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Joyride – How Cancer Prepared Me for the Ride of My Life

Dan Rembold

“For those of us cancer survivors who ‘only live twice,’ life is that much more precious, and we are blessed with a special perspective that only we have.”

Dan Rembold
Acute Myeloid Leukemia AML

Editor’s note: September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) survivor Dan Rembold, from Dallas, shares his journey with cancer and the importance of a positive mindset.

At 37 years old, I couldn’t have imagined a more fulfilling life. My wife, Julie, and our five children were my world. I had an engaging career, and I loved staying in shape by eating healthy and challenging myself as a cyclist.

It was 2017, and everything turned on a dime when a simple illness turned out to be much more than that – a cancer diagnosis.

My cancer journey began when I visited the emergency room after battling the flu for nearly two weeks. After just a few hours in the ER, extensive tests showed that I had acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the bone marrow and blood.

I was immediately transferred to Vikas Bhushan, M.D., with Texas Oncology–Medical City Dallas Blood and Marrow Transplant. Dr. Bhushan and his team started me on intensive chemotherapy, followed by a stem cell transplant, in which I received stem cells from an anonymous donor. Between chemotherapy rounds, I prioritized getting out on the bike to decompress from the stresses of life as a cancer patient.

From diagnosis onward, I was determined to focus on doing the best I could under the given circumstances. Envisioning the support I was fortunate to have from my family, friends, church community, employer, and oncologist, I thought, “What if I could beat this and come out even healthier and stronger than before? What if I could raise funds to help research improved cancer treatments? What if I could inspire others fighting cancer to see that you can do more than just survive this disease, and actually thrive after beating it?”

One constant that helped me manage this positive mindset was cycling. Two years after my diagnosis – and two years free of AML – I happened to meet a group of Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) cyclists. The LLS Team in Training riders connected me with another cancer survivor, Marc Julien, who was preparing for the 2021 Race Across America (RAAM). RAAM is billed as “the world’s toughest bicycle race,” and Marc was looking for another cancer survivor team member.

Initially hesitant – could I really do this? – I chose to concentrate on the opportunity I was given and joined the team. I continued my slow and steady recovery, cycling and training along the way.

In June 2021, I arrived in Oceanside, Calif., with my fellow RAAM team members. It was a surreal moment. Four years ago, I was in a hospital bed, expected to die, and now I’m surrounded by positive energy and dreams of accomplishing something great.

Our seven-person RAAM relay team took turns cycling nonstop from California to Annapolis, Md. – winning third place with a time of six days, six hours, and 33 minutes to travel more than 3,000 miles. Four of our seven team members had recently fought severe cancer, and one was on chemotherapy during the race.

I truly felt stronger than ever. I was the first stem cell transplant survivor to finish RAAM and personally rode more than 400 miles during my relay segments. Our team also raised $325,000 for LLS and the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

This entire journey – from AML diagnosis to RAAM, and everything in between – showed me that life will bring many undesired challenges our way. But with a positive mindset, we have the opportunity to choose how we respond to adversity.

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.