Moved to give back

Bike to Beat Cancer rider shares why he rides

For Nathan Rome, biking is more than a form of exercise, a way to enjoy nature or a mode of transportation. After his wife began cancer treatment, it became a way to give back.

Shannan Rome, Nathan’s wife, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in December 2012. She was referred to an oncologist at Norton Cancer Institute to begin immediate treatment.

“She went from being completely asymptomatic to an oncological emergency in a very short period of time,” Nathan said.

As Shannan was in the process of being diagnosed, she began to suffer the effects of superior vena cava syndrome, an obstruction in a major vein to the heart that can occur in cancer patients. It causes a variety of side effects, such as shortness of breath and swelling in the upper body or arms, and is a medical emergency that requires immediate care. Shannan was hospitalized and her medical team worked quickly to confirm her diagnosis so that she could receive her first round of chemotherapy in the hospital. It was during these stressful few days that Nathan decided he needed to do something to help fight cancer. He turned to Shannan’s best friend, Jen Miklavcic, and told her he would participate in the Bike to Beat Cancer the following September.

Nathan had picked up biking for exercise just months before his wife’s diagnosis. He joined Miklavcic and her team on training rides and began to learn about biking for a cause. He was moved by their dedication and support for those battling such a devastating disease, but didn’t yet know how close to home that would hit.

“When the news of Shannan’s condition came and she began receiving what has truly been excellent care at Norton, there was really no decision to be made. It was something I had to do,” Nathan said.

He participated in his first Bike to Beat Cancer in 2013, where he completed his first century ride of 100 miles. He returned in 2014 to complete the same distance. This year, he will return with a continued goal to raise more funds and awareness.

Riding his bicycle has allowed Nathan to pursue hobbies in a philanthropic way. He recently created a calendar with photos captured while riding his bike around his hometown of Frankfort, Kentucky, where he lives with Shannan and their children, Ben and Leah. The calendar was sold to raise funds for cancer research. He is also on the board of WalkBike Frankfort, an organization that strives to make the community more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.

While he usually enjoys recreational cycling and biking as a mode of transportation, Nathan participates in organized rides in order to give back. His biggest motivation is Shannan.

“I remind myself that while riding 100 miles is both physically and mentally challenging, it’s nothing compared to what a cancer patient endures,” Nathan said.

The amount of support the Romes have received from their community, family and friends, in addition to the care they received from Norton Cancer Institute, has given Nathan a deep sense of gratitude.

“It makes you realize that you can do more for others and inspires you to pay it forward,” he said.


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