Not many people can say that they’ve survived acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Nor could they say that they've ridden their bicycle 3,000 miles across the country. But Levittown native Mike Cohen now can say both.
Cohen, 27, was diagnosed with ALL when he was just 18. The cancer involves the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes. The chemotherapy treatment Cohen received was intense, and he also survived congestive heart failure, a pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.
Nine years after his diagnosis, Cohen has been cancer-free for six years. He celebrated by completing the cross-country cycling trip on Friday, arriving at the Monter Cancer Center in New Hyde Park where his treatments began.
“I started thinking, what should I do with my survivorship? I want to do something where I can give back and inspire someone in their own fight or whatever it is they're going through," he said.
After graduating from MacArthur HS in 2003, Cohen moved to San Diego to attend Culinary School and to finish his treatments. He wrote a book entitled “Patient” and started a website called “A Second Spin Foundation" to inspire other cancer survivors to pursue their dreams.
Two of his best friends accompanied him on the journey in a van for emotional and physical support. As they arrived Friday, he met with Dr. Steven Allen and the medical staff that treated him years ago.
“It was very difficult and intense,” Allen said of Cohen’s early treatment. “He’s been in remission for over 8 years – the chance that he is fully cured is excellent. “
“This is the first time it’s my point to see [Dr. Allen],” Cohen said. “It’s on my terms now.”
Cohen’s mother, Denise, stood alongside her son, proud as a parent could be.
“He beat cancer and he never game up,” she said. “He kept on going with cancer, he kept going with this journey. That’s the result.”
Denise said that Mike gave up everything to do the bike ride – his job and his car in particular.
“I backed him. How could you not back him after what he’s been through?” she said.
After accomplishing so much in so little time, Cohen remains focused on living his life to the fullest.
“This was definitely one of the best decisions of my life,” he said. “The biggest thing now is to live day by day and do as much as you can in that day.”