Journey started in 1987, with six months left to live
AMHERST – How many miles would you travel if you were told you only had six months to live?
© Christopher Gooding photo
Randolph Westphal of Germany and his pet dogs are about to retire from Westphal’s sixth journey around the world by bicycle, raising a message of hope for cancer patients. Next year, he says, the plans to travel by motorcycle with a sidecar for his pets. The team were in Amherst on Wednesday, staying as guests at the Comfort Inn.
Randolph Westphal of Germany decided all of them, and that was 27 years ago.
Westphal was in Amherst Wednesday, as the latest leg of his travels draws to an end. As a cancer survivor with almost thirty related operation behind him, Westphal started his transient lifestyle with his two dogs as a means of raising awareness for himself and others afflicted with cancer.
“I go where the people I think need me,” Westphal said. “I like to show people not to give up.”
In 1987, Westphal says he was a healthy, athletic young man who didn’t drink or smoke. When the doctors told him he had developed an aggressive melanoma, he was devastated.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was 29 years-old and I had cancer,” he said.
In the late 1980s, the prognosis for cancer was not optimistic. Doctors gave him just months to live and with those few months he had Westphal decided he would live life to the fullest.
“I started to do what I liked. It freed my mind, my mood improved. And when the mind is freed your body gets better.”
After six months, Westphal was not dead. He wasn’t employed, either, presenting a new paradox: how will he continue to live life to the fullest without funds?
“Cancer is a predator. It takes. After six months, I was not dead but who gives you a job if you have cancer, because everyone thinks you’re going to die. So I biked 3,500 miles in seven weeks to prove I was not sick, I just had cancer.”
That bike ride inspired hospitals to contact Westphal and have him speak to cancer patients and make more journeys around the world.
Unlike long distance bike rides with a set course, Westphal crisscrosses his way around the world. Living off donations and complimentary hotel rooms, his latest trek started last year in British Columbia into Alberta, back into British Columbia and then north to Alaska, south again into Canada and, eventually, over to the Atlantic provinces. Westphal says his trek is now over and plans to return to Germany in September, when he expects to undergo surgery again for melanoma, his 29th cancer related surgery since 1987. In the meantime, while he waits for that September flight, he plans on touring around Nova Scotia and spreading his message of hope.
To learn more about Westphal, his journeys – including how he almost lost his leg in Argentina – visit his website www.randolph-westphal.de.