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Riding for Ryley

Father heads out for fifth straight year in Ride to Conquer Cancer in son's memory


Tim and Shannon Martin lost their son Ryley to leukemia at the age of 2 in 2011. Every year since, Tim has taken part in the Ride to Conquer Cancer between Toronto and Niagara Falls to raise money for research and to honour his son’s memory. Tim says one day, he hopes Ryley’s twin sisters – Kaitlynn and Hailey – are able to join him to remember their brother.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Five years ago, Tim and Shannon Martin did what no parent should have to do: mourn the death of their son.

Ryley, the lone boy in a set of triplets, was only two years old when he died after a months-long battle with leukemia.

“It was actually just before Canada Day, and we noticed that he was just tired. We brought him to the doctor’s, and they thought it was probably just a common flu. Nothing big. We went away for the weekend, came back, and saw he had no energy at all, had a low-grade fever. Nothing big, we just thought it was a virus,” Tim tells The Oshawa Express.

“We brought him back to the doctor’s that Friday. The pediatrician sent us right to Lakeridge Health and when we went there, they checked his blood counts. Right away, they determined to send us to Sick Kids and from there on in, it was our journey.”

However, Tim has taken his son’s death and used it not only to raise money for cancer research, but also to keep his memory alive.

“One reason I decided to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer is so that nobody else has to go through what me and my wife went through for the seven long months that we went through,” Tim says.

“We also want to get the word out there that cancer is not just…an old person’s disease. It can affect anybody. It doesn’t discriminate against age, sex, race, nothing. It’s a disease that we need to find a cure for.”

For the fifth straight year, Tim will be taking part in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Despite the winter temperatures, Tim has been training several times a week to be prepared for the two-day, 200-plus kilometre trek that will see him bike from Toronto to Niagara Falls.

One of four such events across the country, the proceeds from this ride go toward the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.

“I try to get out training anywhere from three to four times a week. It is a long journey, so I do go out on a lot of bike rides training. But the one I  look at is the thing that probably drives me the most is I look at two days of a ride for, 200-plus (kilometres), compared to seven, eight months, nine months (of treatment). Some kids are in a lot longer than that,” Tim says.

“So I look at it as my two-day journey being nothing compared to what these kids or what Ryley had to go through.”

Looking back, Tim says that while he’s prepared for the physical aspect of the journey, it’s the emotional side that hits hardest.

“I never knew how much of an emotional impact it was actually going to have on me. The first day, meeting so many people. The thing that impacts me the most is all the riders that actually have the yellow flags, which (mean they) are cancer survivors,” he says.

“It’s just incredible to see that there’s so many people united as one to try and help find a cure for cancer.”

Looking ahead, Tim says that he has no plans to stop doing the ride every year, and eventually hopes to have Ryley’s two twin sisters – Kaitlynn and Hailey – join him on the trek when they’re older.

“They were two and a half at the time, so they didn’t really (get the) concept at the time that they’d lost their brother. But they did have a really, really tight connection, and that was one of the reasons why at the end, we had the option of trying experimental drugs or bringing him home, and we decided to bring him home. He can have relationships with his two sisters,” Tim says of Ryley’s sisters.

“They made memories that only they will be able to remember. They still talk a lot about him.”

This year’s Ride to Conquer Cancer is scheduled to for June 11 and 12.

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