MARYSVILLE — German native Randolph Westphal is riding throughout the Pacific Northwest, on a bicycle with two Husky dogs, to spread a message of hope about cancer, and on Monday, Sept. 30, he stopped in Marysville for a moment before heading up north to Arlington on the Centennial Trail.
Since he was first diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 1987, the 55-year-old Westphal has beaten the odds in ways that have gone beyond even his survival in the face of being given an initial prognosis of six months to live.
“When I was first diagnosed, I wondered why I had cancer, since I didn’t smoke or drink,” said Westphal, who found out shortly after the death of his grandmother. “I came to the conclusion that it was from negative stress, so I decided to just do what I like to counter that. I always tell people, I’m not sick, I just have cancer.”
Indeed, since his initial diagnosis, Westphal estimates he’s spent most of the intervening 36 years on the road, racking up approximately 211,000 kilometers in riding around the world, or slightly more than 131,000 miles.
At the same time, Westphal has undergone 28 cancer operations since his initial diagnosis, ranging from Stage II to Stage IV, leaving him with a 60-centimeter scar on the side of his torso that he likened in appearance to a shark bite. And yet, even with an artificial hip and knee, he still carries a load of close to 530 pounds as he pedals, including his gear and his dogs, Nanook and her son Chinook.
“It was from my accident in Argentina in 1996 that I lost my memory, my vision and my speech,” Westphal said of the near-fatal hit-and-run that severed his left leg and claimed the life of one of his earlier dogs, Shir Khan. “I’m on my third generation of dogs. I still have problems with my vision, and my speech gets slow when I get tired, but because I kept a diary that was regularly updated, I was able to read it and remind myself of my life. I have about 80 to 90 percent of my memories back now, but there are still people I don’t recognize.”
Even during his current sixth “world tour,” which started in Vancouver, B.C., on May 4, Westphal collapsed on the side of the road in Prince George, B.C., for two hours on Aug. 1, but he nonetheless insists that coping with cancer is a matter of attitude and healthy living.
“Nobody is a statistic,” said Westphal, who planned to make it to Sedro-Woolley in time to attend their area Rotary Club meeting on Thursday, Oct. 3. “Cancer is not a death sentence. So much of what’s wrong with our health is manmade, We pollute our air and water, and our food doesn’t have the vitamins it had 30 years ago. We’ve harmed Mother Nature, but we forget that we are also part of nature.”
Those who would like to help support Westphal on his journey can transfer funds to his account with the Bank of Montreal through the routing number 08020. For more information, log onto his web site at www.randolph-westphal.de.