Cancer survivor takes on new challenge

Longmeadow resident Jeffrey Rahn, a cancer survivor and PMC rider, was excited about the chance to touch the infamous Green Monster at Fenway Park. He was one of 40 riders chosen to ride around the field during PMC Night at the park. Reminder Publications photos by Ryan Bissonnette
By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor



BOSTON Jeffrey Rahn of Longmeadow really got into the Red Sox when he was 10 years old in 1967, the year of the "Impossible Dream."

The 1967 season is revered as one of the greatest pennant races in baseball history with four teams in the American League pennant race until the end of the season. The Sox had finished the 1966 season in ninth place, but the team turned around and wound up heading to the 1967 World Series.

Like that legendary team, Rahn took the field at Fenway Park on July 12 with a dream in mind. As a rider in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, Rahn is aiming to raise funds to help fight and eventually rid the world of cancer a dream that may soon become possible.

He was joined by 39 other riders during PMC Night at Fenway Park who rode around the park during a pre-game ceremony. An estimated 5,500 will be riding in the challenge this year.

The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) is an annual bike-a-thon that's been raising money to fight cancer since 1980. In its first year, 36 riders raised $10,200. Last year, 4,960 riders raised $33 million.

All funds raised go toward cancer research and treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund.

There are seven different routes cyclists can tackle on the PMC, which runs through 46 towns in the Commonwealth. The two-day, 190-mile route runs from Sturbridge to Provincetown; the one-day Wellesley route is 47 miles long.

Last year was Rahn's first year riding in the PMC, and he tackled the 190-mile route. He plans on doing it again this year.

A lifelong resident of Longmeadow, Rahn is a husband, a father of three, a lawyer and a cancer survivor.

"I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago," Rahn told Reminder Publications before his lap around the warning track at Fenway. "I had a rare birthmark that was even rarer on a Caucasian, so I was always very cautious [when it came to my skin]. I had developed what I thought was a pimple [on my chin] but it didn't go away. I had a biopsy done on it and even the skin cancer groups were puzzled by it. My doctor thought it should come out.

"[The] unexpected melanoma lurking in my chin ... was probably the result of the rare birthmark I have had since birth," he wrote in his PMC biography.

A large portion of Rahn's chin had to be removed because of the cancer. The surgery was the first of its kind in Connecticut, where Rahn had the procedure done.

Riding in the PMC is Rahn's way of giving back to those who helped him through his ordeal and because of both the cancer and his bike riding, he now has "slimmer thighs" his chin transplant was taken from his leg and he's lost about 20 pounds since he started biking.

"I recently had my second annual check up and I'm cancer-free," Rahn said. "I'm very happy."

Jonathon Jasak from Palmer is another local cancer survivor who is riding in the PMC and had the opportunity to grace the field at Fenway. A survivor of neuroblastoma, a malignant tumor commonly found in the adrenal gland, this will be Jasak's third year riding and raising funds. He rides with the team Palmer Pedal Power (www.palmerpedalpower.org).

"I started riding for myself, but now I also do it for my buddy's father [who had cancer] and for cancer research," Jasak said.

He will be taking on the 190-mile route and has a goal of finishing it faster every year. Like Rahn, he also said being on the field at Fenway Park was "an amazing feeling" and thanked the Red Sox for the great job they do supporting the PMC.

"It's unbelievable what they do for us," Jasak stated.

The Red Sox aren't the only ones supporting the ride. Rahn said the PMC is great for Western Massachusetts as well because with riders from all over the state, a camaraderie is formed.

"I had a very emotional first year," Rahn said of his ride in 2007. "I cried the entire ride. You go by driveways and there are parents and little kids out there supporting you, offering you water, spraying you with hoses ... It's a very special event. The people move me."

The bikers are special people, too. "It's a big commitment to raise $34 million [for this year's goal]," Rahn noted, "but people will take the money out of their pocketbooks to help fight cancer."

The smiles on the faces of Rahn and Jasak as they came around third base illustrated how happy they were to not only be on the field at Fenway, but to also see the support of the tens of thousands of fans at the park that day, cheering them on.

It was a bittersweet moment for Rahn, however. "I've lost a lot of friends to cancer," he said. "There's nothing worse than watching a friend or family member pass from cancer.

"I would like to see cancer become an extinct word in my lifetime," he continued. "I ride for the present because I can. I ride for the past for the memories of those who are no longer here. I ride for the future for the health of my friends and family."

This year's PMC will be taking place Aug. 1 through 3, with an opening ceremony taking place on Aug. 1 that will be televised on NECN.

To donate to Rahn's cause, log on to www.pmc.org and enter his eGift ID of JR0223. To donate to Jasak, use eGift ID JJ0043.

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