New Canaan native keeps pushing himself to honor late cousin
The wounds appear to still be fresh. It's barely been two years since she died, and her cousin is doing the best he can to move on, yet still keep her memory alive.
Daniel Pike, 36, is a New Canaan native and the former cousin of Dorcas Ann Casey, who also grew up in town. At the age of 35, after fighting the disease for many years, Casey died of synovial sarcoma on July 4, 2008. The cancer is a rare kind -- it attacks the soft tissue area around the joints in one's arms and legs.
When she was dying Casey she told others she considered her cancer to be the quota that needed to be filled within her family. Selfless until the end, her friends said, and so Pike is trying to extend that philosophy in the wake of her passing.
To date, Pike has competed in four Ironman-related events. He's done a couple of hundred-mile bike rides/races in New York City (he lives in Manhattan), and he utilizes Central Park to train.
"I think the hardest part is finding the time to do it," he said. "It takes 20 hours per week to train effectively to prepare (for an Ironman), and at least six months up to it."
Pike is raising money for the cancer research foundation fund that was started by Casey's mother in Casey's honor.
Pike's goal: $25,000.
His current total: $9,850.
"The whole reason for doing this is I really want to honor my cousin and fulfill doing this since I couldn't while she was alive," Pike said.
For the past year, Pike has put himself through grueling training sessions that have all led up to what he's going to do this weekend -- the Ironman at Lake Placid, N.Y.
Considered by many to be the ultimate athletic test of human endurance (and being the fastest-growing sport in North America), the Ironman consists of swimming, biking and running -- at maximum distances. Pike, who has dropped 26 pounds since he began training last summer, will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run a full marathon, 26.2 miles, before he finishes.
Each year there are 24 Ironman races around the world and six within the United States. The Lake Placid terrain is considered to be upper echelon stuff in relation to all Ironmans that are held. His secondary goal is to finish in under 12 hours; his primary goal is to spread the word as far wide as possible and continue to honor his cousin's legacy.
"Her big thing was to beat her cancer," Pike said. "When that wasn't possible, she just wanted to raise money and awareness so other people wouldn't suffer through what she experienced."
Before -- and even during -- cancer, Casey injected life into everyone around her, and she certainly appeared to get the most out of her own.
She traveled the globe helping people, going from being a camp counselor at Aloha Camp in Fairlee, Vt., to volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in Indiana and Oregon during summers between years of college.
After Casey graduated from Penn, she directed a project for Habitat in the Philippines.
You understand why hundreds showed up at her funeral -- from all around the world -- and why Pike is doing what he's doing when you come to know that, from 1996 until 1999, Casey taught English at a small village in the Japanese Alps, where she became fluent in Japanese. That led to her being an interpreter for visitors to the Olympics in Nagano in 1998.
In the midst of her battle with cancer, she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
She arrived for chemotherapy treatments on Halloween dolled-up in a Raggedy Ann costume.
A friend named Patrick Holland said of her, "In a lifetime you meet thousands of people, you remember a few hundred, you make a few dozen friends, but you are only changed by a handful, and no one changed more people than Dorcas."
An hour before she died she told Holland about her plans to continue to fight the disease. She left behind the love of her life, Brian, and a slew of people ready to contribute to cancer research in her immediate memory. Her mother started the fund in July of 2008, and to this day it's still under the direction and supervision of Dr. Mary Louise Keohan, a medical oncologist in the Melanoma and Sarcoma Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
"When she died two years ago, I never even thought about doing a marathon," Pike said. "Serendipitously, a group of friends last Labor Day said, instead of going to the beach, let's do a short triathlon in Austin, Texas."
So he trained with his cluster of friends and they all ended up really loving it. Then, the fuse was lit: Casey was an extremely active person, and with the research fund already in her name, Pike wanted to test his physical limits and continue to raise money for cancer research. This was not a one-time thing. Despite him being the only one participating in the Ironman at Lake Placid, everyone who joined Pike in Austin last year is making the trip down again for another test of endurance on Sept. 6.
Nothing compares to what he'll face at Lake Placid, though, and the 36-year-old is sure to get some flashbacks of grueling practices while a part of a Division I athletics in the '90s.
"I would've been Rudy's backup, though," he said of his skills in sports at that age.
Despite the fact Pike runs an investment firm, one he started -- Pike Capital partners -- the heart of this effort all traces back to New Canaan, where Pike and Casey grew up together. Those two and their siblings shared many of those treasured moments that tend to fade away as people get older. But despite moving away from each other once adolescence hit, those powerful memories of their youth kept them close throughout their teens and twenties.
Pike's car still sits in his parent's driveway -- he has no use for it while living in New York City -- and the memories of his cousin and what he's doing now remind him of his hometown as much as anything he's ever done. Pike's parents, William and Catherine, have remained involved and supportive of Casey's cause ever since.
"I love New Canaan. It's my home and I hopefully plan to return there," he said. "My plan is definitely 100 percent to return to New Canaan."
Doing this for Casey is something he was made to do.
"Growing up in the '80s in New Canaan, it was such a sports-minded and civic-minded place," Pike said. "You grew up with those values. ... Everywhere you look there's someone doing something raising money."
And now he's doing his part, pushing personal goals and limits to honor his cousin, who always felt like a sister.
To give online to Pike's efforts, you can go to: http://mskcc.convio.net/site/TR?px=1771450&fr_id=1370&pg=personal