Cyclist Rides to Fight Grim Cancer Prognosis

The regimen was grueling -- infusions three times a day for seven days, with a break and then a repeat over three months. "You're sick as a dog," he said, with spiking fever, diarrhea and fatigue so great "you can't get out of bed."

By 2006, his doctors had five new Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs in their arsenal. He continues now to take Sutent, which caused something called hand-foot syndrome, making his extremities red and sore.

"I couldn't walk, ride my bike or ski, which I love. I might as well be dead," said Youner.

Other cyclists on the ride have survived their own trials.

"We make up people who lost family members and those currently in the battle," said Cindi Hart, director of Cyclists Combating Cancer. "We have two things in common: We love to ride and we hate cancer."

A former nurse, she discovered her husband's own melanoma, catching it early before it spread. "I am a survivor," said her husband, Ken Hart, 51. "I have had the easiest of anyone here."

Today at 45, she is on hormone suppression drugs but is determined to ride.

Hart, who is from Indianapolis, was a 25-year nationally ranked bike racer and speed skater. In 2004, at the age of 40, she found lumps in her breast and underwent a double mastectomy.

"The doctor told me my life would change forever," she said. "You have to decide who you really are and what you are willing to give up and fight for. I am an athlete, and you can't take that away from me."

Two days after her second infusion, she won a state championship -- and 18 days after her last infusion, she won a national one. Her cancer recurred last year, and now she is committed to finding a cure for the disease.

Today Hart is a Special Olympics coach and draws from their motto: "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

The group also draws inspiration from cyclist Lance Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer and went on to win the Tour de France seven times, a world record.

His foundation proclaims, "Unity is strength, knowledge is power and attitude is everything."

Dave Mitchell, 68 and a retired automotive engineer from Pittsburgh, has for the last 15 years been treated with cryosurgery, radiation and hormones for metastic prostate cancer. His wife is a breast cancer survivor.

"I am an avid cyclist and this has made a huge difference in my life," he told ABCNews.com. "Give me this global network of people I can share my cancer concerns with."

He joined the Spokes of Hope last weekend and will have chemotherapy Friday. "Like Lou Gehrig, I consider myself the luckiest man in the world," Mitchell said. "I have lived an absolutely wonderful life. Doing this helps me reach out and touch people."

Along the way, the group has encouraged cancer patients and even enticed survivors to join them on the ride.

"It used to be cancer was a stigma disease and a death sentence," said Mitchell. "But Lance Armstrong did so much to change that. He not only talked about it, he flaunted it."

Today, Ken Youner flaunts his own fight for the betterment of others, though he says his prognosis is difficult.

He serves as medical director of the New York-based Action to Cure Kidney Cancer, which raises awareness about the disease and seeks public and private funding to find a cure. The grass roots organization has given away $110,000 in grants.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Ebola patients Nina Pham, left, Dr. Craig Spencer, center, and Amber Vinson are seen in undated file photos.
Courtesy Pham Family | LinkedIn | Obtained by ABC
PHOTO: Television personalities Mama June and Honey Boo Boo are seen in this, June 11, 2014, file photo.
Douglas Gorenstein/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
PHOTO: Overall winner for the Wildlife Photography of the Year 2014, The last great picture by Michael Nick Nichols.
Michael Nick Nichols/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014