It was devastating enough when Jennifer Lynch learned that her childhood friend had breast cancer, but it was still worse to learn that the case had already progressed to Stage 3. Ericka Onorato’s 5-centimeter tumor had spread to her lymph nodes.

“The second I heard that, it was a huge slap across the face,” said Lynch, a Danbury woman who was working in Colorado at the time.

Weeks after the March diagnosis, Lynch was back in Connecticut planning how she would help her friend beat the disease.

Lynch, an avid cyclist, decided to go on a 30-day bike ride across New England in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to raise money for Onorato’s expensive treatment and spread awareness about the disease.

She hopes to go on about 20 rides for a total of 2,100 miles, with a fundraising goal of $10 a mile. Half of the proceeds will go to pay for her friend’s medical bills and the other half will be donated to Ann’s Place, a Danbury-based nonprofit that supports cancer patients.

“It was just something that had to happen,” Lynch said. “When someone you love goes through something like this, you feel totally helpless, so you just try to come up with something you can do. And the two things I thought I could do was to raise money and tell her story.”

Onorato, 38, a New Milford resident, and Lynch, 37, have been friends since second grade. They graduated from Danbury High School in 1995.

Fortunately, Onorato has responded “amazingly well” to an intense three-step treatment. The New Milford resident and single mother of four has gone through chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy.

“Every horrible thing I suffered and went though was worth every bit of it,” she said.

After her surgery last month, Onorato is technically cancer-free. But the battle is not over. She needs more radiation and breast reconstruction.

Lynch said she hopes those who haven’t experienced the disease will understand how much cancer patients suffer and how much it affects their lives.

“She has four kids; she has a full-time job; she’s a woman losing her breasts,” she said. “All of this came out of nowhere and affected her life so drastically.”

Onorato, an administrative assistant, has taken few days off since her diagnosis.

In fact, she even worked during her chemotheraphy.

With the ride, which Lynch dubbed “Cycle My Heart Out,” she also hopes to show support for those who have been affected by cancer.

“There are so many people who have been touched by cancer,” she said. “Everywhere I’ve ridden so far, I’ve met people who have lost somebody to cancer.”

The fundraiser includes rides from Mystic to Boston, from Boston to Cape Cod, from Portsmouth, N.H., to Portland, Maine, among others. She also has bike loops scheduled for Bethel, Ridgefield and North Conway, N.H.

“I’m doing my best to hit as many corner of New England as I can,” Lynch said. “New England is our home. We’ve traveled all over New England our whole lives.”

Lynch posts updates about the ride on her blog,

Those interested in donating can visit, 203-731-3411. Twitter: @olivnelson