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Riding to give more cancer patients the 'good cry'

C2C4C: Son’s quest to honor his mother sparked a decade of Bristol Myers Squibb employees cycling the world to raise more than $14 million for cancer research

July 25, 2023

For close to a decade, Bristol Myers Squibb employees have cycled up tall mountains, down long roads, through pouring rainstorms and under the blazing sun to raise more than $14 million to advance cancer research.

It’s not part of their job, it’s part of their hearts. And it all started with a son’s love for his mom.

How it all started

Cancer took Edwin “Bubba” Klugh’s beloved mother, Betty Lile, in 2004. He spent several years thinking about a fitting way to honor her dedication to their home state of Arkansas.

“Through her personal time and philanthropy, her fingerprints were all over the state,” said Klugh, executive territory business manager, Oncology.

He also wanted to honor the cancer patients who are at the heart of the Oncology Department’s mission. Then came a crazy idea.

‘I knew we had something good’

Klugh said he floated the possibility of a long-distance bicycle ride to raise money for cancer-related groups a few times in casual conversations in the department, but “never got a bite.”

He then pitched a concept at a regional meeting in 2011 where each person would ride a 100-mile leg in a relay.

When Klugh asked how many people in the room would be willing to ride, he said it felt like every hand in the room went up. The same thing happened when he asked who would help drive cyclists back to where their leg began. Klugh was thrilled.

“I knew we had something that was good, and that people would help,” he said.

Edwin “Bubba” Klugh’s wish was to honor his mother, Betty Lile, for her dedication to their home state of Arkansas. Klugh was among the riders in the first Coast to Coast for Cancer event in 2014.

Edwin “Bubba” Klugh’s wish was to honor his mother, Betty Lile, for her dedication to their home state of Arkansas. Klugh was among the riders in the first Coast to Coast for Cancer event in 2014.

‘This sounds crazy. I love it.’

On a golf outing with Murdo Gordon, former senior vice president, U.S. Oncology and Immunoscience at BMS, Klugh was hoping to be asked a typical question that executives often ask employees: Is there anything we as an organization aren’t doing that we should be doing?

When Gordon threw out the question, Klugh took a big swing and shared the idea. Without hesitation, Gordon told him to put together a plan. “If we can do it, we’ll do it next year,” Klugh recalled Gordon saying.

Klugh was thrilled and panicked at the same time. He knew he needed help to pull this off and he knew just who to ask: John Fee and Jana Low, both colleagues in the Oncology Department. Armed with a slide presentation, the trio began pitching the idea.

Fee remembers someone saying during a pitch: “We’re going to put 53 riders on bikes and ride across the country for cancer? This sounds crazy. I love it.”

Klugh’s reaction when the ride was approved? “I was like the dog that caught the car.”

On the road for the first ride

Preparations for the inaugural Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer (C2C4C) ride in 2014 were done in a whirlwind. Fee said organizers received their budget in February, employees got their bicycles in March and they rode in May.

Jana Low helped lead the team to the finish line in 2022, four years after a cancer diagnosis and successful treatment. She was one of the employees who helped make C2C4C become a reality.

Jana Low helped lead the team to the finish line in 2022, four years after a cancer diagnosis and successful treatment. She was one of the employees who helped make C2C4C become a reality.

“Those riders got together and got in shape,” Low said. “I don’t think they knew what they were getting into, but it was about to become much bigger than just a bike ride.”

They learned some lessons that year, including not to ride east to west again in the United States because the headwinds were so strong. They also learned the value of having more than two months to train.

Fee remembers the expressions on the riders’ faces after more than nine hours on the road. “They looked at each other like, ‘Are we going to make it to California?’” he said, with a laugh.

Since then, employees have had months to train for the adventure. The ride expanded to Europe in 2016, Japan in 2021 and Latin America in 2022.

Fee has been an on-road ambassador for several years, offering physical and emotional support to the riders. Along the way, he learns the stories about the people whose names are handwritten on their jerseys — the people they love who’ve faced cancer.


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John Fee was one of the employees who helped create C2C4C. Fee often serves as an on-road ambassador, getting to know the riders, why they’re riding and helping them achieve their goals.


He’s also there to help them when they’re struggling to make it up a tall climb. Fee puts his hand on their back until they make it to the top.

Riding for patients as a patient

Mike Foster was in remission when he got the news in February that he had been chosen to ride from St. Louis, Missouri, to Indianapolis, Indiana, in this year’s C2C4C. “I was excited. It was kind of cool,” said Foster, who is a senior territory business manager, Oncology.

The reason he wanted to ride is simple: “I want to give back and help raise funds to fight cancer and heal people like myself,” he said in March.

Not long after that, Foster learned that his multiple myeloma had returned. In June, he said his previous treatments weakened his immune system, leading to frequent colds. His current therapy causes fatigue.

Foster is tired, but his will is strong. And so is the support from his family, his colleagues and his coach from Walton Endurance, the company that helps BMS employees prepare for C2C4C.

“No matter what, you are on this team,” Foster’s coach told him. “We will find a way.”

Mike Foster’s multiple myeloma returned not long after he was selected to ride in this year’s C2C4C event. Despite the fatigue brought on by his current therapy, he continues to train for the event.

Mike Foster’s multiple myeloma returned not long after he was selected to ride in this year’s C2C4C event. Despite the fatigue brought on by his current therapy, he continues to train for the event.

Waiting for the ‘good cry’

Klugh’s love for his mother and his big heart for cancer patients were the catalyst for creating the ride. Like his fellow Oncology employees, he truly cares about the patients, nearly all of whom he’s never met.

He’s ridden in C2C4C three times. Whenever Klugh didn’t feel like training, he would tell himself, “Since you don’t want to ride today, go to the nearest infusion center and say that.”

Without fail, he got on that bike.

Klugh knows cancer patients likely cry when they are first told about their diagnosis. But he prefers to think about their second cry, the one that comes when a patient goes into remission.

And when Klugh thinks about that second cry – the good cry – he tears up, too.

John Fee (right) and two coaches help a cyclist make it up an 11-mile ascent over Gore Pass in the Rocky Mountains.

A decade of C2C4C

Celebrate with us and check out this video highlighting the history of C2C4C at BMS.

C2C4C in 2023                              

From September through December, nearly 350 Bristol Myers Squibb employees from every therapeutic area representing 28 countries will be riding in Europe, the United States, Japan and Latin America to raise money to help cancer patients and advance cancer research. Employees from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Poland and Romania are participating for the first time. The rides are:

  • Country 2 Country 4 Cancer, Europe: Sept. 1-18, 96* cyclists pedaling nearly 2,200 kilometers in several countries
  • Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer, United States: Sept 7-Oct. 3, 125* cyclists riding nearly 3,000 miles
  • Continent 2 Continent 4 Cancer, Japan: Sept. 21-Oct. 11, 70* cyclists traveling nearly 2,100 kilometers
  • Continent 2 Continent 4 Cancer, Latin America: Dec. 2-13, 55* cyclists riding nearly 1,500 kilometers in Chile

*Number of cyclists are approximate

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Want to support the cyclists?

Europe: Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)
https://www.uicc.org/c2c4ceu

United States: V Foundation for Cancer Research
https://c2c4c.donordrive.com/

Japan: CancerNet Japan
https://congrant.com/project/cnjdonation/6434

Latin America: Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)
https://www.uicc.org/c2c4cla

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Why employees are riding in C2C4C

Europe
Martin Whalen, general manager, EU Cluster Markets
“C2C4C is extremely important to me as it serves as a powerful reminder that patients (and families) are battling the evils of cancer on a daily basis. For me personally, I am motivated/inspired to ‘do more’ to make my mark on this disease. The fundraising for cancer research and the symbolism of our ride (More Than a Bike Ride) rings loudly in my mind all the time. Sadly, the list of ‘who’ I ride for is long – family, friends, coworkers. On the hills or feeling exhausted, I will think of our beloved coworkers, Gitte and Pernilla, who we lost earlier this year. We ride in their honor!”

United States
Susan Glisson, senior territory business manager, cardiovascular institutional
“This (C2C4C) is a time for me to show myself and others that cancer will not win over my body. It’s a time to show strength in mind and body. It’s a time to prove to myself I am still alive and able to still be an older athlete. It’s a time to share stories of survival and loss due to cancer and raise money to help improve and increase survivorship.”

Japan
Naoki Kametani, sales representative, HEMA-ONC
“I want to help people facing cancer. I want to push my limits with my best friends. I ride for a grandfather and grandmother who died after battling cancer. And with all the cancer survivors and their families in mind, I will climb every hill.”

Latin America
Emma Charles, senior vice president, Intercontinental
“C2C4C truly represents Bristol Myers Squibb's laser focus on how critical it is to evolve the way cancer is treated and the experience of patients and caregivers. For the second year, the C2C4C ride will cross Latin America, representing a life-changing experience for those who join and for those who witness the intense physical preparation, inspiring commitment and emotional journey of the riders. We hope to make our partner organizations and employees proud."


About Bristol Myers Squibb

Bristol Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. As global citizens, we work sustainably and responsibly to create a positive impact in the communities where we live and work.
 

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