November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. You can get involved by joining the Ride Hard Breath Easy challenge.

While coping with his mother’s devastating diagnosis of lung cancer, John Matthews, global vice president at SAP, became familiar with the discouraging statistics that surround the disease. With more than 234,000 new cases in the U.S. each year, lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease affects both smokers and non-smokers, including a shocking number of otherwise healthy, young people.

Find out more in this video

Many of the afflicted bear the double burdens of the disease plus the societal stigma that is attached to it. “I met a woman who was diagnosed with lung cancer, who said, ‘I have breast cancer,’” Matthews said in a recent interview. “People feel ashamed because it is projected as a smoker’s disease, as something people have done to themselves. Like my mom, 80 percent of the people either have not smoked in decades or have never smoked.”

Ride Hard Breathe Easy

Statistics for survival of lung cancer depend largely on the stage at which the disease is diagnosed, which is why generating greater awareness and decoupling the stigma from the disease are so important. This realization led Matthews to begin Ride Hard Breathe Easychasing down a cure for lung cancer, one mile at a time. At the heart of this purpose-driven project is the mission to “End the stigma and suffering for lung cancer patients and caregivers, in memory of Kathleen Matthews.”

For the project, Matthews cycled from SAP in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, to the Golden Gate Bridge in California. The journey took him 52 days to complete. Along the way, he raised $93,000 and gathered the support of numerous people and businesses to see the project through to its successful completion.

On a recent episode of the internet talk radio program Game-Changers with Purpose, Presented by SAP, hosted by SAP’s Bonnie D. Graham, Matthews discussed what he learned about organizing a purpose-driven project that largely depends upon the goodwill and charitable contributions of others.

“We first came up with a basic strategy. Fortunately, at SAP we have a framework where we do work already with cancer,” explained Matthews. “I simply contacted the right people who run corporate social responsibility globally and asked them two questions: Do you care about what I am doing? Do you want to be part of it? Ultimately, we built a team of people who understood what we were trying to do, who were passionate about it, and it transferred.”

Joining Matthews on Game-Changers with Purpose were Fred Yentz, president of Strategic Partnerships, Telit, an Internet of Things (IoT) enablement firm that contributed its technology to support the cross-country bicycle ride; and Ashley Tully, director of Global Marketing at SAP, who helped Matthews gather support within SAP.

Listen to a recording of the hour-long program here: IoT for Good: Cycling Purpose Around the World.

Join Ride Hard Breathe Easy in November 2018

Matthews is riding again this year and invites people from around the world to join him in November for Lung Cancer Awareness Month. More than 540 people representing more than 20 countries have already registered on Strava for the event. Find out more in the video below:

Follow Ride Hard Breathe Easy on Twitter at @Ride4Lungs.