WILTON, Conn. -- It’s been three years since Jenn Lewis, of Wilton, was diagnosed with cancer and fortunately she remains cancer free.
On Saturday, Lewis will climb back on her bike, as the leader of the Team Be Positive team, to ride in her third consecutive Connecticut Challenge bike ride to help raise money for the challenge's cancer survivorship programs. Her team fundraising link is online.
This year, Lewis will be riding with a person very dear to her and in memory of two special people. Since last year’s ride, two close friends lost their battles with cancer. One of them, Elaine Berkowitz, is a woman she met while undergoing treatments and the other, Mark Kudzy was a good family friend and co-worker of her husband.
“I will be riding in memory of Elaine and Mark this year and that will be very impactful for me.” Lewis said.
Among the more than 20 members of Team Be Positive will be Lewis’ niece and goddaughter, 22-year-old Katherine Shidler, who is coming up from South Carolina to ride with her.
“Katherine and I have a close relationship, and it’s very meaningful that she is riding 50 miles with me to support a cause that is dear to my heart,” Lewis said.
Lewis was diagnosed with cancer of the appendix in 2010, several years after her sister was diagnosed with colon cancer. While undergoing a nine-month recovery program she learned of the CT Challenge Bike ride during her treatment at Stamford Hospital. She rode in the CT Challenge for the first time that year and the organization has become a big part of her life.
Last October, the CTC opened the doors to the Connecticut Challenge Center for Survivorship in Southport. The center offers a wide array of services, programs and classes for survivors.
"The beautiful thing about the center and fundraising for me is that it is so tangible,” Lewis said. “I can see the fruits of the fundraising. The center is something I have taken advantage of and continue to use. I love being able to bring other survivors there to see what it has to offer. Losing friends to cancer does not help my mental well-being and I am grateful for the center so that I can be with other survivors who are working on the next phase of their lives."
Lewis stresses the impact of the center to her team. “To try and help my team with their fundraising, I explain to them that it is a place for survivors to go to be with other survivors, participate in spin classes, yoga, and support groups, as well as the many other programs that are available for survivors and their caregivers. The camaraderie there is inexplicable,” she said.
Team Be Positive does not relegate its fundraising efforts just to the ride. On Tuesday, it will have its third annual Guest Bartender Night at Marlys in Wilton. Team members will take turns tending bar with all tips going to the CT Challenge.
The CT Challenge has helped Lewis in many ways and inspired her to go back to school this coming fall for a health coach certification at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Upon completion of the program, she hopes to counsel post-treatment cancer patients on how to make the necessary lifestyle change to live a cancer free life.
“I would not have thought of doing this if it wasn't for what I have been through,” Lewis said.
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