Hudson-area cyclist pumps legs against cancer

JEFF SAUNDERS
Reporter
Twinsburg Township resident Michael Polce, a member of the Hudson Velo bicycle club, has used his favorite recreational activity to help raise money for cancer research, a disease he himself has survived.

HUDSON — Riding his bicycle in the fight against cancer has been something Michael Polce has done for awhile now, but during the last few years it has become more personal.

Polce has taken part as a member of the Hudson Velo, a local club for cyclists, in VeloSano. It is an all-year fundraising effort, with a main riding event during a weekend in July, to benefit cancer research at the Cleveland Clinic.

But three years ago, Polce had his own brush with cancer and became something of a rarity when he found a lump and was diagnosed in 2017 with stage IIIA breast cancer. Polce said about one in 1,000 men develop breast cancer compared to around one in eight women. Men over 60 are primarily at risk among males.

“I had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic and they removed the breast and 18 lymph nodes,” he said. “Four of them had cancer in them.”

Polce, who “technically” lives in Twinsburg Township, but has a Hudson post office address, will turn 65 in August.

“I was a runner a long time ago when I was in high school and things and in my 20s and then I switched into cycling which a lot of people do because of injuries of running,” he said. “It’s a lot harder on your body. So I’ve been cycling for, like, over 30 years.”

He holds a doctoral degree in chemistry and worked for Lubrizol Corp. as an analytic chemist until he took early retirement about five years ago. He said the deaths of his father from a heart attack at 51 and his brother’s death at 53 were factors in that decision.

“I said I’m going to do the early retirement because they never saw a day of retirement,” he said.

Retirement gave him more time for his interests; reading, watching DVDs from the library — he watches very little television — and, of course, cycling.

“I used to just go for a ride after work or something like that and then a longer ride on weekends,” he said.

Once he retired, however, this began ratcheting up.

“I basically cycle like four hours every day,” he said.

He joined Hudson Velo, a social group of recreational cyclists, five years ago.

“It’s a group of people, a lot of them from Hudson, that get together to bike ride,” said Polce.

He also began taking part in VeloSano, which Hudson Velo president and founder Michael Coburn helped start. Prior to this year, it would be a big weekend event in July, a ride from Cleveland to Wooster, where cyclists would stay overnight, then a ride back to Cleveland. Polce said cyclists were obligated to raise $2,000 each.

“Hudson Velo’s always had a huge participation in that a ride,” he said.

But novel coronavirus changed all that. Polce said Hudson Velo has been largely inactive this year and VeloSano was a solo effort July 18 and 19.

“This year the whole thing was just go out and ride or do whatever you want on your own,” he said. “I rode like 102 miles on Saturday and only did 75 miles on Sunday because of that storm I got caught in.”

He said that because of the economy and unemployment, he was only able to raise $350.

“All of the fundraising is taking a hit because of the coronavirus,” he said.

Polce said that even cancer did not seriously waylay his riding. He did not undergo radiation or chemotherapy prior to surgery so was fit enough that during the three days before his surgery in September 2017 he was able to go on a 50-mile bike ride each day. He said this was important because of the hundreds of lymph nodes in the human body where white blood cells, as well as bacteria and viruses congregate.

“The only way to flush your immune system is to move,” he said. “When you move around, your muscles squeeze against your lymph nodes and that’s what helps flush the system. When you just lay in bed, that system doesn’t work as well. So I was in really good condition when I went in for the surgery.”

This paid off since just a week after his surgery, he was able to get back to biking.

“I rode to a coffee shop in Kent,” he said. “It ended up being farther than I thought. But it was September, a really warm day and nice and I just kept biking every day since.”

This year, he is working on what he calls a “crazy” objective.

“Right now for this year, 2020, my goal is to virtually circumnavigate the Earth,” he said.

This means, he said, riding a total of at least 24,901 miles, the distance around the planet at the equator, which requires him to average about 68 miles a day.

“I’m currently over 14,000 so I’m on pace for that,” he said on July 24. “The two worst months on the bike are usually January and February. Usually, November and December aren’t as bad.”

Polce said his riding often takes him across Portage County to rural Geauga County, which is bicycle friendly due to a smaller population, lighter traffic and motorists who tend to be used to driving around slower moving vehicles like tractors, Amish buggies and bicycles. He said he uses an app called Strava, which uses smart phones or GPS watches and head units to track and record the activities of cyclists and runners.

Polce credits riding his bike with keeping him healthy.

“Cycling is a stress release, believe me,” he said. “That’s mainly why I do it, for the health benefit.”

Go to http://www.hudsonvelo.org for more information about Hudson Velo and https://www.velosano.org/get-involved for more information about VeloSano.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.