Pedal power for cancer prevention

From Carcassonne in the south of France, over the Pyrenees and down to Barcelona, keen cyclist and philanthropist Marlan D. Hines completed a gruelling 270-mile sponsored bike ride to honour friends who have survived or battled cancer

Marlan D. Hines presents a cheque to World Cancer Research Fund

"My real motivation comes from wanting to do something good in memory of those who have died from cancer, but also to honour those still living."

This is Marlan’s third cycling challenge for World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), and brings the total he has raised to a staggering $9,000 (£6,800). This money will help boost public awareness about the disease, and fund critical global research into the link between healthy lifestyles and cancer prevention.

Texas-born, Californian-raised Marlan, who has been combining his love of cycling, travel and fundraising for charitable causes over the past eight years, explains why he chose WCRF this time: "There are so many people out there dealing with cancer. I have lost many friends and loved ones to the disease, which is why I'm so passionate about partnering with a world-wide organisation like WCRF which actively helps people avoid being diagnosed in the first place.

"My real motivation comes from wanting to do something good in memory of those who have died from cancer, but also to honour those still living."

A treasured necklace

Marlan always rides with lucky keepsakes linked to friends who have survived or battled cancer.

"It helps keep me strong and focused," he says. "This necklace is from my friend Shawn who has beaten breast cancer twice. I wear this for her, and I also have a piece in my pocket in memory of my good friend who passed away."

Marlan recently lost a close friend, Lawrence, to leukaemia. He was just 44 years old when he passed away. He also lost a young cousin, Kathy, to ovarian cancer when she was aged just 29, and his beloved aunt Patricia died of breast cancer. Two of his grandparents passed away due to lung and bone cancer, and his paternal grandfather died of advanced pancreatic cancer within the space of one month.

"Aside from the ovarian cancer, all of the other cancers could have been prevented, which was devastating to realise," he says.

Marlan D. Hines with members of the WCRF fundraising team

A former real estate marketing executive in Los Angeles, Marlan used to photograph multimillion dollar properties for a living, before founding his wellness-based charity, Motivate & Develop Humanities Design, Inc., in early 2019 to educate people about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

"I made a lot of money in my old job but I was empty on the inside, so I said, 'Let’s switch this up', and I did. Because of my experiences, I knew that I had to do something positive to help people who have been affected by cancer, and also help to prevent it. The pay is almost nothing, but I love my work these days.

Borrowing a ride

"I am particularly trying to target people of my age, partly because of what happened to a dear friend of mine, Danene, whose mother died from breast cancer a few years ago. Somewhere around the middle stage of the disease she chose to go down the homeopathic-only route instead of receiving the recommended medical treatment, and by the time she figured it out it wasn’t going to work it was too late. I saw what her mother's choice did to the people that she left behind, and that was never her intention."

Never one to stick to convention, Marlan says his most unforgettable bike ride so far was his first charity fundraiser in the US, when he cycled an incredible 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles – on someone else’s bike.

"I had borrowed someone's bike and it was way too small, so at the end of the ride I was in a bad, bad shape," he laughs.

"I ended up crossing the finish line on my birthday so it really was an eventful moment because it was the furthest that I had ever cycled anywhere, and my first time actually fundraising for a charity. I knew at the end of that ride that this was something that I wanted to continue.

"The second most memorable bike ride would have to be the latest WCRF one because it was really difficult in the mountains. I was in a cycling accident prior to the ride and didn't think that I was going to be able to do it at one point. There were a lot of tears," he says.

California dreaming

Marlan's adventures in the saddle seem set to continue. His friends and family have been making generous donations since he began cycling for charity, and he now plans to raise even more by targeting businesses in California where his fledgling NGO is based.

"The same group have been consistently donating over the last five years. This year I want to give them a break and instead target corporations in California," he says.

Meanwhile, between fundraising and managing his new charity, Marlan is planning his next big cycle challenge – once his recent biking injury has fully healed!

"I'll probably give it a rest for a bit – I do need to heal from the accident. But in the States, they're halfway through constructing a cycle route from the west coast to the east coast. I am definitely looking forward to that!"