was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer.

Doctors removed one of Griffyn’s adrenal glands as a newborn. By seven months, the youngster was already on his fourth round of chemotherapy.

“I’ve wanted to do the tour for a few years,” said Trevor, a father of two daughters. “I’ve been here seven years now. This year it became personal with Griffyn.”

Matsuda, an auxiliary officer for three years, is the produce supervisor at Thrifty Foods in Courtenay. He works alongside fellow auxiliary RCMP member Rick Gaiga, who rode last year in honour of Christine Buijs, a Thrifty colleague and tour fundraiser who passed away from brain cancer.

Matsuda and his wife Belinda, who was active in Gaiga’s fundraising efforts, have both lost a father to cancer. Matsuda’s brother-in-law and another Thrifty co-worker are also stricken with a form of the disease.

“It’s one of these things that’s affected so many people,” said Matsuda, 45, a native of Ashcroft who moved to Courtenay in 1986. “It’s hard. So many people out there.”

The father of four teenagers is inspired by the tour’s mandate to raise money for pediatric cancer research and programs such as Camp Goodtimes for children with a history of cancer.

“You see grownups going through it, but now you see kids trying to go through it; it’s just not fair,” Matsuda said. “It’s a hard thing. But it’s a good cause, and that’s why we’re doing it.”

“It’s an honour to do,” Trevor added. “It’s been a challenge balancing work.”

Their journey started with weekly training sessions in March that increased to three times a week over the past four months. Along with other North Island team members, Trevor and Matsuda completed a tough climb to the top of Mount Washington.

Trevor, who had done a “bit of mountain biking” before signing on with the tour, recalls the average time was an hour-and-a-half from the chain-up area to the top.

“Most of us, we haven’t really been on a road bike, so it’s a new experience,” Matsuda said.