At age 31, Colleen Whealdon-Haught died in October 2009 of breast cancer.
An enthusiastic cyclist, Whealdon-Haught participated in El Tour de Tucson and frequently rode her bike 15 miles from her home to her chemotherapy treatments. As a Category 2 cyclist, she reached a high level in the sport.
Through Team Colleen, Whealdon-Haught’s supporters keep her memory vivid by supporting cancer survivors at cycling events.
Today, 35 will represent Team Colleen in the 28th annual El Tour de Tucson’s 109-mile race that circles the perimeter of Tucson. Team Colleen’s domestiques help cancer survivors during races by carrying food and water and providing them a barrier from wind. Founded in March 2009, Team Colleen has doubled its numbers since last year’s El Tour, when about 15 cyclists rode in tribute to Colleen. The organization also raises funds for foundations focused on cancer survivorship.
Two teams of 17 and 18 domestiques will guide cancer survivors Greg Maciulla and Lisa Salgado today in El Tour. Survivor Vernon Sheehan will also ride with them. Donning yellow jerseys as the team leaders, Maciulla and Salgado hope to spread the message of Team Colleen. In their own words, they discussed how important cycling has been to them, what they hope to accomplish today and how they have beaten cancer.
Lisa SaLGado, 48, nutritionist and personal trainer
“I’m a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in October of 2009. I went through chemo, surgery, radiation, the whole gamut. I’m in remission.
“September, I finished my treatment and that’s when they said I’m officially a survivor.
“It’s great to be back on my bike. I went a year just trying to fight this disease and really didn’t ride my bike. I rode a little, but didn’t engage in any races or anything like that. I would like to complete it in six hours.
“(The domestiques) are all really good cyclists. They’re giving time every weekend to ride with me. They’re better cyclists than me. They’re volunteering and supporting me in everything I need.
“I just want to see people become aware of what they’re offering with survivorship. It’s a great service. There are a lot of services when you’re going through cancer, a lot of programs to help you, but once you’re done, it stops there. So, the neat thing about this organization is they’re taking it further and saying this is what you can do, Let’s get you back to living your life. That’s huge.”
Greg Maciulla, 63, retired
“In 1983, I was a fat, out-of-shape obstetrician/gynecologist, and I decided to do something about it. I started riding a bicycle and heard about El Tour and did it the second year. It had a tremendous impact in my life.
“This June, I was in the hospital for about 18 days with a bowel obstruction. I got (angry) and I decided to really train hard and do El Tour, and George (Whealdon-Haught’s husband) approached me with Team Colleen.
“I’m eternally grateful for people like Colleen, Lance Armstrong and (El Tour founder) Richard DeBernardis. My part is really to pay tribute to these people.
“In 2006, I was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer and prostate cancer.
“This year, I’m going to do the whole 109. I hope to do platinum time (under five hours).
“The surgeon said there’s no evidence of colon cancer, so that’s real good news, because statistically, that’s what should have killed me. The prostate cancer is still around. Right now, I’m off the treatment, but probably in a couple months, I’ll get back on the treatment.
“These are all really good, young cyclists. They’re studs. They’re volunteering their time and effort to haul an old fart around.
“It’s in remembrance of a person who died at 31. It’s a tragedy. It’s a tribute to her brief but significant life.”
• What: El Tour de Tucson bicycle race (109, 79, 66 and 40 miles)
• Where: Around the perimeter of Tucson
• Web: perimeterbicycling.com