LEWISTON — It’s all about perspective.

Angie Stringer was on her very first ride with the Challenge to Conquer Cancer Riders as part of the Dempsey Challenge.

On the ride up from South Carolina, she encountered aches and pains and long hills that never seemed to end. There were moments when her legs and back ached — and so did her feet.

Stringer survived the ride, though — just as she survived a breast cancer diagnosis three years ago.

“When I’d feel like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t do this anymore,’ I’d remember chemotherapy,” Stringer said. “I’d remember all the battles of cancer and realize that compared to all of that, the ride is nothing.”

The 11 riders, most from from South Carolina or points south, arrived at about 3:30 p.m., right on schedule. They gathered at Veterans Memorial Park, where they were greeted by their fans. There were hugs all around. The riders barely looked winded at all.

“Right now, we’re on an adrenaline high,” Eduardo Hernado of Miami said.

But there were tough stretches during the ride of more than 1,000 miles. There were moments when it seemed like every hill was a mountain.

Again, it’s all a matter of perspective.

“While you’re climbing those mountains, you’re thinking about all those people who wish they could be on this ride,” Hernado said. “You know that somehow you’ve got to make it because there are people who are suffering and we’ve got to battle for them.”

The riders were definitely enjoying their arrival in Lewiston, although nobody had forgotten about the purpose of the journey.

Milton Bowen, a 64-year-old from Anderson, South Carolina, has been riding for eight years now, with the latter four years with Lewiston as the destination.

“When I started out, it was just something different to do,” Bowen said. “It was a way to travel to a lot of different places. But it turned into something that’s much more than just a ride. I can’t explain it. Everybody has their own story. It’s a ride you don’t want to miss.”

For many years, the Challenge to Conquer Cancer Riders headed to Texas instead of Maine as part of a Lance Armstrong effort to battle cancer. Four years ago, they started heading north instead — to Lewiston.

According to team leader Ron Jerina, the group has never regretted it.

“Not one bit,” he said. “We love this trip. The scenery is just amazing. It’s like one beautiful picture after another.”

And then there’s the Dempsey Center, at the heart of everything.

“They’re just wonderful,” said Jerina, who lost his father to bladder cancer. “They do everything they can for us.”

“We’re so grateful for everything Patrick Dempsey and his family are doing here,” Stringer said.

And speaking of Patrick, he showed up at the park to greet the riders just before 4 p.m. As is usually the case when Dempsey appears, there was a lot of hugging and all cameras were aimed in his direction.

“Thank you, guys, for doing all this,” Dempsey said to the group. “It’s great to see everybody again.”

It was a light moment, with joking and banter and posing for selfies. A moment later, Dempsey was off to the side, speaking somberly to a man who had just lost his wife to cancer a year ago. It was a reflection of the Dempsey Challenge itself, an event that is enjoyed by thousands each year, but one with a mission that couldn’t be more serious.

The riders themselves look fresh enough to ride another hundred miles, although most of them admitted that they had naps in mind. You could hardly blame them — the riders had been up since before dawn Friday morning, preparing to pedal out the Kancamagus Highway and head toward Lewiston.

In fact, Trish Farren knows what time each rider got out of bed Friday morning, and knows what time they went to bed the night before, too. The mother of rider Kerrie Sijon, Farren hosted all 11 cyclists plus their photographers and support team — a total of 30 people — at her New Hampshire home.

“The whole team,” Farren said, “They’re wonderful people. They’re like family.

“We served beer and wine and lots of food,” she said. “Everybody had a wonderful time, but no one got drunk, I can tell you that. They had to be up at 4:45 a.m.”

And then on Saturday, they’ll do it all over again — riding locally instead of up the Eastern seaboard — but all for the same cause.

“It’s such a great group of people we have here,”Bowen said. “I just love them.”

Patrick Dempsey coverage

Check our special page for more news about Patrick Dempsey and the Dempsey Challenge.

• The Dempsey Challenge is the signature fundraiser for the Dempsey Center, a leader in Quality of Life care for individuals and families impacted by cancer. They provide a personalized, holistic and integrated approach to cancer prevention, education and support. The Dempsey Center was founded in 2008 by actor and Maine native Patrick Dempsey in response to his mother’s multiple bouts with ovarian cancer. Find more information on the Dempsey Center at dempseycenter.org

• On Oct. 1-2, thousands of cyclists, runners, walkers and supporters will arrive in Lewiston for the 8th Annual Dempsey Challenge. The Dempsey Challenge is a weekend which champions the spirit of celebration, and culture of paying it forward, all hosted in the city where Patrick Dempsey was born.

Participants will hit the streets in the 5K/10K run/walk on Oct. 1, cycle distances of 10, 25, 50, 70 and 100 miles on Oct. 2, or take part in the Two-Day Ride on both days. The Two-Day Ride covers 140-plus miles of scenic countryside and coastal Maine routes. The Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Survivor Walk takes place on Saturday at 10 a.m. and is a highlight of the weekend.

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