Everyone who knew Chris Hade loved him – a long list that included Dr. Richard Deming, a radiation oncologist and the medical director of Mercy Cancer Center Radiation Oncology in Des Moines.
The pair shared a love of the outdoors and adventures. When Chris, who was fighting cancer, heard of Deming’s latest trek, he would say, “When I get better, I’m going to go with you on these trips.”
Chris, who grew up in Indianola, died in 2008 at the age of 21, so his mother, Deb Kunkle Hade ’78, decided to join Deming’s adventure this summer.
And what an adventure it was – a non-stop, cross-country, 3,000-mile bicycle competition called Race Across American. Hade served as a support crew member for Above and Beyond Cancer, a Des Moines group that included eight cancer survivors and caregivers who were racers and eight who were crew members.
“It was definitely very inspiring,” Hade says. “There were just some amazing people who had various forms of cancer in the past and were survivors and who had really worked hard and trained very hard for this ride.”
It was no picnic for the support crew, either. Hade helped with the team’s laundry and cooking needs, and that was when she was considered off duty. When on duty, she drove one of the minivans that either followed a bicyclist or worked in advance for the next team member.
“We went through every kind of situation you can run into across the country – deserts and mountains and the plains,” she said. “The wind in Kansas was a bearcat.”
There was precious little sleep to be had the first few days, she said. “Then everybody kind of hit the wall and said, ‘We can’t do this. We’ve got to get some sleep.’”
The team began the race in Oceanside, Calif., and finished in Annapolis, Md. The Iowa group made it in six days, 21 hours and 17 minutes, placing 13th out of 18 teams.
Not bad for the team’s first bicycle race ever. “It was quite an arduous race,” Hade says.
During the ride, Deming carried Chris Hade’s prayer flag, which has accompanied the doctor on other adventures. He also relied on a water bottle decorated in Chris’s memory by his girlfriend, Natti Tipayamongkol.
“Dr. Deming recognizes that people who have survived cancer want to go on living and challenging themselves,” Hade says. “And this provides them with an opportunity to do that and raises awareness about cancer issues.”
Will Hade join the bicyclists the next time?
“No,” she says convincingly, then laughs. “I may not do a bike ride again, but I certainly would like to go on another trip.”
Deming and his group plan a trip later this month to Mount Kailash in western Tibet. Deb Hade says she may not be able to join them, “but Chris’s prayer flag will be going on another trip.”