Ron Wasek, a patient at Levine Cancer Institute, isn’t letting metastatic prostate cancer slow him down. The 63-year-old grandfather of eight recently completed a 468-mile bike ride across Iowa, in just 7 days, exactly one year after his diagnosis.

Your Health | 8 months ago

Avid Cyclist Won’t Let Metastatic Prostate Cancer Slow Him Down

Ron Wasek, a patient at Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute, isn’t letting metastatic prostate cancer slow him down. The 63-year-old grandfather of eight recently completed a 468-mile bike ride across Iowa, in just 7 days, exactly one year after his diagnosis.

When Ron Wasek, 63, was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in 2020, he immediately decided he wouldn’t let the disease slow him down. And with the help of his medical team, led by Deborah Bradley, MD, a medical oncologist at Levine Cancer Institute Gaston, he’s still living life to the fullest while undergoing treatment and participating in a clinical trial.

Ron is passionate about living an abundant life: He’s a proud husband, father of three and grandfather of eight; a recently retired walking postman; and an avid cyclist with a heart for helping others. He lives on a farm in Iron Station with his family (along with some chickens, goats and donkeys).

A prostate cancer diagnosis

Flashback to summer 2020: Ron eagerly anticipated his retirement and purchased the camping and fishing gear he’d need for his newfound free time. However, the same week he retired, he was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer.

Metastatic prostate cancer means the cancer cells have spread beyond the prostate to other parts of the body. This advanced form of cancer isn’t curable, but it is treatable.

Top-notch care and clinical trials close to home

Though Ron resides in Iron Station, he’s able to access world-class cancer care and the latest clinical trial opportunities at a facility close to his home: Levine Cancer Institute Gaston, where he saw Dr. Bradley for treatment.   

Dr. Bradley developed a treatment plan that supported Wasek’s goals and active lifestyle.

“We presented Ron with both the standard of care for metastatic prostate cancer and a clinical trial,” says Dr. Bradley. “He was very interested in the clinical trial option.”

Ron lives by the motto, “A life lived for oneself is not a life lived at all.” This mindset informed his treatment decision.

“When Dr. Bradley told me about the trial, she was very honest and said it may not help me, though it could,” says Ron. “However, she told me, in the long run, my participation in the trial would help other people get better treatment. I thought, ‘That’s for me! I don’t care about me, but I want to help others.’ The clinical trial sounded perfect to me.”

The clinical trial, led by principal investigator Earle Burgess, MD, a medical oncologist at Levine Cancer Institute, tracks whether two FDA-approved prostate cancer drugs work better together instead of separately.

Going through cancer treatment

Ron began treatment in July 2020, starting with six cycles of chemotherapy every three weeks. He says that during chemo, there were times when he couldn’t even walk to the mailbox without getting exhausted. However, he kept up his positive attitude as he went through treatments.

Ron completed chemotherapy in November 2020 and has continued to take oral medication. Dr. Bradley says he won’t need additional chemotherapy unless his cancer progresses.  

Completing a 468-mile bike ride across Iowa

With chemotherapy behind him, Ron was determined not to let cancer slow him down. In July 2021, a year after his diagnosis, he completed a 468-mile bike ride called RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), all while continuing with his oral medication. He even attached a cooler to the back of his bike to keep his medication safe.

“What’s unique about Ron is how active he is,” says Dr. Bradley. “He’s taken his treatment in stride and continues to do the things he loves.”

Dr. Bradley shares Ron’s passion for cycling and admitted to being nervous when Ron told her about his goal of participating in the race, one he’d completed multiple times before his diagnosis. 

“Being a cyclist myself, I can speak from experience when I say that what he accomplished is amazing,” she says. “Riding 468 miles in seven days is quite an adventure for anyone—and Ron had completed chemotherapy, was deconditioned and still continues with treatment. But he did it.”

During the race, what meant the most to Ron was helping others by changing flat tires, rebuilding bikes and offering encouragement.

“My favorite is when I can help those who are broken down on the road,” he says. “I can fix it all: chains, tires, spokes. I carry two different-sized tires with me. And I never charge for this; it’s just fun for me to do. It’s really cool to help someone on day one and, days later, I see them calling to me, ‘Ron, Ron! Thanks for helping me!”

An inspiration to others

“I think it’s amazing when patients who have cancer go through chemotherapy and can continue to do what they like to do,” says Dr. Bradley. “With Ron, while there was no doubt that he had side effects and had to decrease his activity, he was able to live his dreams and do the things he likes.”

Dr. Bradley hopes Ron’s story is a source of encouragement to other people undergoing cancer treatment.

“It’s inspiring to see that he continues to do what brings him joy and keeps his spirits up,” she says. “We underestimate what we’re actually capable of. Some people think of chemotherapy as a death sentence, but it’s not. While some treatments aren’t ideal and can cause side effects, often you can continue to live a full and enjoyable life during treatment.”

Dr. Bradley adds, “Amidst all the pain we have going on, it is so amazing to see people who are facing adversity excel and follow their heart and their dreams.”

Prostate cancer awareness

As we recognize Prostate Cancer Awareness Month this September, encourage the men in your life to ask their doctor about prostate cancer screenings. Learn more about prostate cancer.