With the bandana of former Tour de Rock rider Mike Lawless on her handlebars, and a tattoo dedicated to him on her arm, Saanich Police Const. Janis Carmena is not alone on this year’s Cops for Cancer ride.
Carmena is one of two Saanich Police riders, along with reserve Const. Joanne Bickford, who are closing in on the 1,000-kilometre journey from Port Alice to Victoria, which runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7.
For Carmena, the connection with cancer cuts close.
She lost her mom, who was only 49 at the time, to ovarian cancer 20 years ago. Then in 2015 she lost her brother-in-law Mike Lawless, a mountain of a man, and a Saanich Police officer who had dedicated the last 10 years of his life to the Tour de Rock.
Lawless rode the Tour de Rock in 2004 and volunteered on the support crew every year until he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013. He was married to Carmena’s sister Krista, who continue to raise their families next door to each other in a Central Saanich duplex. On the inside of Carmena’s right arm is a tattoo of a blue butterfly, the symbol of ovarian cancer, flying over a grey and white ribbon to symbolize Lawless’ brain cancer (grey) and lung cancer (white).
“Mike got me into policing, and it’s him and my mom that I started riding for,” Carmena said. “I look at the tattoo while I’m biking, it keeps me going.”
Anything helps for Carmena, who is new to cycling. Before she joined the team in March she’d never been on a road bike, let alone used clip-less pedals. Hence, there’s been a couple of “good crashes,” she said.
“I had to get a CT scan after I cracked my helmet, with road rash on the face, on Ross-Durrance Road,” Carmena said. “The road was fast with curves, and I couldn’t see what was up ahead, and I came to a fallen rider and had to lay my bike down or go [crashing] over them.”
That Carmena laid her bike down for a teammate is what you’d expect from a police officer. And yet Carmena says it’s been a new experience being on a team, in a new atmosphere.
“It’s amazing learning how to bike together, getting the support of the community and each other, and riding through towns [where] people are honking and cheering when you come through. You feed off that energy, it keeps you going.”
On Sept. 17, Carmena and friends are holding the Tank Top Flip Flop Hop fundraiser under Mike Lawless’ name. There will be live and silent auctions, including one special item, the extra-large bike that accommodated Lawless’ six-foot-five frame.
“There was a time when Mike kept the team going, he is such a motivational factor,” Carmena said. “Then to have communities asking, where’s Mike, and explaining to them that he’s passed away from cancer is [sadly] ironic.”
Carmena also has a junior rider, five-year-old Kyra, who is battling cancer.
The Tank Top Flip Flop Hop is Sept. 17 at the Ashton Armoury on 724 Vanalman Ave., starting at 7 p.m. There will be music by Music Masters and comedy by James Ball. Tickets are $20 and available at tourderock.ca/janiscarmena or by emailing Carmena at firstname.lastname@example.org.