Cyclist Rides to Fight Grim Cancer Prognosis

N.J. cyclist lost two wives to cancer and fights own grim diagnosis for cure.

ByABC News
September 15, 2009, 4:44 PM

Sept. 16, 2009— -- Ken Youner has a "beastly" disease, but that doesn't stop him from bicycling hundreds of miles to cure cancer.

"I call it insane," quips Youner, who is 62 and has stage 4 kidney cancer. "There is no stage 5."

When Youner, a New Jersey gastroenterologist and avid cyclist, was first diagnosed in 2003 at the age of 56, he already knew something about deadly cancers.

His wife of 15 years, Cecile Sertic Youner, fought breast cancer, as well as acute myelogenous leukemia, which killed her last year at the age of 57.

Their five-year common battle brought the couple closer in life and binds them now after her death.

"She was the love of my life," he told "Everything in my life stems from my wife."

Dealing with myriad scans, tests, trials, chemo and radiation treatments, the Youners promised each other "although we had cancer it would not have us."

This week, in her memory, Youner is taking part in Spokes of Hope, a bike tour that converges today in Washington, D.C., to bring awareness to the disease.

Sponsored by the organization Cyclists Combating Cancer, the tour has "spoked in" riders, many of them battling cancer, from as far away as California and Maine to meet in Maryland today.

They will stop by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health before arriving at the Capitol to urge, among other things, passage of the Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act.

The bill, backed by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, promotes better coordination of treatment and follow-up care between patients and doctors.

Youner will also raise funds for the Cecile and Ken Youner Fund for Cancer Research, a foundation he created after his wife died. "Our names are forever together," he said.

Cycling has been lifesaving for Youner, who logs 4,000 to 5,000 miles a year.

"If anyone could live with this cancer, it would be me, and I am willing to take the chance," said Youner, who takes the powerful anti-cancer drug Sutent.

To get ready for his first round of chemotherapy several years ago, he had cycled up a 10,000-foot peak in Hawaii.

Last Monday, as part of Spokes of Hope, Youner cycled from New Jersey to New York and back again, visiting young patients with the disease in cancer centers. In all, he rode 60 miles.