Pan-Mass Challenge Becomes Personal for Mom-Son Duo

Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Michele Pearl and her son, Ethan, have had their share of heartache from cancer and other health problems. As a mother-son team, they participate in the annual PMC ride, this year taking place on August 4th and 5th.
Issue Date: 
August, 2018
Article Body: 

Franklin’s Michele Pearl began riding the Pan Mass Challenge eleven years ago because of her Mom, a breast cancer survivor and her Stepdad, a colon cancer survivor. Two years later, when they had the Inaugural PMC Teen Ride, her 13-year old son Ethan began riding by her side.
“When I decided to ride in 2007, I got together with some friends and we formed a team. I rode with them until 2011 and then stopped for a few years, because I just couldn’t raise the $5,000 fee,” Pearl said. “When they announced the PMC Teen Ride, Ethan was in immediately, but was mad that they would only allow him to ride 50 miles that year because of his age; he’s a very competitive individual.”
Up until his first PMC, Ethan had primarily only ridden mountain bikes, so his Mom had to teach him the proper riding techniques. Upon joining the riding team along with his mother, the team took him under their wings. Over the next two years Ethan rode the one-day ride (110 miles) in 2010 and then the entire 2-day ride (192 miles) in 2011. Michele always rode the two-day event, except the year Ethan rode the 1 day event.
One of the main reasons Ethan got involved with PMC was Pedal Partners. With the team always sponsoring a Pedal Partner, the Pearls really got to know the families, and it resonated with Ethan.
“It was overwhelming for him to get to know the family,” Pearl said. “For him to see those bald little kids at Fenway was one thing, but to get to know our Pedal Partner personally was another.”
While the mother-son duo found it important to ride for others, it soon became tougher when it hit home. Last September (27th) Michele’s husband Rich was diagnosed with aggressive stage 4 lung cancer. According to Pearl, 20% of lung cancer patients never smoked and 1% had the specific genetic mutation that had taken over her husband.
Ethan, who had been in Montana attending Montana State University in Bozeman, at the time of the diagnosis, rushed home to help out his family. While attending to his Dad, Ethan thought he had come down with a case of food poisoning, and within a few weeks was really sick and had to be taken to Mass General Hospital in Boston. Unfortunately, they found that he had a rare liver disorder called Wilson’s disease and was given only five days to live.
Ethan was rushed to the top of the donor list, but time was ticking away fast. With one day left, he was given a new liver and is now undergoing rehabilitation to get back to normal. Although Ethan’s story had a positive ending, his father’s did not, and less than six months (on March 19th of this year) from his diagnosis Rich passed away. Almost immediately, the mother and son decided to get back on their bikes and ride the PMC once again. (Michele hadn’t ridden since 2014 dealing with her own issues).
“Now that we have been so close to it, seeing it first hand we realize what PMC means to Dana Farber,” Michele said. “We can only continue to ride to find personalized medicine to treat the people affected. We can only hold hope and continue to ride so that we can stop losing loved ones.”
Following his father’s death, Ethan got himself a tattoo with a cancer ribbon with the words Dad in the bottom with a fishing pole in the background, something Rich loved to do. Currently Ethan is back in Montana training and plans to return to school in the fall. Being a very active individual he’s got to be careful with germs due to his medical past. His mother believes he is very focused this year and his ride has more meaning than it ever has.