Manitoba man with melanoma to run across Lake Winnipeg for cancer fundraiser

Chris Isfeld and Shawn Bjornsson at Gimli's famous viking statue.
Chris Isfeld and Shawn Bjornsson at Gimli's famous viking statue. Save Your Skin Foundation

A Manitoba man with melanoma is fundraising for cancer research by running across Lake Winnipeg.

Chris Isfeld, originally from Gimli and now living in British Columbia, told 680 CJOB he was diagnosed with the disease two years ago. Isfeld has endured a rough road, including partial paralysis of his legs, to get to where he is today – preparing to run 30 kilometres across Canada’s sixth-largest lake.

The event, which he’s calling A Viking’s Challenge, has the goal of raising $30,000 for the Save Your Skin Foundation and covers the distance from Grand Beach to Gimli.

“A friend of mine, Shawn Bjornsson from Winnipeg, posted a photo after he did a 5K run in -40, and for some reason, I just made a comment and said, ‘Hey, I’ll race you across the lake,’ just as a joke,” said Isfeld.

“But a week later, I thought about it, and thought, ‘You know what, this is an absolutely great idea’.

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“It gives me something to focus on, and obviously with my diagnosis, I had gotten to know the people at Save Your Skin Foundation very well, and decided that I should do it as a fundraiser and raise money for them.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg woman who encouraged Canadians to vote after cancer diagnosis dies

Running a 30-kilometre race – or running at all – didn’t seem like a possibility for Isfeld until very recently. He nearly died after he contracted an infection while undergoing cancer treatment, but thanks to lifesaving immunotherapy treatments, as well as therapy, intense training and dietary changes, he was eventually back on his feet and ready to run.

“I was a runner prior to (the diagnosis). I’d done a few half-marathons and a couple trail races,” he said.

“I was completely shocked by the situation I was in, but once I got the use of my legs back – and the treatment obviously had a major effect and reversed the situation I was in – I decided that I wanted to prove to myself I could do another half-marathon,” he said.

Coming back home to Gimli for a race against his friend, set for March 7, seemed like an even better idea.

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Although running 30 kilometres in early March in Manitoba seems like a daunting task for anyone, Isfeld said he’s prepared, snow or shine.

“You know what weather in Manitoba can be like, it’s completely unpredictable,” he said.  “It could be -5 and sunny or it could be -30 and blowing. We don’t know, so I’ve got a number of different pairs of shoes I’ve been trying out for different conditions.”

Raising funds for breast cancer with Skate Pink
Raising funds for breast cancer with Skate Pink

Whether Isfeld wins the race against his friend Bjornsson or not, even getting to this point has been remarkable, and he’s hoping for one more piece of good news after two hard years of hospitals and doctors.

“My last scan in November showed that I had only one tumour left, so I am on the road to becoming NED, which means no evidence of disease,” he said.

“When I was admitted to hospital, not many people expected me to survive, so it is quite a miracle. I believe so.”

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To support Isfeld’s fundraising campaign – which had raised almost $4,000 as of Tuesday afternoon – visit the Save Your Skin Foundation’s website.