By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – Cancer survivor Judi Burten of Newton knows firsthand how difficult it can be to arrange for transportation to and from treatment appointments. Grateful for help received from the American Cancer Society (ACS), she’s now volunteering to drive patients with its Road to Recovery program. She’s also preparing to ride in the ninth annual Bicycles Battling Cancer fundraiser for ACS, to be held Sunday, June 11, beginning and ending at Hillside School in Marlborough.
Over 12 years ago, Burten visited her primary care physician with what seemed to be swollen glands and was ultimately diagnosed as throat cancer. After consulting surgeons at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, she chose Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) for surgery and treatment.
“I took an extended leave from work because the treatments for head and neck are pretty intense,” she said. “I had a feeding tube inserted for over eight months, so I wasn’t too mobile. I also had radiation and chemo, which was pretty rough.”
Initially, she drove herself to MGH for daily treatments. Also helping with rides were friends and her husband Kevin Soll. For the last few weeks of treatments, Burten got rides from Road to Recovery volunteers.
“It was a lifesaver,” she said of ACS’s program. “I had a couple people who were kind enough to come pick me up, wait at the hospital and then drive me home.”
Now retired, Burten volunteers as a driver for Road to Recovery. The first patient she drove to a medical facility for an appointment requested only a one-way ride.
“When I asked her why she didn’t request a return ride home, she said that the appointment could be an hour or it could be four hours,” Burten relayed. “I know from my experience how it felt trying to arrange for transportation at the end of an appointment. I was very happy to volunteer to go back and get her.”
Burten’s road to recovery included regaining her physical strength. A longtime bicyclist, she decided to return to her favorite activity. While on a bike ride in the Metrowest area in 2009, she learned about the inaugural Bicycles Battling Cancer. She and her husband registered and have participated each year since.
In its first three years, Bicycles Battling Cancer went one way from Worcester to Boston. In 2012, it began and finished in Lancaster. As of 2013, the ride’s hub has been Marlborough with options of 30-, 70- and 100-mile loop routes.
Burten rode 70 miles in 2013 and 2014, then 30 miles in 2015 and 2016. This year, she’s planning to ride the 70-mile route. She appreciates that all the bicyclists return to Hillside School in Marlborough.
“We all have a place where people can come back and have a party together,” she said.
The 30-mile loop goes from Marlborough to Hudson, Stow, Sudbury, Framingham, Southborough, Northborough and back to Marlborough. The 70-mile loop travels from Marlborough to Berlin, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Shirley, Pepperell, crosses the New Hampshire state line to Hollis, then back in Massachusetts to Dunstable, Groton, Ayer, Harvard, Bolton, Hudson and finishes in Marlborough. Cyclists doing the 100-mile ride complete the 70-mile loop, then the 30-mile loop.
Each of the past eight years, Burten has individually raised over $3,000.
“Doing the ride is my way of staying involved, giving back, and helping to create awareness and raise much needed money,” she said.
Donations can be made to Burten’s online fundraising page at bit.ly/2q8mZhD. For more information about Bicycles Battling Cancer, visit www.BicyclesBattlingCancer.org, email [email protected], or call ACS at 508-270-4665. To get matched with a Road to Recovery volunteer, call 1-800-227-2345.