Bouncing Back From Cancer - Ben Voyles Q&A
First and foremost, thanks for taking the time to sit down with these questions. It's amazing to see the ridiculous riding you're putting so shortly after beating such a terrible disease.Starting off, what types of symptoms were you having before you initially visited the doctor and when were you actually diagnosed with cancer?
Let's see… It started off as a small bump on my back when I was 19. I thought it was just a calcium build up from falling while riding. It continued to grow very slowly over the next two years with no pain or symptoms. Finally, it started making all of the muscles in that area of my back spasm - never any pain, just odd. After a couple of years of making laughs at the bump on my bike, I finally went in to find out what it was all about. A doctor in my hometown did a biopsy and sent it off to a specialist at Harvard and it took him a month to figure out what it was. Finally, I got the news in November 2011 and was sent to a specialist at the Huntsmen Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.
What was the exact type of cancer you were diagnosed with?
It is called Sarcoma. More or less, it's a soft tissue cancer that spreads slowly.
After your diagnosis, did you put away your bike immediately, or stay on it as long as possible?
I stayed on it as long as possible! I was afraid I may not get to ride the same or at all in my future.
What treatments did you have to undergo in order to get through this?
I was what my dad calls "the luckiest of the unlucky." I feel pretty fortunate that I only had to undergo two surgeries, but the second one sucked! Haha.
Where did you get all of your treatments?
I got most of my treatments at Huntsman Hospital in Salt Lake City.
What were some of the ups and downs you experienced while battling this?
Well, it's life changing, to say the least. I would say the ups were making me respect the life I was given even more so than before. It made me more motivated to live better and be a better person. It really makes you realize that in the blink of your eye, tomorrow could be your last. As far as the downs, I can easily say the hardest part was seeing my family and loved ones worry for me. Truth be told, I think it was easier on me than everyone else. I know that sounds crazy, but for me it was the game of mine over matter and I just went into battle!
At what point were you able to get back on your bike?
I started riding again at the end of April and then had two back-to-back ankle injuries. I hurt my right ankle in the beginning of June and then my left ankle in July.
At one point did you truly feel like you had actually beaten the disease?
Honestly, I don't know if or when I will say I feel that way. My last checkup was clean, which makes me feel like a winner so far! I have check ups for the next two years, every six months. If I continue to pass, then I'll feel like I beat it!
Do you have any lasting effects from the disease / treatment?
Haha, well where there was a fruit-size bump on my back, now there's a slight concave and an eight inch long scar.
Do you continue any of the treatments today? If so, how much longer will you continue to do so?
As long as nothing comes back I get to skip treatments!
How long did it take you to get back to your "normal" level of riding?
"It's like riding a bike, you never forget it!" Hahaha. In all seriousness, it luckily only took me a few sessions before I felt confident on my bike again.
Between you're awesome new edit and your second place finish in Lake Havasu, you've been making big moves since bouncing back. What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment since your return?
I think the biggest accomplishment has been putting all of the freak events behind me and getting back on my feet. Don't get me wrong, Lake Havasu was some delicious sugar on top, but when it comes down to it, I'm just grateful that I get a chance to do what makes me happy - ride BMX.
What are your plans for the next year?
Stay healthy! Do shows, ride contests, make edits, meet new friends, travel, and anything in-between. Just stay busy with BMX as long as I have it my way!
Anything you'd like to add?
Special thanks to the people by my side during the rough events and thanks to everyone for the support. So stoked to be healthy and on my bike!
Thanks, Ben! Congrats on your recovery!