Who is Riding: Michelle Oakland
Avid Cyclist and Cancer Patient Vows to Stay Active and Live Life to the Fullest
Michelle first noticed there was something suspicious in 2009 when she started experiencing back pain. Her primary physician suggested it was likely just a strain and was sent to physical therapy. Then in 2010, while on a RV trip in Oregon with her husband, Dan, she experienced unbelievable back pain and noticed tingling sensation down her leg while on one of their hikes. The pain continued to be so unbearable that she was unable to lift her left leg up when trying to step up. Michelle ended up in the emergency room in Bend, Oregon. An MRI confirmed the insurmountable pain was due to a collapsed vertebrae and a small bone fragment pushing against her spinal cord.
A plasmacytoma (a malignant plasma cell tumor) caused the collapsed vertebrae of the T12. Ten days later after two spinal surgeries and multiple tests Michelle departed Oregon in a back brace and a diagnosis of multiple myeloma – CANCER.
Michelle could not believe the diagnosis. “How could I have cancer? One month prior, I had ridden my bicycle 100 miles around Crater Lake. I was a healthy person! I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Elbert, and others mountains – all above 14,000 feet; I had ridden my bike up Mt. Evans, over 14,000 feet in a race. Physical activity was part of my lifestyle. How could I have cancer?” remembers Michelle.
After researching doctors and facilities, Michelle decided to go with treatment at Moores Cancer Center. “Living in San Diego we are fortunate to have an NCI designated facility so close to home,” said Michelle. In the summer of 2012, she entered treatment while remaining as active as possible by riding, swimming, and hiking.
That September, she had a stem cell transplant where she achieved a very good partial response, as multiple myeloma is not curable…yet. While on a maintenance protocol drug, called Revlimid, Michelle hopes to stay progression free for many years to come as she continues to enjoy her love for the outdoors.
When Michelle found out about Pedal the Cause last year, she was immediately motivated to sign up when she heard one of the benefiting facilities was the Moores Cancer Center. Michelle trained and rode in the inaugural Pedal the Cause alongside two of her healthcare providers from Moores.
Through posting about her participation in Pedal the Cause on her Facebook page, Michelle received great support from friends, an outpouring of donations from a Multiple Myeloma forum she is part of (many of who she had never even met), and even contributions from RV friends from all over the county. She was amazed by the generosity of everyone.
This summer Michelle and Dan plan to climb some awesome peaks and ride to high places in Colorado.
“I will not let cancer win and will continue to look forward, not back,” says Michelle. “I’m pedaling the cause so that others do not have to endure what I went through. With more research, we can diagnosis patients earlier. New therapies can be developed that allow patients to have a good quality of life. With continued research, I believe we will someday find a cure for cancer.”
Michelle lives by the motto “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”