Above, Chris Arnold, shown riding in the 2011 Pan-Mass Challenge, which raises money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. (submitted photo)
Chris Arnold to participate in his 19th Pan-Mass Challenge
By Ashley M. Casey
While most people know Chris Arnold from Paige’s Butterfly Run — the annual fundraiser he and his wife Ellen Yeomans started in 1997 in memory of their daughter, Paige — Arnold is trading his running shoes for a bicycle this weekend, just as he has for the past 18 years. Arnold is taking part in his 19th Pan-Mass Challenge, the single largest fundraiser for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“Paige’s Butterfly Run is my home when it comes to fighting pediatric cancer,” Arnold said. “The Pan-Mass Challenge is my ‘away.’”
Arnold will ride 190 miles — from Sturbridge, Mass., to Provincetown, Mass. — over the course of Aug. 6 and 7. His goal is to raise $15,000; at press time, donations to Arnold’s PMC page exceeded $10,000. The collective goal of the 6,500 cyclists registered this year is $46 million, a number Arnold called “breathtaking.”
“Every dollar riders raise goes to their mission. They have their costs covered by corporate sponsors, which is a model I’ve tried to emulate with Paige’s Butterfly Run,” Arnold said. “It can also be a very inspirational place to be. … You’re all trying to do the right thing, push the ball forward [for cancer research].”
Arnold has bittersweet memories of Dana-Farber, where he and Yeomans took Paige for a second opinion of her leukemia diagnosis. In 1994, Paige, then a first-grader at Palmer Elementary, underwent a bone marrow transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital, which has partnered with Dana-Farber for more than 60 years to treat pediatric cancer.
“Bone marrow transplants are very brutal exercises for the people who undergo them,” Arnold said.
Paige underwent intense radiation and chemotherapy before the procedure. Unfortunately, she developed a severe case of graft-versus-host disease, a complication in which the newly transplanted bone marrow attacks the recipient’s organs.
“The new marrow, even though it was supposed to be a perfect match, it clearly wasn’t. Her new immune system … didn’t recognize Paige’s body as home. Her new immune system attacked her major organs and killed her,” Arnold recalled. “When the cure kills you, that’s hard.”
Arnold said the staff at Dana-Farber was very supportive throughout Paige’s treatment and passing.
“Granted, we didn’t get the result we wanted, but they did everything they could to help her,” Arnold said.
Last year, the PMC connected Arnold with a new friend in a similar situation. Arnold rode 15 or 20 miles alongside Dr. Jim Levine, whose wife and daughter are both battling cancer. This year, Levine has donated $250 to Arnold’s campaign. On Arnold’s PMC page, Levine wrote, “I ride in honor of Paige as well. Thank you for sharing your story with me and being such a wonderful and inspiring father and person.” Arnold said he is hoping to reunite with Levine at this year’s ride.
On his PMC page, Arnold wrote that the PMC has raised $500 million for Dana-Farber since 1985. He said the common goal of the PMC and Paige’s Butterfly Run is to “make things better for today’s patients and tomorrow’s patients.”
“Though the pain of loss remains, we are grateful to know that if she were stricken with that same cancer today, there is a treatment available that would keep her at our family table,” Arnold wrote.
To sponsor Arnold in the PMC, visit profile.pmc.org/CA0022.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.
Jul 20, 2017
Jul 19, 2017