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Riding for three


Saugus’s Ashley Bottoms said she will be thinking of three people she lost to cancer when she hops on her bicycle for this weekend’s Pan-Mass Challenge

Ashley Bottoms said she took up cycling about four years ago as a way to lose weight. But on Sunday, the 49-year-old Saugus resident said, she will be riding for three important people in her life – all in the same family – who lost their lives to cancer.

Bottoms is one of five Saugus residents who will be pedaling this weekend in several different rides as part of this year’s Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC). She’ll be among more than 6,000 cyclists from 41 states and eight countries who will be riding to raise money for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The bike-a-thon, which was founded in 1980, raised more than $47 million last year as riders from age 15 to 84 participated.

“One morning in 2014, while riding my route a complete stranger, who just happened to also be a cyclist and has done the PMC himself, approached me and suggested I try riding for the PMC,” recalled Bottoms, who is preparing for her second consecutive PMC ride.

“I am transgender – male to female – and lost my best friend, Caroline Stone, also transgender, to stage 4 colon cancer in 2013, and saw this as an opportunity to both honor her and contribute something I am good at to a great cause,” Bottoms said.

“I also ride in honor of my girlfriend’s [Stone’s] father, Richard Touchette, who passed away from cancer six years ago,” she said.

Honoring their memories

Stone died five days after her 41st birthday. Her dad passed away from cancer two years earlier, according to Bottoms. “Both Caroline and Richard were very important people in our lives, so I ride in honor of their memories,” she said.

“Now, just this February, Caroline’s sister Victoria passed as well … If this has taught me anything, it is that cancer can strike any one of us at any time. But I also came to realize that together we can make a difference to create a positive change for all of us!” she said.

Bottoms is a local radio personality and former activist for trans-equality, and adds that she has “lost my fair share of friends and family to cancer – including my uncles Ed and John.”

“I’ll be riding the Sunday one-day Wellesley-to-Wellesley course. It begins at Babson College, goes to Gillette Stadium and then back to Babson College,” Bottoms said. “The entire ride is just under 48 miles. Last year, with designated pit stops, it took me about six hours to complete. I am hoping to do it in five [hours] this year.”

A 1985 Chelsea High School graduate, she has lived in Saugus the last 14 years.

She is proud of her past advocacy for transgender rights. “I am transgender [male to female] and believe that I may be the first openly transgendered rider with PMC,” Bottoms said.

“I am very comfortable in my skin with being transgender. I actually don’t do much advocacy any longer … But I did have a huge role in fighting against trans-discrimination a few years back, and have been on radio shows, like Dan Rea’s ‘NightSide,’ Jon ‘Keller At Large’ and ‘Loren and Wally Morning Show’ to talk about it,” she said.

The Pan-Mass Challenge is one of two bike rides for cancer research that Bottoms will take part in as a rider this year. On September 17, she will also be riding 25 miles for “A Reason to Ride” in Danvers, to raise funds for cancer research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Other Saugonians share cancer stories

Like virtually all of the PMC participants who will be hopping on bicycles tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 5) and Sunday (Aug. 6), John Mallette is dedicating his ride to a loved who has been battling cancer or lost the battle to the dreaded disease. “I made the commitment last August to ride in the PMC in honor of my sister-in-law Kathy, who has [battled] lung cancer since April 2015.”

Mallette, 63, said of his first PMC ride – a 25-mile trip on Sunday from Wellesley to Patriot Place in Foxborough – “As of July 20th, 2017, I change my reason to in memory of. Kathy lost her battle,” he told The Saugus Advocate.

Kathy grew up in Saugus and was a member of the Saugus High School Class of 1971, he noted.

“Watching her fight to overcome this disease the last several years has inspired me to help raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to help find a cure for all cancers,” Mallette wrote on his website recently. “In fact, last year 100% of rider-raised revenue went directly to support the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s tireless commitment to finding a cure,” he said.

Three other Saugus residents have posted their intentions on the PMC website:

• Lori Mackey, who will be riding 25 miles on Sunday from Wellesley to Patriot Place.

“For the second year, I will help tackle cancer one mile at a time and join hundreds of other cyclists in the 38th Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC),” Mackey wrote.

“Cancer is still a terrible disease. Each year we seem to be impacted by it more and more. There’s not one person in my life that hasn’t been touched by this horrific disease in one way or another, myself included. Watching someone fight cancer is something I hope becomes a thing of the past, and I’m doing everything I can to help find a cure,” she said.

• Andrew Cacciola, who will be taking the two-day ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown Inn. “I’m a proud supporter of the PMC because it is leading a charge to beat cancer,” Cacciola wrote on the PMC website.

“In fact, last year 100 percent of rider-raised revenue went directly to support the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s tireless commitment to finding a cure,” he said.

• Chelsea Phelps, the subject of a cover story in last week’s Saugus Advocate, will be taking the two-day ride from Wellesley to Provincetown. Phelps said originally she hadn’t planned on riding this year and was going to volunteer instead at the Dighton Rehoboth lunch stop.

“A few weeks ago right around Christmas, we found out that my aunt, who has been volunteering for the past few years, has breast cancer. I registered to ride. This year’s for her fight!,” Phelps declared.

“I ride because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can’t ride, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I ride harder for them. I know they would do the same for me,” she said

For more details about Pan-Mass Challenge, go to the website http://www.pmc.org/.

By Mark E. Vogler

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