For German cyclist Randolph Westphal, each pedal, each mile, each physically grinding journey on his bike comes with a simple message: Never give up.
Mr. Westphal has lived that since 1987, when he was first diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Given an estimated six to 12 months to live, he took to his bike and started an adventure that has taken him around the world.
During many of his trips, he speaks with hospital and school groups. A goal of his is to bring confidence to others that they can overcome their own challenges.
Its so important to help other people because they help me, too, Mr. Westphal said.
Since his diagnosis, he has biked about 132,000 miles across North and South America and Europe.
His latest major trek, which has zigzagged across Canada and the U.S. since last May, brought him and his two dogs, Chinook and Nanook, into Watertown on Friday afternoon. He spoke to the Times in the lobby of the Best Western Carriage House Inn on Washington Street, which donated him a room.
In addition to dozens of cancer treatments since his initial diagnosis, the rides themselves have taken an immense toll on his body. Among his hospitalizations were five years of treatment after a major crash in 1996 while riding in Argentina that nearly cost him his leg, and a monthlong hospital stay last year for a particularly tough staph infection. Currently, he is facing pain in his left leg, shoulder and artificial hip.
Im too old for this job, the 56-year-old said.
Mr. Westphals ailments have prevented him from doing the trips entirely by bike. Instead, he travels with his dogs by car to different locations, where he completes long looping routes, then continues traveling by car.
Despite these challenges, he said, he does not have any plans to stop riding. Beyond the organizations to which he speaks, Mr. Westphal said, many people he runs into ask him questions about his story after seeing him, his bike and the trailer his dogs usually ride in when he travels too fast for them to run alongside him.
When I find people, and they find my story, that keeps me going forward, he said.
Mr. Westphal, who pays for his rides with the help of donations and out of his own pocket, said he plans to bike around Watertown today if road conditions improve.
After his stop here, he plans to continue north toward Canada, though his next stop has not been finalized.
More information about Mr. Westphal and his riding can be found at www.randolph-westphal.de.