In a way, you could say that riding a bike has saved my life twice.
If I hadn’t fallen off of one in 2014, I might never have learned that I had cancer. And if I hadn’t started the Arizona Trail 300 two years later, I might never have discovered riding’s ability to take my mind off the disease.
My story begins
I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 36. I’d been cruising around my Corpus Christi neighborhood when I fell and broke my hip. An MRI showed a tumor was displacing the bone there. That’s what had weakened the hip and caused it to fracture.
A local radiologist said the tumor could be one of three types of cancer. So I came to MD Anderson to figure out which one. Originally, I was sent to the osteosarcoma department, but after testing, it was determined that I had lymphoma. My treatment was six rounds of an intravenous chemotherapy combination called EPOCH-R, which consists of Etoposide, Prednisone, Vincristine, Cyclophosphamide, Doxorubicin and Rituximab. I started it on Sept. 18, 2014, and rang the bell to mark its end on Jan. 5, 2015.
Finding my bliss
Today, I’m a happily married man with three young children. I’ve got a lot to live for. But even though I am now in remission, not a single day goes by that I don’t think about having cancer. There is one thing that pushes away the thought: riding a bike. When you are trying to find the right path down the side of a mountain, you have to focus. And when the mind has nowhere to wander, the thought of cancer disappears.
I took on the Arizona Trail 300 in April of this year to forget about cancer for a while and to test my limits. I also did it in honor of my friend James Ragan, who died of osteosarcoma in 2014.
In a lot of ways, endurance bike rides and chemotherapy are similar. When you race, you can sit and study maps, but you never really understand what you will go through until you are out there in the rough. With chemotherapy, you can read about how things may affect you, but you never know what it’s actually like until you are hooked up and it’s running through your body.
Expect the unexpected
If cancer has taught me anything, it’s that the future will not always be what you expect it to. And so it was with the Arizona Trail 300. I really, REALLY wanted to finish, but I only made it 112 miles before my body gave out.
Still, it was a heck of an adventure, and I would not have even been out on the trail if it weren’t for MD Anderson.
I know now that you can’t live your life for the mile marker. You have to savor the journey of getting to each one. My experiences both in the clinic and on the trail were amazing, but it would have been nothing without my family to comfort me and my friends to cheer me on. We did this together. I did this with their help. And so can you.