Bike tours to raise awareness of the bone marrow donor registry
DENVER (KDVR) – Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that can affect the bone marrow, and for so many people, survival depends on finding a bone marrow donor.
According to BeTheMatch.org, a national marrow donation program, the chances of finding a donor are very high if you are black, Asian or Latino. That’s just one of the reasons Bob Falkenberg is gearing up for a series of bike rides.
“I’m actually riding harder now than I’ve ever done in my life,” Falkenberg said.
Falkenberg’s life was in limbo just 13 years ago after he had an aggressive form of leukemia and underwent a bone marrow stem cell transplant. This transplant came from a donor under the Be the Match program.
“The treatment process was really difficult,” Falkenberg said. “Months of inpatient chemo, followed by a massive dose of chemo and full-body radiation, then the transplant. The recovery period afterwards is really difficult.
Draw attention to the bone marrow donor registry
But navigating rough terrain is a challenge he’s used to. That’s why he started Tour de TC, a fundraising campaign where bikers take multiple tours across the country to help leukemia patients and their families and bring attention to the donor registry.
“I had 13 games on the schedule,” he said. “Because I am white and of European descent. If you are black, your chances of finding a donor on the registry are still only 29%. So we’re trying to recruit a lot more African American, Hispanic, and Asian donors because they’re underrepresented in the registry.
A man who almost lost everything learns to give everything.
“No matter what kind of adversity you face, you can overcome it,” he said.
So far, 26 runners have signed up for these tours, including seven transplant doctors and five transplant survivors. They have already raised $30,000.
Some good news: National Cancer Institute data shows that the survival rate for all types of leukemia is 65%. But survival can depend heavily on these donors.
Falkenberg said he was working on legislation providing donor leave of up to 40 hours so people can donate without losing their jobs. Falkenberg has covered 16,000 miles on his bike since 2018, not counting some trips before that.