A 20-year volunteer in the fight against cancer has her own journey

Missy Farfsing knows firsthand the impact one can have through Bike to Beat Cancer. She encourages anyone who is thinking about riding or volunteering for the Bike to Beat Cancer to sign up and give the event a try.

At the start of 2022, Missy’s cancer took a turn, becoming more aggressive and causing her a great deal of pain. On Jan. 22, 2022, Missy passed away, crossing the finish line in her battle with cancer.

One of the Bike to Beat Cancer team’s favorite parts about the event is the riders and their stories. We love to hear why each rider or volunteer is riding all of the miles or spending all day with us in supporting our riders. These stories inspire and motivate us to continue to push harder ourselves as we all try to accomplish the goal of beating cancer.

Admittedly, for this Bike to Beat Cancer team member and writer of this story, this may be one of the toughest stories to write. I have known Missy Farfsing since 2013 when she joined the Bike to Beat Cancer family. In 2014, she volunteered to take on a larger leadership role and took on the monumental task of coordinating more than 500 volunteers across two days. When you work alongside someone all year, sweat it out together event weekend from dawn to dusk and watch riders cross the finish line as torrential rain pours down on you together, you form a strong bond. Plus, anyone who knows Missy knows she has a magnetic personality and is a person who lifts up your spirits when you are around her.

For the first time in seven years, Missy was not alongside us at the start/finish line at this past year’s Bike to Beat Cancer. That is because she was in her own fight against cancer, a disease she has spent decades raising money and volunteering countless hours to try to beat.

In March 2020, Missy began to notice weakness in her right leg, reduced range of motion when flexing her right foot, as well as back and hip pain. While increasing her walking during the start of the pandemic, Missy noticed walking becoming more difficult. After a couple of months, she went to physical therapy to see if that would help fix the issue. After a month of physical therapy and receiving minimal results, her doctor ordered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and a small mass was discovered on her spinal cord at the conus.

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In August 2020, the team at Norton Neuroscience Institute performed a T12-L1 laminectomy surgery to try to remove the 1 centimeter mass from Missy’s spine. The surgery went well and most of the mass was removed and sent to pathology. Missy was officially diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the spine.

“To be perfectly honest, none of us were prepared for the results of pathology. Spinal cord tumors are rare and make up about 15% of tumors in the central nervous system. We thought radiation, maybe, because they weren’t able to get all of the tumor, but we were NOT prepared for grade 4 astrocytoma of the spinal cord, H3 K27M mutant glioma,” Missy said.

Missy began a first treatment course of chemotherapy and radiation at Norton Cancer Institute in September 2020. Mixed in with her treatment was continued physical therapy to try to regain as much mobility in her foot as possible. On top of all of this, Missy is a wife, is a mom to two girls and had to take extra precautions of going through treatment during a pandemic.

Missy said, “I constantly struggle with what I am going through and the current pandemic. Cancer is everywhere I turn. Death is everywhere I turn. Illness is everywhere I turn.”

Trying to keep your “head in the game” and fight the mental battle of cancer is one that not everyone talks about.

“The thing about having cancer is some days you don’t feel like you have it at all and other days it smacks you right up side the face. In my case, I have been smacked a few times with thoughts of my own mortality,” Missy said. “I can’t help but find myself devastated over the thought of not seeing my children, my husband, my family, my friends. That is a scenario I spent the majority of my time NOT thinking about. Yes, death is a part of life and all that, but it’s a sad, depressing place to go and not somewhere I want to spend a lot of time thinking about. I am thankful for the people and things that helped (and continue to help) me get through each day.”

After a break in November to let her body rest, Missy started her second phase of treatment at the end of December 2020. She takes an aggressive round of oral chemotherapy, continues to rehabilitate her foot and is trying to find the right foot brace to help her gain more mobility.

Through all of this, Missy continues to show her support for others facing their own cancer journeys, especially for those at Norton Cancer Institute.

“I know I am fortunate. Others are not. I have spent over 20 years of my life raising money for cancer programs, and didn’t have a true sense of how badly those services were needed until now,” Missy said. “I am thankful for the work I have done in the past, but have quickly realized there’s so much more that needs to happen and so many people who need help.”

Missy knows firsthand the impact one can have through Bike to Beat Cancer. She encourages anyone who is thinking about riding or volunteering for Bike to Beat Cancer to sign up and give it a try.

While Missy might have missed the 2020 Bike to Beat Cancer, you can be sure to see her along with “Team Missy” at this year’ Bike to Beat Cancer. And, you can be sure that this writer and Bike to Beat Cancer family member will be cheering on Missy and all of the “Missys” the whole way.

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