Jennifer Goodman Linn, left, and Courtney Caccia of Redwood City at Cycle for Survival in 2011.
As freshmen at Duke University, Courtney Caccia and Jennifer Goodman Linn became instant friends.
In the years since meeting on campus, the women have both battled cancer. As a result, Linn and her husband Dave co-founded Cycle for Survival in 2007 to raise funds for research on rare cancers — a diagnosis both women have faced. This weekend, the annual four-hour cycling event will be held in San Francisco. For the first time, it will be without Linn, who died in 2011.
"This year, being our first year without Jen, this is what’s driving a lot of her friends and family to keep the momentum of this going. This was her life’s work. That is in everybody’s mind,” said Caccia, of Redwood City.
Caccia, 41, has a special bond with both her friend and the cause. While living in Los Angeles at 25, Caccia found herself feeling lethargic one summer. She went to the doctor and agreed to return the following Monday for a chest X-ray. Over the weekend, however, Caccia began coughing up blood — lots of it. A visit to the emergency room resulted in the diagnosis of choriocarcinoma — a rare cancer that started in the uterus but had spread to Caccia’s lungs.
"That moment, everything kind of changed,” Caccia said.
She underwent chemotherapy and at 27 needed to have a portion of her lung removed. While going into remission happened quickly for Caccia, other problems persisted.
Her friend Linn, despite living in New York, had been quick to support her through the process.
"She was kind of was a great support for me during that entire thing. Her enthusiasm and energy was contagious. She helped me. Then in 2004, Jen was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma. She basically spent the rest of her life fighting it,” Caccia said.
Cycle for Survival started in 2007 after Linn’s diagnosis with the goal of raising $10,000 for rare cancer research by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The event was held exclusively in New York that first year bringing together 50 teams, including 230 cyclists, who raised $250,000. Since then, it’s grown in terms of cyclers, donations and locations. This year, more than 2,000 teams are expected to ride over the course of two weekends kicking off Saturday.
Teams register to ride for a four-hour shift with a maximum of eight riders per bike. Last year was the first year the event was held in San Francisco. This year, Caccia’s friends and family were so interested in participating, a number started their own teams.
"Once you go there and you get involved with it, you cannot help coming out of the event completely excited,” Caccia said.
Caccia admittedly was a sporadic exerciser prior to participating in Cycle for Survival but as a result learned she really enjoyed it. Now she’s a regular spinner, but added anyone can do it. Some cyclers take on 30 minutes and don’t even break a sweat.
Although this weekend’s event is booked, Caccia said there are still ways to get involved this year. Create a satellite team, for example. Such a team could go to their local gym or ride outside and collect pledges for their efforts. Satellite groups could also plan to get on their bikes next weekend, when events are being held in New York.
This weekend, Caccia will be joined by four other college girlfriends who were close to Linn. Together, as part of Caccia’s Cancer Crushers, the ladies will spin in Linn’s honor.
For more information about, or to make a donation to, Cycle for Survival, visit www.cycleforsurvival.org. The four-hour event takes place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 4 at Equinox Pine Street, 301 Pine St., San Francisco.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.