Meet George Yapchaian: Cancer Survivor And Biker


Warren Times Gazette, RI –
July 27 2007

TIVERTON – George Yapchaian, 63, from Tiverton is a businessman,
cancer survivor, and serious biker, who on Saturday, August 4, will
ride 84 miles in one day, from Wellesley to Bourne, to raise money
for Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Mr. Yapchaian’s route is
part of the renowned Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) on the first
weekend in August that will involve 5,000 bicyclists – 200 of them
cancer survivors.

Cyclists from 36 states and six countries will be participating,
pedaling different routes through 43 towns across Massachusetts. The
PMC regularly raises more money (this year’s goal is $27 million)
than any other athletic fundraising activity in the country. Mr.

Yapchaian was diagnosed with prostate cancer in early 2004 after
a physical exam was negative but blood tests showed elevated PSA
(prostate-specific antigen) levels. He underwent surgery in June,
2004, and suffered a recurrence very early in 2006, which was followed
by eight weeks of radiation that spring. Since then he has had no
recurrences. In gratitude for the care he received at Dana Farber,
he said, and to help others, he took up biking after completing his
radiation treatment, and participated in his first PMC fundraiser
last summer. The 75 mile route he traversed proved so difficult
(it was all uphill, he said) it’s been discontinued. He trains for
this year’s challenge by biking over 100 miles each week, riding six
days weekly. He lives with his wife Frances (a CPA) at the Villages
on Mount Hope Bay. They have two grown children, Matthew, 30, now in
graduate school in fine arts, and Kaitlin, 25, a consultant.

Advice about prostate cancer? "Always have an annual checkup. ask
questions, do research. There’s a network of people out there who’ve
had prostate cancer who are available for discussing the disease or
treatment. [See insert] We call ourselves ‘cancer light’ in comparison
to other more lethal kinds."

How do you train for the PMC? "Right now I ride 100 miles a week.

It’s 18 to Fogland Beach and back. That’s my money ride. Saturdays
and Mondays are off, Sundays I do 50, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I do 18,
Friday 33. Thursdays it depends how I feel."

Why the PMC challenge? "The most important thing about the Pan Mass
is – the people who line the streets are applauding the bikers, there
are people in bandanas, in wheelchairs or who’ve lost people. These
people are yelling ‘thank you.’ I was amazed by that."

How long will your 84 mile ride take you? "I’m budgeting six to seven
hours. You’re riding in traffic."

What’s your greatest fear, riding? "That the friend I’m riding with
will outshine me."

Why are you doing this? "It’s like saying, Dana Farber, you’re doing
as good job. I’m giving a little bit back, a small donation."

Favorite ride? "A loop through Little Compton and Westport. It can
be about 50 miles or 33. It takes about two to three hours depending.

That’s my getaway. I vary it, swap directions."

Magazines subscribed to? "Biking, The New Yorker, Smithsonian."

Dream car? "Corvette Sting Ray. The one with the split window. It
was a 1963 maybe. I think they only made 300."

Favorite food? "Shish kebab. Skewered lamb."

Favorite biking snack/drink? "Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Also energy gels you can get at bike shops in different flavors.

Water. The rule is, drink before you’re thirsty, eat before you’re

Childhood ambition? "Garbageman, my family will tell you."

Wildest dream? "Other than winning the lottery, there’s a bike ride
across the state of Iowa that I’d like top do." [See insert]

Greatest regret? "There are too many, you know. Shoulda, woulda,
coulda. Like yesterday’s news. But, yes, there’s one. I don’t have much
knowledge about my family’s history and the Armenian Genocide of 1914."

Pet peeve? "People who drive too close to bikers. Sometimes you feel
they aim for them. There’s a term we have, called ‘skinning.’"

Favorite movie? " ‘Birdcage,’ with Robin Williams. Also the Wallace
and Grommet movies."

Favorite music? "Soft jazz. Diane Krall. Nancy Wilson."

Idea of a perfect day? "Having my family around."

Fondest memory? "Seeing my children born. Sometimes you wish you
could have them back, but….."

Where do you go to retreat? "On my bike."