For one week in June, more than 150 veterans, first responders and everyday Canadians cycled more than 600 km across Europe as part of Wounded Warriors Canada’s (WWC) Battlefield Bike Ride.
An annual campaign to raise funds for WWC, this year’s Battlefield Bike Ride commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The eight day journey, starting June 9, began in London, England and took the riders across the English Channel into France. Throughout the tour the group stopped at many memorable sites including the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Memorial, Passnchendael Canadian Memorial, Beaumont-Hamel and Tyne Cot Cemetery.
As the single largest fundraising event for WWC, this year’s bike ride was expected to raise more than $1.8.
Each rider taking part in the annual Battlefield Bike Ride has their own reasons for being there, whether it is to raise awareness about mental health, a personal connection with WWC or their love for cycling. This year, one participant took part for all those reasons and more: to prove that cancer did not get the best of her.
Capt. Jacqueline Zweng, a full-time reservist, is an avid cyclist who signed up to take part in the 2016 Battlefield Bike Ride, the Italian Campaign. Just after purchasing her ticket and raising funds, Zweng was diagnosed with stage two cancer.
“The ride became more important than I’d even imagined it would be at the time,” said Zweng.
For the next year, Zweng underwent eight months of chemo, 28 rounds of radiation and ten months of hormone treatments.
The work WWC does as a charity focusing on mental health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), was something that hit close to home for Zweng as she underwent her cancer treatment.
During one of her surgeries, Zweng had the unfortunate experience of waking up before the surgery was over and, after, she remembered it all. The experience significantly traumatized her.
“I knew this was a problem. I knew it was a problem because I knew what PTSD was and I understood that because of this organization,” recalled Zweng, who immediately sought help.
The one thing that kept Zweng going throughout this time was cycling and remaining persistent with cycling helped her to prepare for this year’s bike ride.
“I actually felt strong on the bike ride. I’ve ridden my bike for so long just trying to hold on and just trying to find a little bit of refuge and now that I can ride my bike and feel amazing at the same time, is quite remarkable,” noted Zweng.
Not only was she able to take part in this year’s bike ride, but she also led the pack for 70 kms.
“I blew my own mind, actually.
“Each day I was riding, I actually felt stronger and that isn’t something I’ve felt in a long time,” remembered Zweng.
For Zweng the most memorable part of taking part in the ride, however, was the reminder of just how precious life is.
“When you go and visit the battlefields and you can see the numbers of people who lost their lives and how young they were, it just reminds you that at least we have today. Those guys didn’t even get a chance to build a life. I know, for me, that was the biggest personal impact,” said Zweng.
Zweng was also honoured with an opportunity to participate in the nightly remembrance ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.