On April 21, 2014 I was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer. For me this was a devastating diagnosis as prior to this I had worked 34 years without ever taking a sick day, not even a mental health day. After coming to the realization that that this diagnosis was survivable I began to look forward as much as I could. I underwent chemo and radiation therapy daily for over a month. I then had a few weeks to recover from these treatments before surgery. In July 2014 I underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumor. The cancer was removed but due to its location I have a permanent colostomy I have affectionately named "Frank". After a few weeks of recovery from surgery I underwent eight infusion chemotherapy treatments over a 16 week period. These treatments were to kill any remaining cancer cells which may have been remaining. These were very powerful medicines which had many possible side effects. The main side effect for me was peripheral neuropathy or loss of feeling which affected my feet and fingers continues to persist. This side effect was somewhat unexpected as it normally only shows up after 10 or 12 treatments and I was only having 8 but in my case it happened after the first treatment.
Near the end of my chemotherapy I knew I had to take back my body as for the last several months it had undergone so much that it was beginning to feel like it belonged to someone else. I looked at several options of activities I might do. Walking was an option but with the lack of feeling in my feet my balance walking was not good. Bicycling was considered but I knew I would have to click my shoes into the pedals as I would not be able to feel the pedals to keep my feet on them but I also knew I would need to be able and unclick my shoes from the pedals and put my feet down anytime I was coming to a stop to prevent the bike from falling, I did not feel confident that I could do this reliably. I then discovered a different possibility, riding a recumbent trike. With it I could click my shoes into the pedals but also I would not need to unclick them when coming to a stop to prevent falling as the three wheels would allow me to remain upright. In December 2014 I purchased a Catrike Expedition recumbent trike and started riding. Right from the beginning I set a goal of being able to ride it across the country, just so I had something to aim for. The riding was slow and fairly short at the beginning but as my strength and endurance increased the length and speed of my rides increased. By spring I was feeling confident that I could ride my trike on some multi-day supported tours during the summer. I researched several and registered with four tours, one across South Dakota in early June, one across Michigan in late June, a loop tour in Michigan in mid-July and a loop tour in Minnesota in early August. With the completion of each of these tours I gained confidence that I could do more and that my goal of cycling across the country unsupported was an achievable possibility.
My next decision was to decide what route to follow across the country. Adventure Cycling has several different mapped cycling routes. Of their routes there are three going east/west across the country, Northern Tier, Southern Tier and TransAmerica. I decided on the TransAmerica route from Virginia to Oregon just over 4,200 miles for three reasons: 1. Timing, I wanted to start riding April 21 (second anniversary of my diagnose). That date would be too early for the Northern Tier and too late for the Southern Tier to have weather that was not too hot or too cold. 2. I wanted a route which was through Missouri. I have some medical requirements which are more easily conducted from home thus getting back to Missouri partially through the route would be desirable. Only the TransAmerica route is through Missouri. 3. A long standing route would be desirable. The TransAmerica route dates back to 1976, thus has longevity
I want to ride across the country for three reason. 1. Provide hope to other cancer survivors and people with an ostomy. Hope in that cancer is survivable in many cases and that there can be productive and enriching life following treatment even with lasting side effect. Hope for others with an ostomy they they too can do the extraordinary with proper planning and preparation. 2. To promote good health practices especially timely screenings including colonoscopies. Rectal/colon cancer is largely preventable if proper screening is done, I did not. It is much better to have issues caught early rather than to go through the treatments I underwent. 3. I had traveled around the country mainly for work, having visited 49 states (sorry Hawaii not yet). I wanted to travel at a slower pace to rediscover America. For these reasons I ride and have titled my ride:
Ride for Hope, Health and Rediscovery