Pancreatitis Sufferer Set to Bicycle 3,000 Miles Coast-to-Coast for 3-Year-Old
Chronic pancreatitis patient Mark Light will take off Sept. 17, 2016 from San Diego, Calif. on a 3,000-mile solo bicycle ride to St. Augustine, Fla. The approximately 60-day ride will help a 3-year-old Noblesville, Ind. girl and her family burdened with the emotional and financial pain and expense of pancreatitis.
After fourteen years and two near-death experiences of his own, Light is an expert by experience in what it means to have acute and chronic pancreatitis. It is considered one of the most painful and life-threatening medical conditions. A flare up generally means the patient is hospitalized, not eating or drinking for days at a time, heavily medicated with strong pain killers like morphine, and most of the time, nauseous, vomiting and in extreme pain.
Light’s experiences dealing with the intense pain, hospitalizations, treatments, and surgeries altered his perspective on life and personal fortitude. Although he was not particularly athletic growing up, facing death in the eye in 2012 prompted Light to take on the challenge of hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim. The successful hike became an annual event, and he took up cycling at home. The cycling turned into a passion that allowed him time to clear his head, build his strength and alleviate stress. His rides kept getting longer and he decided that one day he would attempt a solo ride coast-to-coast.
In addition to setting and achieving his own personal and physical challenges, during this time Light co-founded the Pancreatitis Foundation with the purpose of spreading awareness of the disease and to provide emotional and financial support to pancreatitis sufferers and their families.
The subject of pancreatitis brought Light to Chris and Elizabeth Theisen and their daughter. Emily Jo, called Emme “the Warrior Princess” by friends and family, had been born prematurely with a host of health issues. Because pancreatitis is not commonly considered a disease that affects children, Emme’s diagnosis was delayed, but once confirmed, Light understood intimately the pain and agony the little girl was living with every day. “It’s difficult to face this disease as an adult,” Light said. “I can’t imagine what it must be like as a child, or even worse, as a parent having to see your child suffer.”
“We get a lot of support from family and friends and it’s a tremendous help day-to-day,” Emme’s father, Chris Theisen, said, “but the understanding from someone who truly understands what is happening when we say Emme is in the hospital undergoing this or that treatment is invaluable for us. The compassion from Mark has been incredible.”
The ride is being called Peddling Coast-to-Coast for the Warrior Princess. After Aug. 8 was named Emily Jo Theisen Day in Defuniak Springs, Fla., which is the hometown of Emily’s uncle, Dave Rivard, information about Emme and the ride is beginning to trend online with the hashtag #emmesmiles.
“With news of the ride getting out,” Theisen said, “we are seeing all these people we don’t even know latch on to Emily’s story and what she is going through. Mark’s commitment to taking action and following up on making this happen has been amazing. The outpouring of interest and support from what Mark has begun has helped us deal with her going through this as well. We have gotten to see a lot of good in the world.”
“As a pancreatitis sufferer,” Light says, “every one of the 3,000 miles between San Diego and St. Augustine will be a personal victory for me and provide hope for Emme. If people donate one penny for each mile of the ride, that’s only $30; less than it costs for a week’s daily coffee. But if 2,000 people donate $30, the Theisen family will be able to pursue the surgical treatment that could mean Emme will finally have a day without pain – and believe me, that’s priceless.”
About The Pancreatitis Foundation
The mission of the Pancreatitis Foundation is twofold. First, to spread awareness of the disease. Second, the Foundation is dedicated to providing support for both the patient and their family. When someone has pancreatitis, the entire family is engaged in the illness. “Pancreatitis is horrible” Light said. “It is exceedingly painful and puts a strain on families both emotionally and financially. The Pancreatitis Foundation will grow to provide the support families need to help them cope with the challenges of this terrible disease.” For more information, go to www.thepancfoundation.org.
About Peddling Coast-To-Coast For The Warrior Princess
Mark Light will be engaging in a solo, 3,000-mile bicycle ride from San Diego, Calif. to St. Augustine, Fla. He will leave Calif. on Sept. 17, 2016, with anticipated arrival in St. Augustine by Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, 2016. Readers can go to www.emmesmiles.com to learn more about the ride and make donations.