Celebrating Graduation and aising awareness of cystic fibrosis from coast to coast

UAlberta engineering graduate Stephane Magnan and his girlfriend Stepahnie Benoit are cycling across Canada to promote awareness of cystic fibrosis. Find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by searching Stephs4CF.
UAlberta engineering graduate Stephane Magnan and his girlfriend Stepahnie Benoit are cycling across Canada to promote awareness of cystic fibrosis. Find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by searching Stephs4CF.

(Edmonton) Some students dive straight into the workforce after graduation, some travel to exotic locales to decompress. But Stephane Magnan, who is graduating this spring with a degree in mechanical engineering (biomedical), is cycling across Canada to raise funds and awareness for cystic fibrosis.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at him but Magnan has CF, an incurable congenital disease of the respiratory and digestive systems and is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting children and young adults in Canada.

Magnan and his girlfriend Stephanie Benoit began their two-wheeled odyssey May 30 in Victoria, B.C. May 30, aiming to dip their toes in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia by early August.

You can follow their adventures and offer support. Visit their Cystic Fibrosis Canada fundraising page, and search for Stephs4CF on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The seed of the trip was planted inadvertently by Benoit’s father, who has dreamed of cycling across the county; the couple’s plan was nourished in a long-running series of jokes in which they kidded each other about the seemingly improbably possibility of cycling together from coast to coast.

“A few months later, we decided we could do it this summer,” says Magnan. “We bought our bicycles at Christmas, so at that point there was no turning back.”

Only recently did they decide to use the trip to raise awareness of and funds for CF.

CF affects people in different ways and to different degrees. Magnan classifies his condition as “average.” CF patients use medications and physical therapies to remove sticky mucous that forms in their lungs, making them susceptible to infections.

As is the case with all of us, stress levels affect our well-being. As a student in a demanding engineering program, Magnan had to work hard to maintain his health—and for the most part he was highly successful at managing his condition and scoring solid grades.

“The only time I was really sick was in my third year, and it was right during midterm exams,” he recalls.

“I definitely had to go out of my way to take care of my health. People say that when you go to university you can pick two out of three things: good grades, sleep, and a social life. But in my case I had to pick from good grades, sleep, a social life, and good health,” he said, adding that he’s “still winning.”

He also found time as a student to get involved in some extra-curricular activities—particularly in student orientation.  After completing his first year of engineering studies in French through the Faculty of Engineering and Campus Saint-Jean, the U of A’s French-language faculty, Magnan felt there was something of a gap in orientation for new students.

He made some suggestions for improving the orientation for “Frengineers”—the engineering students who complete their first year in French. It took a couple of years, but Magnon was pleased when organizers of the annual student orientation added an extra dimension for the students.

As a student in the engineering co-op program, and taking the biomedical engineering option, he completed work terms as a senior instructor with DiscoverE, the faculty’s outreach program, with Haliburton working on directional drilling engineering, and in the Bionic Limbs for Improved Natural Control (BLINC) Lab, participating in biomedical engineering projects.

While Benoit is returning to the University of Ottawa in August to resume her medical studies, Magnan is working on entering and engineering graduate degree at that university.

But until then, the two will be logging roughly 100 km a day on their bicycles. Packing the four panniers each of the riders carries, Magnan says, is “like a game of Tetris,” with the added challenge of balancing weight on the bikes.

The two plan to keep followers updated on social media.

“We’ll be sharing a mixture of information about what CF is as well as videos, pictures, and stories—both the good ones and the bad ones—from our trip,” he said. “It’s going to really encompass the journey not just the bike journey, but the journey with CF.”

University of Alberta