By Stephen Allred of South Jordan, Utah

My name is Stephen Allred and I am a two-time cancer survivor. I share my story in hopes of providing support and hope to all of those who have had Cancer intrude upon their lives and for those who are striving to overcome all the challenges life has set before them.

In 1997, I was diagnosed with a rare cancerous tumor inside my spinal cord just below my brain stem. After going to multiple cancer specialists and neurosurgeons and repeatedly being told that the tumor was in-operable my wife and I found Dr. Apfelbaum at the University of Utah Hospital. He specializes in this rare form of cancer, a cancer that no other doctor would consider treating. After meeting with him it became apparent that surgery was my only hope for survival. However, the risks of surgery included the possibility of not surviving or surviving as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair connected to a breathing machine for the rest of my life. After much anguish the decision was made to have the surgery.

After a great deal of prayer, the skilled hands of a brilliant surgeon and a small miracle, I survived the surgery. I woke up breathing on my own and I could even wiggle my toes! What I could not do was feel anything from the chest down. I was numb and I still am numb; this is a small price to pay for the ability to breath, walk, and cycle on my own.

In 1998, I was diagnosed with a second cancer, Thyroid cancer. Back under the knife I went and this time I had my thyroid removed. Wondering what the cancer had in store for me next, I received good news; both of my cancers were encapsulated which meant I did not have to endure chemotherapy or other secondary treatments. With the support of my family, friends and numerous hours of Physical Therapy I learned to walk again at first with canes and eventually on my own. It took over five years to regain my balance and retrain my muscles.

In 2003, I attempted to ride my dusty mountain bike for the first time after having the tumors removed. Looking like a rather large five-year-old on their first bike, I wobbled clumsily down the road on my bike. I had little balance and could not feel my feet on the pedals, but I continued to ride, or wobble as the case maybe. It felt really good to be active again. In September of the same year my friends talked me into buying a road bike, which I have learned to love. The bike has helped my strength and balance return to what I possessed pre-cancer. I have crested six thousand miles on my bike; I am riding strong and cancer free.

I rode LoToJa for the first time in 2004 and have crossed the finish line every year since. It has been amazing, brutal and rewarding in the same breath. I look forward to riding this year’s LoToJa!