Sister’s breast cancer leads Duluth man to hit 780 miles of roadMichael Hillmeyer of Duluth is going on a 780-mile bike ride to raise awareness of the kind of cancer that struck his little sister.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
When Michael Hillmeyer of Duluth learned last fall that his kid sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer, he was shocked.
No one had ever had cancer in his family before. He thought cancer happened to other families, not his. And he was scared.
With his sister, Julie, 1,500 miles away in Georgia, he felt helpless to help her and her family. But his love of cycling and his desire to honor his sister and help raise awareness of breast cancer in young women have converged in a journey to make a difference.
On Thursday, with his road bike in tow, he will travel by car with his family to Brooklyn, Mich., to attend his 30-year high school reunion. On Sunday morning, he’ll head back on his bike for the nearly 800-mile trip, traveling north to the Mackinac Bridge, across the Upper Peninsula, then down to Duluth.
“I’m going solo, nobody with me, just got a few maps and a cell phone,” he said.
Money pledged for his trip — so far $1,500 from family and friends – will go to benefit the Young Survival Coalition, a national advocacy organization for young women with breast cancer. Breast cancer in younger women is more aggressive and higher risk than in older woman, according to Alane Davis, program manager for the group’s Duluth affiliate.
The organization’s main fundraiser — the annual Hershey’s Tour de Pink, a group cycling trek from Hershey, Pa., to Clinton., N.J.— sets the stage for other fundraising rides like Hillmeyer’s.
But going it alone for days on end is unusual, Davis said.
“Michael is kind of special that way,” she said. “Michael wanted to do this ride alone. I think he wanted time to be with his thoughts. He is really looking forward to the ride.”
The 48-year-old Hillmeyer has eight days to ride the 780 miles, going about 100 miles a day.
“I’m going to be pushing it,” he said. “Eight days, that’s it. I have to be at work Monday (July 27).”
As a Duluth pharmacist, he says he has been struck by the number of his customers with cancer who are women in their 40s or younger. Most, he says, have breast cancer.
For her breast cancer, his sister underwent surgery to remove a large tumor. She’s undergone radiation and continues chemotherapy. She still must face reconstructive and other surgery.
Hillmeyer has been planning the bike trip since February. An avid cyclist, he added extra training to his regimen. A 70-mile bike ride on Saturday left him confident.
“I’m going to do this,” he said of the journey ahead. “I’ll just keep pedaling. What my sister is going through is a lot harder. I’ve got the easy part, I’ve just got to ride my bike.”
To donate to Michael Hillmeyer’s Tour de Pink, visit active.com/donate/hersheystourdepinkVR/JHFTourdePink
For more information on the Young Survival Coalition, visit youngsurvival.org or call (218) 491-7195.