A European cancer survivor with an upbeat message bicycled into Carson City on Tuesday, 26 years after he was given six months to live.
Randolph Westphal and his two dogs, Nanook and Chinook, toodled into town from Reno on an English Raleigh bike and a trailer he pulls with the dogs aboard. He came to spread inspirational talk.
“Never give up,” said the German, who did give up a career in computer work and accompanying stress after his cancer diagnosis in 1987. He took to the road doing what he loves.
“I’m in remission,” he said. “I accept cancer as a part of my body. I don’t sit in the corner and accept my death. There are people out there who are already dead and don’t know it. You have to enjoy life.”
Westphal, in his mid-50s and from a small town near Frankfurt, was in Oregon recently and came down through Northern California into Reno on Monday. He contacted news media about his latest North American trek only to find they were working on the Sparks school shooting tragedy and unavailable. So he came to Carson City on Tuesday and was offered lodging for the night at the Best Western Hotel and Casino on Carson Street.
When he came by the Nevada Appeal, he brought along his bike, his dogs and a scrapbook telling the tale in newspaper articles and other forms about his crusade to battle cancer fears through good nutrition, exercise and the right attitude. He said that in his quarter-century of cycling and spreading his message, he has covered 132,000 miles.
That’s the equivalent of five times circling the globe, he said, but he has confined his travels to Europe and North and South America because of his dogs, avoiding Africa, Asia and Australia.
Westphal, who said he makes his way and living via donations and lodging offered by people inspired via his message, kept to that upbeat attitude even as he discussed challenges his lifestyle presents. As an example, he grinned broadly while talking of “a lot of accidents,” including one that laid him in South America due to a bad leg that resulted.
Recalling his diagnosis at age 29, he said he faced a choice and made a decision about his course of action.
“I decided not to die,” he said, laughing in hindsight. “After six months, I wasn’t dead.” He said he cycled through Europe, taking on mountainous territory, “just to prove to myself: I’m not sick, I just have cancer.”
Back then and during intervening times, he had to have checkups every three months. But now — in remission and still pedaling — “I need only (once) a year.”
He said doctors have told him, “no doctor can heal; to heal, it’s everyone on his own It’s in the mind.”
Westphal isn’t quite a rolling stone, but he plans on rolling up to Lake Tahoe on Wednesday for what will be a repeat visit there for him. He said he was there in the 1990s. Will he return before heading in California to San Francisco, Yosemite, Santa Barbara and eventually back into Nevada to hit Las Vegas? Perhaps.
He is contemplating a ride back down to Carson City this weekend to join in the Nevada Day parade.