Long Ride: Cycling 4,000 miles with stage 4 cancer

An upcoming novel by Steven R. Malikowski, PhD

In 2017, my cancer quickly moved from being annoying to being aggressive. It was also stage 4, so after several weeks in an emotional mess, I decided to cycle across the US while I still could. A lot happened on that ride.

I’m nearly finished with a book that describes what happened, starting at the moment I learned my cancer reached stage 4. Here are the first few lines.

“You have every reason to think that you’ll live longer than average.” Dr. Carrington told me while I sat in an exam room.
“What’s average?” I asked.
She paused and softly said, “Three years.”
My partner, Sara, took my hand, while sitting next to me. I looked away and leaned back in my chair. I was 51 years old, had run marathons, and loved cycling for 1000s of miles. The idea that I’d die in three years wasn’t unexpected. It was unimaginable.

In life and in my storytelling, I’m very open with sad moments, but I also share the funny stuff that shows up. So after those sad opening lines, Chapter 1 moves into some amusing bits, all based on real events. Like many guys with prostate cancer, my testosterone was shut off soon after my diagnosis. There are some surprising side effects to having no testosterone. One is that a guy without testosterone is like a woman without estrogen. I quickly entered menopause.

Since my sisters already had gone though that, I sent them a text soon after my testosterone went away. My text asked, “Would you mind giving your little brother tips on menopause, especially those damn hot flashes?” Another side effect of having no testosterone is predictable, since I love cycling. If 10 supermodels were standing around a bike, I’d ask them to get out of the way, so I could see the bike.

Of course, the book also has some cycling, about 4,000 miles of it. My ride started in Virginia and finished in Oregon, following the Trans America Bike Route. I had many moments cycling solo in the widest landscapes America has to offer. That gave me plenty of time to think, cry, and find more ways to try, to make the best of a short life. I also laughed—hard. I cycled with a group of 10 people, and each of them made me laugh, smile, and often, inspired me with their own stories.

While writing this book, I bring you along for the ride, so you can feel what happens to your muscles while cycling up a mountain, what happens with the gust of wind while coasting down one, and all the emotions that come out, happy, sad, even romantic.

I should finish this book in 2024. If you’d like to learn when the book is available, you could subscribe to this blog, since I’ll give updates here. Subscribing takes two steps: 1) Return to the main page at https://cyclewriter.com and 2) Complete the subscription box in the upper-right. I’ll also mention when the book’s available on Instagram. My ID there is cylce_writer.

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