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NV Man rides leg of tour de France for cancer research and care

WHEN North Vancouver resident Serge Marion arrived in France and saw the mountains and cliffs he was about to cycle, he knew he needed to put things into perspective.

A cancer survivor, Marion, 49, was one of five participants gearing up for L'Etape du Tour Challenge benefiting InspireHealth, a Vancouver-based nonprofit integrated cancer care centre. The team, comprised of cancer survivors, medical staff and supporters were intent on tackling 109 kilometres, from Modane to Alpe d'Huez, July 11. The Amaury Sport Organisation event saw average joes complete the same route as Tour de France riders went on to ride July 22 - stage 19.

Talking to the locals did nothing to put Marion's mind at ease. One man said you couldn't pay him to do the ride due to its level of difficulty.

"And I had cancer three and a half years ago and I'm going to try to do it? The night before the ride I woke up around 12: 30 a.m., I was sweating just thinking about it," he recalls.

Marion realized he needed a strategy and decided to break the journey up into pieces to help him overcome his fear. At 4 a.m., he got and hit the road, taking things one step at a time. He told himself it would be like climbing one Cypress, then another mountain twice the size of Seymour and then the icing on the cake: the extremely steep Alpe d'Huez, comprised of 14 km and 21 hairpin curves.

While it was a tough day, Marion completed the stage and so did all but one of his teammates. He traversed the three mountain passes in 8: 06: 09 and completed

Alpe d'Huez in 1: 56: 35.

"The next day when I woke up and I saw that I had a medal of the Tour de France, I couldn't believe it, it was surreal. It was quite out of the ordinary," he says.

Marion is no stranger to challenges. Just like the triple mountain traverse he just completed in France, life has been a series of ups and downs following a diagnosis with colorectal cancer in 2008.

"I was in perfect health and then they told me I had that," says Marion, a father of three and a French immersion teacher at Dorothy Lynas elementary. "It was quite advanced. I had two big tumours and perforation so about three weeks later I had to have surgery."

The next year was intense, as he continued to undergo various treatments, all the while wondering if he would make it.

"Then the year after, in 2009, the doctor says, 'This year there was two miracles and you were one of them,' so that gives you some shivers, some chill in the back," he says.

In 2009, his treatments complete and his health vastly improved, Marion became a client of InspireHealth. He credits his experiences there for helping him go on to lead a more healthy and active life as well as helping him realize his passion: cycling.

"Thanks to InspireHealth I'm able to see the world a bit differently," he says.

Marion took up cycling after a trip to San Francisco, Calif. Renting a bike and cycling the Golden Gate Bridge and surrounding areas, he realized how much he enjoyed biking, but not how tiring it was, so he decided to up his training and improve his strength and endurance. That led him to participate in the Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting B.C. Cancer Foundation in 2010 and 2011.

"Life is a journey. . . . I'm discovering more now after I had cancer than I did before. So in a way, cancer was a positive thing for me because it made me rethink about my life in general and to be able to help other people through the (fundraisers) that I can do," he says.

So, when earlier this year, representatives of InspireHealth asked him to be a part of their fundraiser, it was an easy decision to say yes. The goal was to raise $30,000 for InspireHealth, specifically toward research and offering better therapies and care for patients living with cancer. So far they've raised $20,000.

Marion is proud of what he's accomplished.

"The last few years I went to some funerals of people who had colorectal cancer and they passed away and you say, 'I could have been one of those people,'" he says.

With that in mind, it's overwhelming to think about what he's been able to achieve.

"It's quite something to be able to enjoy the beautiful view from the top of Alpe d'Huez or at the top of Galibier and be able to take a challenge one step at a time," he says "It's like moving a mountain where you move one stone after another."

To support L'Etape du Tour Challenge benefiting InspireHealth, visit

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