After a Blood Cancer Diagnosis, This Cyclist Created a Team to Raise Money for Research

·8 min read
Photo credit: Courtesy John Reumann
Photo credit: Courtesy John Reumann


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Name: John Reumann
Age: 62
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Occupation: Vice President, Marketing
Time Cycling: 30+ years
Reason for Cycling: I started cycling on the recommendation of my doctor. I was experiencing intense knee pain due to osteoarthritis that would eventually require knee replacement surgery. I was told I could relieve the knee pain and delay the surgery by riding a bike. So, I bought my first cheap bike in 1990, started riding and became addicted.

Once I started riding in 1990, it immediately became a vital part of my life. I loved the freedom of getting outside, working hard, being in shape, and the perspective you get seeing new and different places on a bike. I got to experience the joy of riding—like when I got my first bike as a kid. Within a few years I was riding in multiple events every year, most of them with a charitable component.

It didn’t take me long to really get into the sport. I started finding new places to ride and enjoyed riding farther and faster. I was just riding as often as I could. Soon, I was training for my first organized event in Austin, Texas, followed by my first century. I moved to Denver in 1995 and loved discovering all the amazing and challenging places to ride in Colorado. To date, I’ve done more than 150 centuries and still enjoy riding in events with a group of people who share the same love of cycling.

After 20 years of being told I would need knee replacements and exhausting every other medical option, I finally scheduled the surgery for both knees in 2013. However, I was in for more than I bargained for. During the pre-op exam, my medical team discovered my white blood cell count was extremely high (an average man has a WBC of four to 10, mine was 133 that day) and my spleen was also enlarged.

After a few days of testing I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which is a type of blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow. It is also a blood cancer characterized by the development of too many white blood cells called lymphocytes. Nothing can prepare you for the “you have cancer” discussion with an oncologist.

The oncologist told me I would likely need treatment within a year or two depending on my symptoms. That was nine years ago, and I still haven’t been treated. However, my WBC is still 1,000% higher than normal, but I am stable. CLL is chronic, so there is no cure. Early treatment hasn’t been shown to help people live longer. Because of this, and because treatment can cause unpleasant side effects, doctors often advise waiting until the disease is progressing or bothersome symptoms appear, before starting treatment.

I do experience some fatigue, but I carry on. A few months after the diagnosis when I was in for my monthly lab tests to check WBC levels, I told the doctor that I felt like I was having some challenges biking up big climbs, and I asked if that was typical with this diagnosis. He told me his typical patient with WBC as high as mine can’t even ride their bike around the block!

Out of the 1.5 million people in the United States who are living with or in remission from blood cancers, I am one of the lucky ones. I credit much of that to the bike. There is no question staying in riding shape has had a positive impact on my symptoms and delayed my need for treatment—for now, riding my bike is my leukemia treatment plan.

If treatment becomes necessary, there are several different drugs used including chemotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapies, or other targeted therapies. One of the reasons I continue to raise donations for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) is because of their history of developing blood cancer therapies.

Over the past 10 years, LLS has invested more than $52 million to accelerate pioneering research on chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

But it was cycling that led me to discover my passion for helping others, and transforming my biking passion into a mission. I’ve raised money for LLS, along with many other nonprofits that aim to research and fight diseases.

I am an eternal optimist with a bias toward action, so after my diagnosis, I wanted to get involved and joined the cycling team for Team in Training, one of the fundraising arms of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. LLS has invested $1.5 billion in groundbreaking blood cancer research in general.

In 2016, I started Team Survivor, a bike team made up of cancer survivors and supporters who train all year and have a goal to raise $100,000 each season to fund a blood cancer research grant. There have been more than 100 riders that have joined Team Survivor but each year the team has 20 or 30 who train and fundraise.

Our core team is an amazing group of humans who continue to make a difference in blood cancer patient’s lives by fundraising each year. Since I started the team in 2016, we have raised more than $750,000 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. (September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month.)

Together, our team continues to raise money for those who we have lost and those who continue their fight. Each year’s Team Survivor jersey has the name Gary Staton printed on the collar. Gary was a good friend and Team Survivor member who lost his battle with multiple myeloma in 2018, so the team continues to honor his memory.

I rode with Gary from 2013 to 2018; we always enjoyed an annual trip to Lake Tahoe for America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, which is a fundraising ride for Team in Training and LLS, but we rode in other events and were great friends off the bike. Unfortunately, in the last few years I saw him more often in the hospital than on the bike.

I’m extremely grateful for the friendship and support of my teammates, which goes far beyond the bike. And I’m lucky that my wife, Meli, is not only my partner and best friend but my teammate that supports everything I do.

To keep me motivated, I host road bike rides every Saturday, and when it snows in Colorado, Meli and I are on our fat tire bikes. This year, I rode in America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe, Bike MS, The Triple Bypass, and Tour of the Moon. And I will be riding with Trek Travel from Granada to Seville, Spain with my wife, Meli, in October.

Meli would tell you that I think the bike can cure anything, physical or mental, and I believe cycling has kept me healthy with a leukemia diagnosis. Having a ride to look forward to makes me happy every day.

During Blood Cancer Awareness Month, please consider supporting me and Team Survivor by donating to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. For all those impacted by cancer, every minute matters—whether it’s racing against time to find the right treatment, achieving remission, or savoring quality moments with friends and family.

These tips have made my cycling journey a success:

1. Be consistent

Long cycling events are easier to prepare for if you keep your base shape by riding regularly. At this point, I usually only have time to ride on the weekends but I rarely miss a week and that keeps me ready for events all year.

2. Join a cycling team or group

I rode by myself for 20 years before I discovered that riding with friends is more fun than riding by yourself. There is safety in numbers. Cars might not see a single rider but it’s hard to miss a group of 10 or 20. Riding with a group also makes you a better cyclist especially if you ride with people who have more experience or are faster. A team helps make you accountable to show up and put in the work!

3. Register in advance for events

It’s important to have a cycling event to look forward to and it will keep you honest with training when you know events are coming up. At the end of each year, take a look at the calendar, plan your events and get registered.

4. Start today

If you’ve thought about starting to ride—don’t wait! We aren’t promised tomorrow so don’t miss out on the joy you can have today. Bucket lists are great unless you wait too long to get started.

John’s Must-Have GEAR

Seven Cycles Axiom S Titanium Bike: I’m 6’4” so buying a custom bike manufactured by Seven Cycles was the first time I experienced a great bike fit. My titanium bike is light yet strong and provides great comfort and performance.

Primal Wear Custom Kits: They get a shout for unmatched design and craftsmanship, world class customer service, beautiful custom kits, supporting our cause, and great people!

E2 Infinity Bike Seat: Like most cyclists, I have a closet full of saddles I have tried over the years. The Infinity Bike seat is handcrafted leather with a cutout design that provides comfort and relieves pressure, especially on long rides. It's a game changer!

Ride With GPS: A must-have bike route planner and cycling navigation app, this is easy to create and share custom routes or discover new rides. It also records all the important stats and photos of your journeys! I use Ride With GPS for all of our team rides.

We want to hear how cycling changed you! Send your story and submit your photos to us via this web form. We’ll pick one each week to highlight on the site.

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