Gary Rudman
Gary Rudman

Never Quit. Never Stop. Not Today, Not Ever
Thursday, January 26
The Ride
 
The morning was crisp and clear. Still dark and at home, it was time to complete the final gear check before departure for the Star of Life Ride in Gaston, South Carolina. For 63 miles, today’s ride will take my crew through the hilly, backcountry roads of South Carolina. As this was the first time riding the course, I did not have an idea of what to expect. Usually, each ride offers a route, which can be previewed and downloaded to a cycling computer. The Star of Life Ride did not have downloadable routes. Thus, no opportunity to do any route preview.
 
Check-in time was 0700. Registration was quick and easy. There were not a large number of riders for today’s event. Most charity rides have 100 to 150 cyclists. Today, there were 75, which was still a good crowd of all abilities.
 
It was time. 0730. We were ready to depart. The organizers reminded all that today’s ride was in memory of Fallen Emergency Services Personnel. There was a moment of silence, a prayer, a safety briefing, and then the almighty “ready, set, go!”
 
From the starting location, a quick right turn led to a short segment on a flat road, then hills. Not your ordinary hill, but elephant hills. The kind of hill that does not end. While you think you are nearing the top of the hill, deception sets in and the climb continues. After two miles, the climb was complete, but relief was not in sight. One elephant hill led to another, and another, and another. After four or five hills, the pain was over.
 
During the multiple climbs, I found my pace with a faster group of cyclists I met earlier in the morning. My normal crew was taking it a little easier today, and I lost everybody on the first hill. During a regular group ride, this would have been frowned upon. Today’s ride was different. It was time to push my body to find new limits. I was able to maintain the group pace for 28 miles to the second rest stop, averaging 21 or 22 miles per hour (on the flats). After the second rest stop, I was solo. Spent. My energy was gone.
 
The day was simply gorgeous. Quiet and peaceful through cotton field after cotton field. And cars, well, I encountered very few. These roads were far less traveled. Most cars were attributed to local traffic, and it was Sunday. People were in church or with family. Altogether, the conditions for cycling could not have been any better. Just me and the road. A little wind. A lot of sun. Peace.
 
Going Back Uphill: Finding Strength
 
Then, it was time. The elephant hills were back. The route was essentially a loop reconnecting with the departure, now the arrival. The worst part was I already knew how difficult the route was the first time, which made the return even worse. Each pedal stroke was an effort. The last ten miles proved to be the hardest ridden in my cycling career.
 
I had to find my inner strength. I was not about to quit. I was not about to stop. I was not about to get off my bike. And lastly, I would never call the support and gear vehicle (1) to bring me back to start. This would simply result in failure. Strength. Here and now. I had to find it, and quickly.
 
My thoughts came together. I was cycling hard and pushing through each stroke. Over and over, I thought and fought hard. Over and over, I was envisioning the finish with hands high in the air. And then, it all came together. Voices in my head (good voices) formulated the words which helped me to achieve victory to finish hard and finish strong. Over and over I said:
Never Quit. Never Stop. Not Today. Not Ever.
 
The words started out in my head. The words were thoughts. Then the words became loud. I was gripping and grinning and repeating. I was pushing hard. I was pedaling strong. I was accelerating. I knew I would finish and finish strong. Finally, I was atop the last elephant hill and knew the final segment would be hard and fast. Never Quit. Never Stop. Not Today. Not Ever. I could see it. I could see the finish. I pedaled harder. I was there. Not Today. Not Ever. Hands were high in the air as I coasted into the parking lot and did one final cool down loop. Done. Excitement. Success. I did it.
 
My Motto for Life
 
What I did not know was my motto formed during the 2014 Star of Life Ride would become inspirational to countless others. At first, comments saying I was inspirational and motivational were difficult to receive. Me? How could I inspire others? I was being myself and telling my story. I would hear the same words over and over. I would get comments on Facebook, Messenger, and phone calls. Conversations with my wife, Robin, on the subject were frequent. I was having a hard time. Then, it happened. Acceptance. I realized my words and story were bigger than ever imagined. I realized I could help others. I realized I could help patients.
 
My goals became to spread awareness for multiple myeloma and to help patients in any way, shape or form, with my motto, “Never Quit. Never Stop. Not Today. Not Ever” as the foundation for everything I do.
 
From the Star of Life Ride forward, everything took on a new vision. The Star of Life Ride was in September 2014. Stepping back a few months, in May 2014, I was diagnosed with an isolated solitary plasmacytoma and a couple of weeks later, cancer. After the ride, my worrying subsided. I told all who cared, all who asked, that I believed there was a bigger purpose for me. There were decisions to be made and answers to receive.
 
September brought a second round of radiation. I was now at my radiation maximum. There would be no more. For now, a waiting period would set in – at least three months. Three months needed to pass prior to conducting a PET scan. Time was passing slowly. Answers were yet to come.
 
In January 2015, I was excited and looking forward to my PET scan. I believed this round of radiation would work. We arrived at the Cancer Center, and I was called back to see the doctor. Finally, the doctor came in, and the words out of his mouth came in slow motion. The radiation was ineffective. The protocol was to wait and treat the tumor with force and aggression when it does develop into multiple myeloma. This was the wrong answer. I was completely disgusted. After gathering my wits, it happened again. Never Quit. Never Stop. Not Today. Not Ever. It was time for my third opinion.
 
In March, we arrived at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. I met with my oncologist where he said a few simple words, “it depends how aggressive you want to be.” My reply was short and sweet, “We are here. I want to be as aggressive as I can.” In simple terms, I knew my situation was worse than previously described. I wanted an answer, and I was not going to quit or stop in my quest for the truth. In the end, a bone marrow biopsy was the defining moment. The tumor combined with cancerous plasma cells in the bone marrow equated to multiple myeloma.
 
Now I could breathe. I had what I wanted. I had a concrete diagnosis. Now, with the help of my new oncologist, I had a plan to run my multiple myeloma into the ground. Next, was three cycles of a combination treatment. During the three-month treatment, I felt fine. No side effects. I cycled like crazy and did not slow down. Why? There was no reason to slow down. Full speed is how I proceeded, at all times.
 
On July 5th, Robin and I loaded our car, put my bike on the hitch and departed for MD Anderson Cancer Center. I was determined. My stem cell transplant will happen. There was no other option. Press, press, press. Moving forward, and fast.
 
Stem Cell Transplant and Beyond
 
On August 4, the day we were all waiting for, was my stem cell transplant. Emotions ran high. A new beginning. A new birthday. I entered each day with a smile.
 
In the hospital, I established and kept to my routine. I maintained my exercise regimen. My bike was next to my hospital bed on a trainer. Yes, I brought my bike into the hospital. I would never accept “no”. I found “yes”. It was my only option. My nurses said I was the “only” one to bring a bike into the hospital. I could not believe this. I found it difficult to comprehend that others were not as forceful with “owning” their disease and establishing their own version of integrated medicine with exercise.
 
On August 28, my stem cell doctor told my wife, parents, and best friend that I was in “complete remission.” I achieved my goal. I kicked multiple myeloma in the behind. It was my only option, for I will Never Quit Never Stop Not Today Not Ever.
 
Helping Others
 
16 months later, I am maintaining complete remission. I have broadcast my desire to help patients in any way, shape or form. I’ve talked with patients both locally near my home and at MD Anderson. I’ve set up a Facebook page called “Never Quit. Never Stop. Not Today. Not Ever. (SM)”. I am reaching out to people across the United States to spread awareness for multiple myeloma. It is truly a blessing to help patients. People say the words, “you got it for a reason,” or “fate” and most of the time, it is just words. For me, actionable events are the key. Speaking on behalf of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) at Ironman Arizona through a video, Atlanta 5K Walk/Run as the Spirit of Hope recipient, Ironman Lake Placid as a keynote speaker, and the Chicago Marathon from the perspective of a patient have been life-changing events. The MMRF is my family. I am part of something bigger than I ever imagined.
 
The MMRF is focused to find a cure by spreading awareness, fundraising and supporting cancer research. In the past 10 years, 10 new multiple myeloma drugs were approved with the help and support from the MMRF. Today, patients are seeing the progression free survival rate increase. 10 years ago, this was a different story.
 
My story is not isolated. The difference is “telling my story” and letting patients know that they can and will live a new, normal life.
 
In February 2017, I will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with 16 incredible people, of which six are multiple myeloma patients. Together, we will reach the summit at 19,343 feet and show the world that YES is the answer and patients can achieve what is believed.
 
There is nothing stopping our 16-member team. There should be nothing stopping each multiple myeloma patient. You are empowered to be 100% involved in the decision-making process. If an answer is not what was expected, get another opinion. It is your life. You control your destiny. Take charge of your condition.
 
The Star of Life Ride honoring Fallen Emergency Services will always hold a special place in my heart. During the ride, I developed the foundation for everything I do. For that, I am grateful.

NEVER QUIT. NEVER STOP. NOT TODAY. NOT EVER. (SM)
 
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