Sporting super fun wigs at Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night

I met Lisa in 2010. I was packing for a month long Euro-trip when my roommate told me someone would be coming by to look at the apartment to take her spot in our converted two bedroom in DC. In walks Lisa Maurer, 100 lbs. of tenacious energy, exploding from a 5’2 frame. We quickly hit it off as she excitedly told me about her study abroad trip in Europe, and how she had coincidentally grown up a mere 30 minutes from the same town I did in Pennsylvania. A day later, I left for my trip and I was told Lisa would be moving in while I was gone. As they say, the rest is history.

To steal a line from the great Miley Cyrus, Lisa came into my life like a wrecking ball and I’ve never been the same. To all those who know Lisa, you know that she is the type of person and friend who is a constant in your life and will do anything for the people she cares about. Lisa quickly became one of my best friends and confidants. We spent the next year living together, creating memories, and laughing until we couldn’t breathe. She was the best roommate I’ve ever had, and I was thrilled to have a new partner in crime. But like many great love stories, she broke my heart.

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Lisa just had to freaking move to Ireland. “It’s not you, it’s me,” she said, “I just want to go get my MBA in one of the coolest cities on the planet” she exclaimed. “We can still be friends!” I shot back, “Fine, go, get, get out of here, I never liked you anyway!” Kidding, I never said any of that. I helped her pack up her stuff and watched her live out her dream of getting her MBA and change her life for the better.

I waited 18 long months for her to finally return to the US. After a few months searching, she landed her dream job back in DC and we picked up our friendship where we left off. She was happy, thriving, and absolutely killing it in the new job she had taken in consulting, and dating a fabulous new man. But in a mere matter of months, her world came to a screeching halt.

I remember the day she told me she was sick. It was late May in 2013. We were on our way to her friend’s birthday party when she stopped me with tears in her eyes and told me how scared she was. How she had been having shortness of breath, pain in her chest, and waking up drenched in sweat every evening. In the back of my mind I could hear the symptoms resembling cancer. I squeezed her tight and told her to hope for the best, and that regardless she was in one of the best cities in the world, and we would get through it.

A few months later, our worst nightmare came true and she was diagnosed with Stage 1 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I watched my beautiful friend endure something no 26 year old should ever have to go through. She dealt with painful biopsies and chemotherapy.  She endured the crippling side effects of chemotherapy, lost all of her hair, and struggled to keep weight on her already tiny frame. Despite this, she still managed to go to work, put a smile on her face, and remain her sassy self. I knew that I had to do something to help her and others who would potentially have to go through this. I promised Lisa that would complete a race or host an event to raise money for cancer in her honor to ensure that people like her never had to go through the same experience. Not at 26, 6, 66, or 96. I wanted to do something so that my future children can someday live in a world where the C word doesn’t exist.

Three years later, I’m finally making good on my promise. In a little over a week, I’ll join a few thousand riders for the Pan Mass Challenge, a 2 day 192 mile bike ride from Sturbridge, MA to Provincetown, MA on Cape Cod. Since 1980, PMC cyclists have raised more than $500 million for patient care and cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, making it the single most successful fundraising event in North America. On August 6 & 7, 2016, the Pan-Mass Challenge aims to raise an additional $46 million to fight cancer. Every single dollar raised by each rider goes directly to Dana Farber and cancer research. I have committed to raising $4,500 dollars for the PMC.

This year I am riding for Lisa, my Aunt Christine who battled breast cancer (in remission) my boyfriend Dave Tromblay who also battled lymphoma (in remission), and Dave’s father Allen Tromblay (lost his battle to brain cancer in 2011). I am absolutely thrilled and honored to be part of such a tremendous event.

Thank you to Lisa for being an inspiration, a beacon of hope and courage, and the shining, radiant light in my life. She is what fuels my long rides and whose face I will see at every mile marker on August 6th and 7th.

Want to help me reach my fundraising goal and help contribute to finding a cure for people like Lisa, Dave and my Auntie Chris? Please visit my profile and donate what you’re able. Here’s to a future without cancer! 



This post was written by Marissa Varney, a Bostonian cyclist, travel enthusiast, and the best of friends to those lucky enough to make her acquaintance.