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Ride to live, live to ride

Cancer survivor travelling the world on an epic trek.
Randolph Westphal

For 25 years, Randolph Westphal has been biking the world raising awareness and hope for the fight against cancer. More than two decades ago Westphal was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, given a five per cent chance to live. A year later he decided to start a journey by bike.

“I’ve had 28 cancer operations,” he said. “The cancer was in my lymph nodes, so nobody can say how long you will live. The doctors go by statistics. The doctors said six to eight months to live. That was in 1987.”

Soon after, he began challenging himself, biking the alps near his native Germany and Europe. He then took a flight to New York in 1990 and toured all over North America.

Every three months he had to do a checkup on his cancer, and it was in Quebec that a doctor asked him to speak to some patients. They asked what his secret is to staying healthy and he said he wants to live.

"From this time out, I'm running around the world showing people to never give up," he said. "For me it's important to show people that there is life with cancer. In the meantime I accept my cancer as a part of my body and just when you accept things you can change it."

He estimates he's now cycled 205,000 km, the equivalent of more than five times around the world. He has another 40,000 or so to go.

He spent about five years in the hospital, after he was  hit by a vehicle in South America, and left for dead in the ditch, in a coma. He was found four hours later, with his leg hanging by a thread from the shin down. Argentinian doctors were preparing to take off his leg, but it was saved by a call to the German embassy and through it a call to friends in Germany who paid for Westphal to go to a German hospital.

He also suffered memory loss from that accident. So he has been treading the path that he took before.

He said that at many places he visits, it's as if a light switch comes on and he recalls his past time there.

He's been through Cranbrook a number of times before.

He's travelled with three generations of dogs. The first died in the accident. That dog's son was with him until a few years ago, and the third generation is with him now. The two dogs, Nanook and Chinook, are with him through it all, and he refers to them as all the family he has left. On the road, the two dogs ride on the trailer Westphal pulls behind him. All together the bike, trailer, Westphal and his gear weigh 240 kg.

From here he plans to travel north, to Invermere, Banff, Jasper then Whitefish. Once there, he'll head south to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and then back up to Canada and East.

He said he'll be on the road for two more years probably then call it quits. Since he takes care of all his own travel plans and accepts donations for his trip, all of the work is taking its toll.

"This will be my last trip," he said, but admitted he's always inspired to get back on the bike when he hears of the people he's inspired.

For more info on Westphal and his journey, visit