Members of the Cops For Cancer Tour de Coast team were given a rock star welcome by a throng of excited students at Diefenbaker Elementary School Wednesday afternoon.
Among the parents watching the beaming faces of their children, Sylvia Balbuena had time for a special smile of her own.
Her son, seven-yearold Mateo, is a junior member of the Cops For Cancer team, an honour reserved for a young cancer survivor or patient undergoing treatment.
For Mateo's mother, the smile was in celebration of seeing him free of the disease for the past year.
"He's one year cancer-free, this week," Sylvia said, adding she was overjoyed to have come through the past two years after getting the diagnosis her boy had a cancerous tumour that had located itself just behind his nasal passage.
"It was blocking his air canal," she said.
The news of his diagnosis was shocking, as any parent might expect. But it came to light in a fortuitous way.
"We were actually having him checked out for some hearing difficulties, and got an MRI. That's when the doctor found part of the tumour."
Thanks to advances in cancer treatment, Mateo's condition was treatable with radiation and a 10-month course of chemotherapy.
"He came through it all and recently had his first hair cut after a year," Sylvia said. "He didn't want to because of the chemo,
which left him without hair for a year. But now he's all excited. And we have participated in all the things we can with the Canadian Cancer Society. It's mostly been talking with other families going through the same thing we did and giving them some help with our experience."
Const. Dayne Cambell of the Vancouver Police Department, who led the Tour de Coast team to the school, said it is youngsters like Mateo that he and his colleagues ride for.
"Cancer has also touched my family. I have two little girls and I couldn't imagine having to go through that with them," he said. "But being welcomed by people wherever we go really helps us ride on."
The tour's 24 riders - representing law enforcement, corrections and the BC Ambulance Service - are covering 900 kilometres including the Sea to Sky corridor, as well as the Sunshine Coast, North Shore and cities in Greater Vancouver from Sept. 18-26.
For more information and to support the riders, visit copsforcancerbc.ca.
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