A woman who beat Stage 4 cancer twice only to struggle with survivor’s guilt.
A couple who endured so many recurrences, the disease became a constant presence in their 31-year marriage.
A survivor working for the treatment center that brought him back from death’s doorstep.
These are among the stories Manhattan Beach author David Richman will weave together in a narrative exploring the psychological and emotional experiences of a spectrum of people affected by cancer.
But before he finishes the book, Richman will mount his bike on Friday and embark on a six-week solo ride from Los Angeles to New York, visiting the cancer patients, family members, caregivers and researchers he will profile.
Cycle of lives
Richman hopes to raise more than $100,000 for his nonprofit, Cycle of Lives, and distribute the funds to cancer charities handpicked by each of the dozen-plus subjects in his book.
The bike ride is the financial manager and single father’s latest — and most challenging — tribute to his sister, June Chastain, who died of brain cancer in 2007.
In the years since, Richman said he has raised more than $120,000 for cancer charities and research, with much of that money going to the facility that cared for his sister, the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“I’m gonna be on a bike for 10 to 12 hours every day for 45 days, except for a couple of rest days, and it’s gonna be in the 100s going over mountains and through the desert,” said Richman, who has been planning the ride for more than a year.
He’s had lots of practice, having completed more than 50 triathlons and 50 long-distance and overnight runs in the past decade, including an 85-mile run during the peak of summer heat in Mexico and a 104-mile run from Santa Barbara to Manhattan Beach.
Over the course of all of those rides and runs, Richman met and got to know many people affected by cancer, and he noticed a common narrative among them.
“People are really good at dealing with the tasks related to their cancer, like checking their insurance and seeing what treatment regimen they can do, dealing with their employer, having friends take care of their kids, and things like that,” Richman said. “But what people don’t do, or what they maybe do much later, is deal with the emotional and psychological issues that came with their cancer journey.”
Pushing himself to his physical and mental limits on the cross-country ride, he said, will help him better connect with those experiences.
“When you’re up in the middle of the desert climbing over mountains for hours with no distractions and only the task at hand, it’s hard not to think deeply,” Richman said.
He won’t be alone for the entire ride. His son will accompany him for the first leg of the trip in Southern California.
In addition to individuals affected by cancer, Richman will visit hospitals and treatment centers, such as UCLA’s Jonsson Center, the Scripps Cancer Center in San Diego and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Florida.
He will share the journey on social media, making stops in cities in Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, and a final stop in New York in mid-October.
Richman anticipates releasing his yet-untitled book in late 2017. He spent more than a year finding a wide spectrum of people to profile.
“I have a former Olympic athlete, the chief medical officer of a multibillion-dollar health care company, a leading researcher and oncologist that deals with proton therapy, a doctor who overcame all kinds of odds to come to America from Vietnam to become a doctor only to develop brain cancer and be unable to practice,” Richman said.
“These are all people who told me they didn’t even know why I was talking to them because they didn’t feel their story was interesting, but these might be the most interesting stories you’ve ever heard.”
To follow David Richman’s cross-country ride or donate to his nonprofit Cycle of Lives, visit CycleofLives.org.