Roger O'Neill seemed in great health last year, says his sister, Janet O'Neill.
"My brother went into the hospital for what we thought was an appendectomy," says O'Neill. "Six days later he was dead. There had been absolutely no signs. He was active and seemed healthy - an avid biker, hiker, musician, scientist. It was quite a shock."
What claimed O'Neill's life is colon cancer, the third deadliest form of the disease. Each year, 655,000 people die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. The problem is that colon cancer can grow for years before there are any signs of it. A colonoscopy, which can detect the cancer, costs $5,000.
After her brother died, O'Neill looked for ways to help raise awareness and funding for early detection methods. She found some of the most promising research was being done for early screening.
Dr. Michael Choti, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins University is developing a blood test that will detect colon cancer early on. "Hopefully, as awareness and screening improve, people will be diagnosed at earlier stages of disease," Choti says in a press release.
O'Neill has helped organize fund raising efforts to support Choti's research. The Door County Century Bike Ride has been held for 20 years to raise money for Sevastopol High School in Institute, Wisconsin. This year, the organizers agreed to help raise money for Choti's blood test.
"I didn't think they'd agree since they'd never before sponsored any cause outside of their local high school, but they surprised me," says O'Neill. "They had no good reason to do this other than it must have felt like the right thing to do."
The hundred-mile bike ride takes place on Friday, September 12 and Saturday, September 13 this year. It's a non-competitive event, open to riders of all levels. See the online race registration for more details. Advance registration is now closed, but you can register on the day of the event for $55.