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Fort Wayne man plans 1,300-mile solo bike ride to raise brain cancer awareness

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 7:16 am

Kevin Sanders will be riding his bike from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Fort Wayne, 1,300 miles to bring awareness to brain cancer.

Sanders had planned to ride with his brother, but his brother couldn't commit to a full month, so Sanders decided to do it anyways. He chose his route after talking with a man he knew who has ridden coast to coast. He plans to ride about 50 miles a day over the 30-day period. A month ago he hadn't even biked over a couple of miles. Recently, he did 28 miles one day and 33 miles the next.

“I just keep increasing it until I can get to 50,” said Sanders, who is riding a steel frame 520 Trek.

To save on money he decided not to stay in hotels. Instead, he has chosen three ways of spending his evenings on the road. He will have a tent and sleeping bag with him, but he also discovered couchsurfing.com, a website where people have signed up to donate their couch to bike travelers. His third option: the graciousness of people along the way.

“There is also a website called warmshowers.com, kind of weird, but I haven't really looked at that yet,” Sanders said.

Sanders, 31, was diagnosed with brain cancer May 5, 2008, when he was 28. After a seizure a CT scan turned up a golf ball-sized tumor near his left frontal lobe. Doctors discovered he was at Stage 3 of a Stage 4 tumor called an oligodendroglioma. Sanders said it is an aggressive tumor. He had the tumor removed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., followed by proton radiation at IU Medical Center and a year of chemotherapy. After his surgery and treatment he was given five to seven years before it returned. Last month marked his fifth year.

If his cancer returns he could have proton radiation again. That radiation can be directed to specific areas of the brain, which causes less damage than overall radiation, but it could cause more physical disabilities. If necessary surgeons could operate again.

Sanders looks like any healthy 31-year-old, but the surgery and treatment have left him with very little short-term memory, and he is forced to write everything down. It may take him a few extra repetitions to learn something at work, but once he has it, he's got it.

He had gotten two degrees in computer technology at Ivy Tech before his surgery and had been preparing to leave the state when he was diagnosed. After his treatment he changed his area of study and started an engineering degree at IPFW. He quickly found with his short-term memory problems that it was impossible, so he switched to computer graphics.

Even before his cancer Sanders said he knew life was not something to take for granted. He decided he wasn't going to change anything after his diagnosis.

“I just took this as another hurdle. I think my mom was more upset then I was,” he said.

Sanders said he has a gift for motivating other people with cancer. He tries to be a role model, and the ride is all a part of that.

Sanders is leaving July 4 from Maine. He is taking donations to help with his journey. To donate, learn more about his trip, or follow his ride, go to his Facebook page, The Hope Ride, www.facebook.com/TheHopeRide.