Tribune Staff Writer
Randolph Westphal is a survivor.
Despite being diagnosed with malignant melanoma (skin cancer) in 1987, the 55-year-old German man is working on completing his sixth world tour by bicycle.
At the time he diagnosed he was given six months to a year to live.
Since that time he has survived 28 cancer surgeries — four of them life threatening — and a near fatal crash that landed him in hospital for five years.
Today, Westphal, accompanied by his dogs Nanook and Chinook, is cycling the same distance it would take to travel around the world through B.C., the Yukon and back down into the U.S.
Westphal completed his first world tour shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer. He was awarded a Guiness World Record for the longest bicycle trip with dogs on a trip that took him from Colorado Springs to Alaska and back.
So why is he doing it?
Westphal says he is working to raise cancer awareness and deliver a message of hope.
“When I’m talking with other cancer patients and they find hope in my story, then for me it’s the best thing that I can do,” he said.
Westphal has worked hard to get here. During a tour of Argentina in 1996 he was hit by a vehicle on a highway and left in a ditch. Doctors had to rebuild his leg after his foot was nearly detached and Westphal, having lost much of his memory, his ability to speak and his mobility, was told he would likely never walk again.
“I like to show people never give up,” he said.
The accident also killed his first dog, Shir Khan. Nanook and Chinook are Shir Khan’s descendants and they ride on a special cart pulled behind the bike.
“For me, my dogs are everything. My life, my security guards, my friends and my family,” he said.
Helped by donations and rooms donated by hotels, Westphal is currently working his way through Terrace and towards Prince Rupert.
When he gets there he will hop on the first ferry to leave, no matter which direction it is heading, north or south.
Along the way he hopes to visit cancer patients, support groups and get his message out to those in need. He encourages anyone to stop by his hotel rooms or visit with him if they see him on the road.
Westphal estimates that his trip will take him another two years to finish, however he is not sure he will make it because of his knees. Still, Westphal will continue as long as he can to spread his message.
“I always say to people don’t sit in the corner and wait for your death. Open your eyes and lift up your head. The world is beautiful. You must do what you like to do,” he said.