I woke up at the usual time, 5:30 AM, on the morning of my last radiation treatment for prostate cancer.
It had been a long haul; from diagnosis of the most aggressive form of what is more typically a slow-growing cancer in October 2011, to surgery in November. Then started the 38 radiation treatments: five days a week for two months during the summer of 2012. I had asked my radiation oncologist, Dr. Stanley Liauw at the University Of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, if I would able to ride my bike to every treatment. It was a 44-mile round-trip from my home in Evanston, a northern suburb along Lake Michigan, to the Cancer Center in the Hyde Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South side.
“Well,” Stan said, “we’ll see how you feel about halfway through.”
He was right, of course. About halfway through – somewhere around treatment #17 or so – I began feeling quite ill. My intestinal tract was suffering side effects from the radiation, leaving me weakened, sick and vulnerable to sudden attacks of – well – never mind. It wasn’t pleasant.
The heat and humidity didn’t help. That was the third hottest summer in Chicago recorded history. Many days were above 90° F and four days surpassed 100° accompanied by stifling Chicago summer humidity.
My daily plan was to leave home early enough to give me time to cool off a bit before my 8:30 AM radiation appointment, then ride back north nine miles to my downtown Chicago office, put in a few hours of work, and ride the rest of the way home in the evening. In reality, some days I was simply too sick to go to the office, so I just rode straight home from the Cancer Center. On a number of mornings, a friend would join me for the ride down. I was grateful for the company. Most days I rode by myself.
On that morning of my last treatment, I put on my cycling gear, loaded up my computer and clean clothes into my trusty Osprey Talon 22, and went downstairs. I heard some noise on my front lawn. Fourteen friends, neighbors, and my lovely wife were assembled on the lawn with their bikes, waiting to accompany me to my last treatment. Needless to say, I was blown away.
As we rolled down Chicago’s spectacular lakefront bike path that early morning, another cyclist rode alongside of us and asked, “Is this some kind of organized ride?” My friend, Mitch, responded with great enthusiasm, “We’re going for cancer treatment!” We arrived at the Cancer Center about 7:30 AM and proceeded to have a little party on the lawn. Some folks had made brownies and cookies. At about 8:15 AM, we said our good-byes and I went inside for my last treatment. I had ridden 1,700 miles, to and from radiation treatments. I had also decided to raise some money for my doctor, Stanley Liauw. Friends and family chipped in $15,000 to aid in his three major research projects, looking for new and more effective ways to treat a variety of cancers.
I’m now two-and-a-half years out with no signs of cancer. I ride to work just about every day, regardless of the weather. And I just replaced my 12-year-old Talon 22 with a new one.
Pat Navin is more at home on two wheels than he is on his own two feet. When not riding his bike, he co-leads Inverse Marketing in Chicago, a B-to-B marketing firm that specializes in thinking backwards. (It’s not as complicated as it sounds.) He also is dreaming up new ways to support the important research of his radiation oncologist, Dr. Stanley Liauw. Pat’s commuter bike and his original Osprey pack have more than 50,000 miles on them. Those miles include a number of hard crashes and many grueling winter miles on Chicago’s slushy, salty streets. His original Talon 22 is being retired to his Wall of Fame.