- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — One side of his back looks like it was hit by a cannonball. The other side looks like he was bitten by a shark.

That’s how Chris Millard describes the aftermath of 12 hours of radical surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. The Annapolis resident used to be so self-conscious about the scars that he would wear two shirts at a time to try to hide the damage. But he never tried to hide his past.

“It took some getting used to,” he said. “But I’m kind of proud of it [now]. It signifies the struggle I went through.”

Mr. Millard, 39, said his battle with cancer seven years ago is part of who he is — someone devoted to helping others with the disease.

He also has tried to raise awareness for cancer research and clinical trials (his treatment was part of one), and next month he will take his mission to the national stage.

Mr. Millard was chosen from about 1,100 applicants to be part of the 24-member Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope. The 3,300-mile cross-country bicycle ride begins in San Diego on Sept. 29 and concludes in the District Oct. 8.

This is the third year of the event, which is aimed at speeding the search for a cure for cancer and promoting clinical trials. Last year, Mr. Millard took part in a local cancer ride, but it wasn’t nearly as involved as the tour.

Tour members include 14 cancer survivors, as well as doctors, caregivers, researchers and nurses. The team will relay-ride in 100-mile segments round-the-clock, meaning each cyclist will cover 900 to 950 miles over nine days. Mr. Millard is one of two riders from Maryland; the other is a Montgomery County resident.

Project director Rebecca Womble said Mr. Millard was chosen by the selection committee because of his cycling ability and his cancer story.

“I think they were impressed with his passion to deliver his message about the cancer cause,” she said.

To prepare for the rigors of the road, Mr. Millard has been logging hundreds of miles on roads and trails countywide.

The tour grew out of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s work with Lance Armstrong, and the Tour de France winner will lead the team at the California kickoff and in Washington for the finale, as well as join in at various points on the route, Miss Womble said.

Mr. Millard, a fisheries biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources, is focused on training.

Mr. Millard, who lost about 10 pounds on an already fit frame since beginning training, isn’t sure what he will do once the tour is over, but he knows he will continue to work to raise awareness about cancer. “I don’t think I can top [this], but I want to continue it,” he said.

Mr. Millard was always athletic and used to mountain bike, but he never took to the road until after his bout with sarcoma.

Trying a new type of biking was his gift to himself after weathering radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.

Although he wasn’t diagnosed until December 1997, his cancer journey dates to the fall of 1996, when he felt a bump about the size of a quarter near his shoulder. He reasoned that he would give it a couple weeks, then have it checked out. Mr. Millard first thought it was a knot in his muscle, but it never went away. It just grew.

A year later, when it was a size of a softball, he went to get it looked at. With no family history of cancer, he said at worst he thought it would be a benign tumor. It was malignant, but Mr. Millard said he was always convinced he would beat the disease.

Part of the reason Mr. Millard waited so long to see a doctor was because he didn’t have health insurance until he switched jobs. Another part was denial. Beyond raising awareness, Mr. Millard’s message today involves telling people not to wait like he did to get checked.

Mr. Millard said he is a better person for what he went through.

“I think it changed my life for the positive, honestly,” he said. “It gives you appreciation for what you have. … I’m closer to my family and friends [now]. It slows you down a little.”

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