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Mom bikes for lung disease

Every year several hundred cycling enthusiasts gather in BC’s Fraser Valley to hit the road for a weekend ride in support of lung health. 
It’s called the BC Lung Association’s annual Bicycle Trek (Trek) and this year will be Kelowna resident Julie Miller’s first year taking part on September 7 & 8th, 2019.
“I’ve known about the event for a while but as I have three kids and work as a nurse full-time, finding the time can be a challenge. This year it worked out,” said Julie, a nurse on a mission to raise awareness of a poorly understood lung condition which affects her middle child, eight-year-old daughter Isla.
“Isla has an interstitial lung disease called NEHI or Neuroendocrine Hyperplasia,” said Miller. “For the first three years of her life Isla was on oxygen full-time, then needed it only at night until age five. Now she can manage without, but Isla’s breathing will never be 100%.”
NEHI was first classified as a disease in 2005. While rare, it is one of the most common forms of interstitial lung disease affecting children, remaining poorly understood and in need of further research.
Julie hopes by working with and in support of the BC Lung Association to educate more people about the condition – including general physicians – in order they not overlook the possibility when presented with a child suffering from complicated breathing problems. 
“I understand it can difficult for family physicians to know everything. I just hope by putting Isla’s story out there I can broaden awareness,” said Miller, who following an earlier career fitting kids with orthotic devices, went back to school becoming a pediatric nurse and graduated two years ago. Today she provides home-based care to kids suffering from a range of conditions.
“I’m really excited about taking part in Trek,” said Miller. “I already love cycling – so the road time doesn’t intimidate me at all. Cycling is my ‘go to’ whenever I need a workout and to unwind. In fact, if anyone out there is interesting in joining me, I’m always game for training partners!”
Part fundraiser, part weekend getaway, Trek is a fully supported, 2 day, 200km ride from Fort Langley to Cultus Lake and back.
Different from other heavily advertised rides BC Lung Association Events Manager Marissa McFadyen said, “It’s not an event or fundraiser surrounded by the same fanfare as other large charity rides, but that’s why it’s so special. It’s more like an annual reunion of like-minded people who enjoy cycling and getting outdoors and want to do some good.”
“You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete! Anyone can manage the 200km with a bit of training through the spring and summer months. Most Trekkers go-at-their-own-pace, stopping to enjoy the rest stops and snacks and sharing laughs along the way,” she added.
“The event was initiated by a small group of riders and lung health enthusiasts 35 years ago, and remains sustained by a community with a shared purpose,” McFadyen continued. “And Trekkers aren’t shy about providing feedback. We decided to change up the start and finish line because of their input – and to expand our finish line BBQ menu adding more beverage choices just like they asked!”
This year 250+ Trekkers are anticipated - 150+ are veterans who show up to ride ear in and year out. To participate Trekkers pay a $25 registration fee and commit to fundraising a minimum of $650 in donations.  For more details, and too see photos of past rides, visit bicycletrek.ca, email [email protected] or call the BC Lung Association toll-free at 1. 800.665.5864.  
To make a donation in support of Julie’s efforts in support of her daughter Isla, visit bicycletrek.ca, click donate, and search her by name.
All proceeds fund vital lung health research, education and advocacy programs in support of the the 1 in 5 Canadians affected by lung disease.

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