Melissa Jacoby and Team Perry
On August 6 and 7, some 5,000 cyclists from 34 states and six countries will ride across Massachusetts in the 32nd annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge.
Their goal is to raise $34 million for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund .
Some riders are patients, both current and recovered. Many more riders, like Melissa Jacoby of Natick are not patients, but have still been deeply affected by the scourge of cancer.
Jacoby was just 29 when her husband, Perry S. Levy, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer of the small bowel in July 1999. He died in October of that year at 32.
Jacoby says she was faced with two options: find the strength to live or roll up and die.
“I was full of life, and so was Perry,” Jacoby said.
To get through the challenging days, Jacoby sought support from a young widowers group and threw herself into work. Through a coworker, Jacoby learned of the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. Jacoby immediately knew she wanted to support Dana-Farber, where Levy had been treated, and raise money to honor her husband.
Joining the PMC in 2001 was an outlet: Levy was a triathlete and the physical challenge of the ride’s 163-mile course was just what Jacoby needed to fill the void. Soon, Jacoby had encouraged others to ride the PMC alongside her, including one of Levy’s brothers, Jacoby’s father and her sister.
Starting in the summer of 2001 and every year since, Jacoby has biked in the PMC and led a team of riders called “Team Perry” along the PMC route. Through the 2011 PMC, Team Perry cyclists will surpass $3 million raised for The Perry S. Levy Fund for Gastrointestinal Cancer. The money they raise pays the annual salary of two fellows per year to lead research and treatment into GI cancers at Dana-Farber.
Jacoby is now 40 and is married with two young children. She remains committed to riding and raising money through PMC Team Perry and will lead the team in this year's PMC.
To donate to Melissa Jacoby, visit her PMC Profile page.