Marty Epstein’s annual Gran Fondo NJ biking event in Morristown has raised some $1.5 million for charities.
Now it’s Marty turn to ask for help.
“Team Marty” is raising money to help Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center find cures for rare cancers. Diagnosed in 2014, Marty went public about his metastatic prostate cancer at last September’s Gran Fondo.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said Marty, 69, who has become an evangelist for regular checkups, prostate exams, colonoscopies, and the like. “People need to be vigilant about detection, no matter what their age.”
Video: Marty asks for a hand:
And if early detection spots a problem? Trust your instincts when choosing doctors. Get second opinions. And find a great hospital equipped to provide the best possible range of services, he advised, his hoarse voice cracking with emotion as he acknowledged the love showered on him through his ordeal.
So far, Team Marty has raised $30,000. Donors will take turns pedaling indoor bikes during Sloan Kettering’s Cycle for Survival, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, at the Equinox Gym in Summit, from 1 pm to 5 pm.
Although all the biking slots are filled, the public is invited to come cheer for the cyclists. And Team Marty gratefully continues to accept contributions.
All proceeds are earmarked for research into “drastically underfunded” cancers of the brain, pancreas, ovaries, stomach and pediatric cancers, among other rare forms of the disease, according to Sloan Kettering.
As the owner of Marty’s Reliable Cycle, Marty has been the public face of cycling in Greater Morristown for more than four decades. His untamed mane and unbridled exuberance for bicycling have won him near-cult status with generations of fans.
Since 2011, thousands from all over have discovered northern New Jersey’s bucolic countryside thanks to the Gran Fondo.
In addition to promoting the health advantages of cycling, the event has benefited The Seeing Eye Inc., Homeless Solutions Inc., Grow It Green Morristown and many other nonprofits, through direct grants from Marty and fundraising campaigns linked to the rides.
With encouragement from companion and fellow cancer survivor Diane Doherty; family members including his son, Jesse, 41, who now runs his bike shops in Morristown, Randolph and Hackettstown; doctors at Sloan Kettering; and legions of friends, Marty has maintained his zest for life through excruciating rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Since New Year’s Eve, when tumors were discovered on his spine, Marty has endured 10 radiation sessions. “It feels like the most severe sunburn you’ve ever had,” he said.
One might not guess that from Marty’s Facebook page, where he’s become a jaunty model of bathrobes.
It started with a gift from a recent hospital stay. Acquaintances have chimed in with their own whimsical fashions for him.
Marty is exploring an experimental therapy and working to regain his strength and 20 lost pounds. Though he needs a hand to climb into the saddle these days, Marty won’t have to look far for inspiration at the Feb. 2 event.
Team Marty cyclist John Hyland has battled back from acute leukemia.
After years of grueling treatments including a bone marrow transplant, Hyland rebounded in 2016 to lead the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade as Grand Marshal. Once again he is training for Iron Man triathlons.
But his immediate focus is Marty.
“He’s brave,” Hyland said on Friday. “He’s thoughtful. He’s not talking about himself right now. He’s talking about others, and the future, and paying it forward. It’s a thrill to do this.”
“It’s what our parents taught us,” said Marty. “That’s what we do.”
Video: Marty goes public about his fight against prostate cancer, 2018 Gran Fondo NJ: