Cancer survivor ready to ride

Turner Valley: Walt Stevenson to pedal 200km

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 06, 2014 01:23 pm

Cancer survivor Walt Stevenson, of Turner Valley, powers up a hill near Okotoks in preparation for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer ride this weekend.
Cancer survivor Walt Stevenson, of Turner Valley, powers up a hill near Okotoks in preparation for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer ride this weekend.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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A Turner Valley area man got the retirement package of a lifetime last year.

It included accommodations at the Tom Baker Cancer Clinic, nearly daily treatments of radiation, some chemotherapy and an experience that nearly scared him to death, all the while bringing him and his wife even closer.

“I got my cancer diagnosed on a Monday and I was actually retiring from my corporate role in Calgary on the Friday — it was a complete blindside,” said 62-year-old Walt Stevenson.

“I learned how to be very afraid… This wasn’t like the Price is Right when there is a prize behind every door. I opened up the door and I got to look mortality square in the eye.”

A staring contest with the Grim Reaper makes biking in the hilly Turner Valley area a breeze. Stevenson has spent 2014 cycling in those hills getting ready for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer Aug. 9-10, a 200 kilometre trek which will include an overnight stay in Okotoks.

He is ready.

“I got a call from the Cancer folks this morning (July 30) and they asked me to be part of the opening ceremonies,” Stevenson said. “I got all wound up with emotion and thought: ‘Who’d have thought?’

“It’s been a miraculous journey for me.”

He had no idea what the journey would be like when he found a lump early in 2013.

“I first noticed a lump on my neck and I thought it was just a swollen gland because I had a cold coming on,” he said. “Ten days later I didn’t have a cold so I said better have it looked at.”

Within a month Stevenson’s lump was diagnosed as cancerous. However, it wasn’t until exploratory surgery was done that the primary spot for the cancer was found behind one of his tonsils.

“They took it out and removed it and after that came pretty aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatment for that lump in my neck,” he said.

“The month after my treatment (June 2013) was the worst time. I couldn’t talk, swallow, eat or sleep and pretty well I had no energy. I would never have believed that a bit more than a year later, I would be doing this ride.”

While receiving the treatment at the Tom Baker Centre, he learned that was not the place for him to start feeling hard done by.

“There are not only wonderful people there, but it is about realizing where you are in all of this too,” Stevenson said.

“I was talking to one woman and her 19-year-old niece had brain cancer and the prognosis was not very good.

“I got to thinking: ‘Here I am 62, and I got to live most of my life and see my kids grow up. I am doing great compared to what was in front of her.’ You really realize that life is such a precious thing.”

The most precious thing in Walt’s life is his wife Ruth, who was Stevenson’s rock while healing from the cancer.

“Without Ruth, it would not have been possible to be where I am today,” Stevenson said. “She literally took over. If she could have slept for me, she would have.”

Stevenson last check-up about a month ago showed he was cancer-free. What better way to celebrate and go for a ride.

“I have been training for a 200km ride and I am just so grateful to be here,” Stevenson said. “In February or March I said I need a goal — a goal where I can make a difference.”

He had a three-prong goal — to get fit, to help people and to possibly inspire people.

“I started riding for 15 minutes a day, and then 25 minutes building up to 45 and then an hour,” Stevenson said. “In June, I thought I was back. The month of July has put me into a level of fitness I haven’t been for 30 or 40 years.

“I am in better shape than I have been in a very long time… There is a zest for life in me that just can’t be put out.”

Stevenson has done more than just get in shape. He has raised $6,000 and his team total is around $28,000.

The Enbridge Ride For Cancer opening ceremonies will are at 8 a.m. Saturday at Canada Olympic Park. The expected 2,000 riders will pedal 100km ultimately winding up at Okotoks’ Pason Centennial Centre on Saturday where they can rest overnight.

They will then head back to COP on Sunday.

For more information about the ride go to www.conquercancer.ca


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