• Ricky Rinehart: Raising Funds for Cancer Research One Mile at a Time

As he biked 213 miles of desert between Yuma, Ariz., and Phoenix in temperatures above 90 degrees, Ricky Reinhart thought a lot about moving forward. Much the same as he did a year ago as he laid in a bed at Mayo Clinic Hospital recovering from surgery for esophageal cancer.

To celebrate his “first birthday” (post surgery), Ricky, of Yuma, made a marathon bike trip the weekend of Oct. 22-23 to raise funds for cancer research. Ricky, 54, was all smiles after the grueling ride arriving at Mayo Clinic, accompanied by 13 of his friends, family and co-workers, and carrying an envelope with more than $10,000 in donations.

“I’m just glad to be here,” said Ricky outside of Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix at the end of his ride. “A year ago I was up on that 7th floor and now I’m doing this. This was a personal goal to celebrate my first year as a survivor, but it’s just really great how the community came out to donate."

“You know it takes money to continue research and it needs to continue. The type of surgery I had they couldn’t have even done it 10 years ago … they are able to do that because of research, development and the people who have been able to help and come up with these new techniques to battle cancer – so it’s really cool.”
Doctors discovered Ricky’s esophageal cancer in June 2010. Adding to the seriousness of this type of cancer is that it’s often not diagnosed until people are at advanced stages. “Patients go through so much after this surgery – it’s very debilitating, particularly for people who have had to go through radiation and chemotherapy,” said Marianne Merritt, RN, FA, from Cardiothoracic Surgery, who works with Ricky’s surgeon, Dawn Jaroszewski, M.D.

Fortunately for Ricky, it was caught early enough that he was able to undergo a minimally invasive laparoscopic esophagectomy at Mayo Clinic Hospital. Even with a minimally invasive approach, the recovery can be strenuous. Marianne admires his determination, "to see him go through all of this and then put forth this incredible amount of physical stamina to perform at this high level is very inspiring.”

Ricky is looking forward to making his ride an annual event because he sees the importance of not only creating awareness about cancer research but the importance of regular medical check ups.

“I found out about it by get getting a regular physical,” Ricky said. “So my advice to everyone is get a routine physical once a year, get yourself checked out. The earlier you catch it the better you are going forward.”

But what was Ricky most looking forward to after biking 213 miles in the dusty desert?

“A shower,” he said.

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