Family rides in memory of young one

June 21, 2010 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Battles are about how you live, not how you die, says Patrick Sullivan.

He has lived by this mantra ever since his youngest child, Finn, died from a rare form of childhood cancer in October 2008. Finn was three.

“People like to say, ‘Finn passed,’ or he ‘lost the battle’ to cancer, but I don’t see it that way,” said Sullivan, 41. “Finn lived a hell of a life.”

Finn was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a malignant tumour of the muscles, in February 2007, when he was just 20 months old. Despite aggressive chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, the cancer prevailed. Finn died a year later, leaving behind a twin brother, Baird, his older sister, Sarah, and his grieving parents, Patrick and Samantha.

After Finn’s death, Sullivan joined the Ride to Conquer Cancer to honour his memory, even though the North Vancouver man had never been an avid cyclist. Last year, he and Team Finn, a group of 30 cyclists, raised $172,000 biking 260 km from Vancouver to Seattle. Around 1,700 people participated in last year’s ride, which raised more than $7 million for cancer research at the BC Cancer Agency.

This year’s Team Finn, now 146 members strong, have raised nearly half a million dollars, making them the third-highest-ranked fundraisers in the event. They will ride to Seattle this weekend wearing Finn’s favourite colour — pink — and carrying courage beads that once belonged to the little boy. The beads symbolize the many cancer treatments Finn had.

Aside from raising money for a cure, Sullivan’s main goal is to commemorate Finn’s lively personality by having fun.

“I want to ride a ride worthy of Finn, to celebrate life the way he did,” he said, because despite enduring hardships no two-year-old should have to experience, Finn soldiered on. He never stopped singing, dancing, bouncing and laughing until his last breath, said Sullivan.

“In December 2007, his kidneys had swollen up so badly they needed to stick needles in to drain the urine into pee bags,” said Sullivan. “He hadn’t eaten in two days, but when he came home, Mary Had a Baby by Bruce Cockburn came on, and he grabbed some maracas and started dancing around the kitchen. There were pee bags flying everywhere; that’s the kind of spirit he had.”

Baird, at five, still feels the loss of his twin. He and his father wear necklaces that carry some of Finn’s ashes.

“[Baird] said to me one night a month ago, ‘Daddy, can you come lie with me, I don’t want to be alone,'” said Sullivan. “I told him he would never be alone; Finn is in his heart. But he said, ‘I want him here, though.’ It’s a loss he will feel forever.”

Through his fundraising efforts, Sullivan hopes that some day the disease can finally be conquered.

“When Finn died, it didn’t change all the things he did or how he lived,” he said. “He didn’t ‘lose.’ If anyone lost, it’s the doctors because they didn’t know how to fix him. We’re trying to change that.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Family+rides+memory+young/3175187/story.html#ixzz0rWsAT3yL

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Entry filed under: Angelina, Foundation.

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