Riders at Roslyn gym take spin against cancer

A large spin class fundraiser was held in Roslyn on March 1, 2014, for Cycle for Survival -- a nonprofit affiliated with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that partners with Equinox fitness gyms. (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

Five rounds of chemotherapy couldn't keep Eleni Vavas from joining hundreds of people spinning in Roslyn Saturday to raise money for cancer research.

The 36-year-old physician sweated it out with her team, bouncing to techno music on 104 stationary bikes at the Cycle for Survival event.

Her 16-member team, "Eleni's Riders," had raised $69,178 before their ride at the Equinox gym.


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Cycle for Survival, a nonprofit affiliated with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center that partners with Equinox gyms, has raised more than $50 million to fund 85 clinical trials and studies for rare cancers since the event began eight years ago.

In 13 cities nationwide, teams have raised money and then hit the gym to spin for four hours, switching riders every hour. The Roslyn gym had morning and afternoon sessions to accommodate more than 800 participants.

Vavas, a doctor at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, had an endoscopy to look at her stomach in 2012 after nothing helped solve her indigestion.

"It came back as cancer, then my fight started," she said.

She took to heart the advice of the late Jennifer Goodman Linn, a cancer patient who started the organization with her husband, Dave. "When you face mortality, fear nothing, be fearless," she said. "I hope to live to 40 like she did," she said.

Her eyes watered when she talked about her hope that her 3-year-old son, Zachary, will live in a world where rare cancers can be cured.

"He's my inspiration, and he's just full of love and life, he gives me energy," she said.

Husband John Vavas, 35, who works in real estate finance, was ready to ride.

"I sit by and watch her fight, and I can't do anything," he said. "I can't take the chemo, I can't take the radiation for her. But I can do this, I can fundraise."

Kristen James, a trainer at Equinox from Lloyd Harbor who led some of the rides Saturday, started doing the event four years ago. Then in 2012, her father died seven months after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

"It becomes so much more meaningful when it touches your family," James said.

Art Fruauff, a radiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, said such fundraising gives research "a real shot in the arm."

"Let's raise a lot of money and burn some calories," he told the sweating, cheering crowd.

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