LAKE SUCCESS, NY – For some, riding a bicycle is a simple hobby. For Mike Cohen, a 27-year-old native of Levittown, NY who now resides in San Diego, CA, biking is a personal statement of triumph and a call to action to other young cancer survivors.
Last week, Mr. Cohen completed a cross-country bike ride from San Diego to New York, finishing his journey – and celebrating eight cancer-free years -- at North Shore-LIJ’s Monter Cancer Center, where he thanked the oncologist who helped save his life, Steven Allen, MD.
When Mr. Cohen was 18 years old in January 2004, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a disease affecting the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes. The treatment that he received involved many cycles of intensive chemotherapy to achieve remission. After about six months, the intensity of therapy was lessened and he started “maintenance therapy.” This treatment continued until two years from the onset of therapy. During Mr. Cohen’s two years of chemotherapy, he also survived congestive heart failure, a pulmonary embolism and pneumonia. The doctors told him it would be hard, but there was hope.
Mr. Cohen moved to San Diego to attend culinary school and finish his treatments. During much of his illness, he said he wondered what his place really was in the world. What was his next step? So, he wrote a book entitled “Patient,” and started a web site called A Second Spin (www.asecondspin.com). And then, he decided that he wanted to celebrate his eight cancer-free years in a really big way.
After a brief stop at his parents’ home in New Jersey, Mike completed the last leg of his 3,132-mile trip on May 18, arriving at the Monter Cancer Center and greeting Dr. Allen.
This trip, he noted, was different. “Before, Dr. Allen always had me make an appointment for treatment or came to see me in the hospital. This trip,” he said, “was on my terms. I just want to prove to people that they should never give up on their dreams.”
Dr. Allen waited eagerly with Mr. Cohen’s parents and other family members for him to ride up to the entrance. And what did he have to say to the young patient who jumped off his bike to greet him? “Mike,” said Dr. Allen, with a huge smile on his face, “you’re 10 minutes late!”