At the age of 60, Bath Township resident Bob Heubeck hadn't been on a bicycle in more than 30 years. The reason he started riding again is not merely to get fit.
Now at age 66, Heubeck is about to embark on a 122-mile journey with his son Kurt who, six years earlier, doctors said was going to die.
In 2004, Kurt Heubeck was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 31. He went through a three-year battle with the disease and came out on top. Although it was not a pleasant journey. Kurt Heubeck has been cancer-free for six years. He is a graduate of Revere High School and lives in Columbus.
"I can't tell you what happened to me once I was in that hospital," he said. "I was on so many medications that I had no idea what was going on around me."
All of the treatments he received in those three years were sponsored in some part by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, his father said. Kurt Heubeck participated in experimental treatments; by doing so he hoped to improve survival chances for other lymphoma or leukemia patients.
"My brain just took over and made it happen," Kurt Heubeck said. "The doctors give you medications that make you not see clearly, so you only assume that everyone around you did the best they could to help you though. They did everything within their power to help me. I would do the same for every one of them."
Because most of his son's treatments were paid for by the society, Bob Heubeck wanted to find a way to give back.
"I was going to give them a couple hundred bucks, but then I ran across Team in Training and decided to do that," he said. "I decided that I would raise about $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and I would ride in my son's honor."
Team in Training is a program in which people can walk, run, cycle or swim to raise money for cancer research. Team in Training sets interested donors up with trainers and helps them prepare for endurance runs, walks etc.
Bob Heubeck has already completed several of these fundraisers since 2006, but this year is special because it's the first time he'll cycle with his son. The team will fly to Las Vegas today to ride in the RTC 2012 Viva Bike Vegas Gran Fondo on Saturday. The trail is 122 miles and it's the first time either Heubeck has ridden that far.
"I'm doing this to raise money for an organization that does a tremendous amount for people who have leukemia or lymphoma," Bob Heubeck said. "It's amazing how much money is spent on research and how much they give to hospitals for research."
But it gets more personal than that.
"I'm doing this because I hope another father doesn't have to watch his son go through what my son went through," Bob Heubeck said. "I know how devastating the disease is. He won the battle but the problems you go through and the way you feel are just horrible. If I can raise some money and save another family from going through that, I will."
Kurt Heubeck has been training for this ride for five years.
"Six years ago, I was done with my stem cell transplant and about four months after that, I got on a mountain bike and started conditioning to do races," Kurt Heubeck said. "Doctors told me that because of the scar tissue in my lungs, I wouldn't be able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. They also told me that I was supposed to die."
Heubeck's father has been his main motivator for training, but he's riding for the people who helped him survive: the people who donated their bodies to science to find a cure.
"It's for the people who have passed from the disease," Kurt Heubeck said. "Without those people I wouldn't be alive. They contributed to the research and so did I but without mass amounts of failure, you can't have success."
Both Heubecks have ridden 100 miles on their bikes, but neither has ever hit the 122-mile mark.
"I do most of my training on roads rather than trails," Bob Heubeck said. "We start with short 14- to 20-mile rides and we work our way up to 80 and 90. I ride every Saturday and I try to go two to three times during the week."
The most Bob Heubeck has cycled is 109 miles, so what will keep him motivated to finish the trail?
"I think of what cancer patients go through to get to their finish line," Bob Heubeck said. "That's a real motivator. They can't stop either."
Kurt Heubeck started really training for the ride this summer. The most he's cycled is 100 miles, he said. And his dad keeps talking about all the hills they'll encounter in Las Vegas.
"I'm excited and nervous," Kurt Heubeck said. "It's going to be the people around me and their energy that keeps me going. You just have to shake it off and keep going."
Neither Heubeck is sure if they will ride in another Team in Training event, but both will continue to give to the society, they said.
Kurt Heubeck wants to open a gym that helps people train for these events where part of the joiner fee goes back to them and the money they are raising for the event.
"Two Sundays ago, Kurt and I rode 40 miles together," Bob Heubeck said. "I can't wait to go 120 with him. It's something that when he was diagnosed that I didn't think we could do. He got six more years of life that we didn't think would happen. It's great."
Check back with Fairlawn-Bath Patch next week to see photos from the ride and we'll talk to the Heubecks again to find out how they fared.