olby Schofield had not missed a single day of school from the time she entered kindergarten until shortly after she saw her doctor during the 2012 Thanksgiving break.
“I had swollen glands,” said Schofield, 17, of Westford, a junior at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H. “We thought it was mono.”
It turned out to be cancer.
“Words can’t describe it,” said Schofield, who is in remission from Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which in children is spread through lymph nodes — after six months of chemotherapy at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “Everything happened really quickly.”
Her friends, family, and the Westford community rallied around her as she recovered. This weekend, a team of 25, named the Team Cycle for Colby’s Ride, will be riding in her name in the Pan-Mass Challenge, having already collected nearly $85,000 for the fight against cancer.
The annual fund-raising bike-a-thon, which has rides of varying length and difficulty ranging from Sturbridge to Provincetown (192 miles) to an all-Wellesley ride (47 miles), has raised $375 million since its founding in 1980. This year, the goal is to raise $38 million.
The Colby team was initiated by girls who have remained friends since elementary school, even as they went on to attend different high schools.
Amanda Brown, who now attends Concord (Mass.) Academy, and Tess Pellegrini, who attends the Brooks School in North Andover, have been friends with Colby since they were students at Nashoba Brooks School in Concord. Brown and Pellegrini both thought of the idea for the ride independently — “They decided to somehow make lemonade out of lemons,” said Colby’s mother, Tracy Schofield, and the movement grew.
After speaking about her illness in the St. Paul’s School chapel shortly after her diagnosis, Colby began selling wristbands for $10 apiece. By the end of June, she’d raised $5,076. Pellegrini, studying abroad, sold $4,618 worth of the bracelets, largely to her friends in Italy.
“What I tried to emphasize is how we were riding in her name, but we’re all affected by cancer,” Pellegrini said. “Everybody has a friend or family member or neighbor they’ve lost.”
Pellegrini is riding with her parents, Maureen and David, from Chelmsford, as is Brown and her mother Frances, from Concord. Isabelle Hoch, also from Concord, who now attends the Middlesex School in her town, will ride along with her father, Roland. Isabelle sold “study bags” (with treats for finals) at school and raised $600.
Isabelle Washkurak of Andover, who also attends Brooks, and her mother Allison will be on their bikes.
Colby, who learned she was in remission in June, will ride along with her dad, Thomas, and brother Deane, 21.
“Especially with [the girls] all being so close, they all rallied around her,” Maureen Pellegrini said. “There was no question we just had to do something.”
Dr. Thomas Schofield’s retired partner in a dental practice, Norbert Beck, made plans to fly up from Florida for the race. David Ryley of Brookline and Jeff McLaughlin of Topsfield, Schofield’s classmates at Colby College, also signed on.
“It grew very quickly,” Tracy Schofield said. “They all wanted to show their love and support for Colby and do the fund-raising.”
In Westford, Lisa and Craig Hyslip hosted a kickoff cocktail party and raised $8,000, while Roland Hoch and Sarah Garland-Hoch matched that amount with a party in Concord. Westford eighth-graders Amanda Carey and Alyna Baharozian held a bake sale and collected $400. Team Colby was the recipient of $1,000 raised by Nashoba Brooks School’s annual walkathon
While some young cancer patients decide it’s best to take a break from school while they go through treatment, with the help of her parents Schofield continued her studies, commuting back and forth from Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic in Boston for chemotherapy.
“I tried to keep up with work and pass things in when everybody else did,” said Schofield, who maintained her straight-A average. Always important, school also became a welcome distraction from the treatments.
Her short-term goal is to attend college beginning in 2014 to focus on two academic interests: the classics/linguistics and mathematics. For the long term, she’s still deciding.
“I know now that I definitely want to do something to help people, to give back, and to help Dana-Farber support cancer research,” she said.