BALTIMORE — A 12-year leukemia and bone marrow transplant survivor is spending July biking down the east coast to help raise awareness and money for Be the Match, the registry that helped find him a donor.
"I was diagnosed with no symptoms so one day I was fine, the next... three days later, I’m in the hospital getting in patient chemo. It’s quite a shock to the system," said Bob Falkenberg.
He added, "it took a lot of hard work and I think a lot of times you come out of treatment, and you feel terrible. Your muscles are wasted away from all the chemo, and you just feel awful. And a lot of times advice is taking it easy. Well, if you just take it easy. You’re never going to get any better. I worked really hard at it and I’m really glad that I did."
Bob Falkenberg did his first long ride just ten months after his bone marrow transplant. The next year, 19 months after his transplant, he did his first fundraising ride and has been doing something every year since.
"I made a promise to myself, as I was going through that process that if I got out the other end of it.. I would dedicate and do whatever I could do to help other people that are going through the same thing I went through," said Falkenberg.
This ride, the Lifeblood: Ride for a Better Future, will take him 57 days to go from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Jacksonville, Florida through Boston. It's 3,700 miles.
"I chose this route to be able to visit the maximum number of transplant centers that I possibly could in two months," said Falkenberg. He's visiting 25 transplant centers along the way. He said it's tough to make connections with people at these centers because of HIPAA, so this way he can meet more people.
He'll be in Maryland on Tuesday, leaving Havre De Grace in the morning and getting to the Baltimore Zoo around noon. Then on Wednesday, he's heading to Bethesda.
"I would love riders to come out and support him even if they can only ride for an hour or two half a leg of the ride," said Beth Carrion, an account manager for Be the Match. She added, "it’s a great way for people to get involved exercise and it brings such motivation to my patients here at John’s Hopkins, UMD Childrens National... everyone’s heard about it."
She's excited to get back out in the community since they struggled to get people registered during the pandemic.
"We really need to register a lot this summer to make up for last year because those patients that are still waiting to find a match are still waiting," said Carrion.