Man honors wife’s cancer struggle with cross-country journey by bicycle

ENCINITAS — Craig Broeder, 55, is an unlikely hero. But this self-described average guy is embarking on an extraordinary journey that will take him 9,000 miles around the perimeter of the country on a bicycle to help raise money for ovarian cancer while celebrating his wife’s 20-year anniversary of surviving the disease.
Broeder, director of the master’s program in Clinical Exercise Physiology at Benedictine University, 30 miles outside of Chicago, is riding one of three bikes for 100 days, averaging around 100 miles per day, ranging from 76 to 149 miles a day during the trip.
Broeder’s goal is to raise awareness and funds for the Kay and Craig Broeder Preventive Health Female Cancer Foundation. “I’d like 1 million people to give $1 each,” he said.
His following is expanding as word of his story is shared on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Broeder updates, or “tweets,” at least once a day to update followers on his progress.
Broeder credits his wife as the motivation for his journey.
When Kay Broeder was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 31, Craig had 18 months left before receiving his master’s degree.
“She didn’t have any symptoms, no history of cancer,” he said.
Broeder’s motivation is powerful and all consuming when conditions become difficult during the ride. “Mentally, you just have to remember why you’re doing it (riding),” he said while on a stop at his brother Eric’s home in Encinitas on June 1. “I remember Kay going to chemo on Friday, throwing up all day, all day Saturday, sick as a dog and then going to work on Monday so that I wouldn’t have to quit school,” he recalled.
He began his journey on May 15 in Austin, Texas, riding west from Mellow Johnny’s bike shop, Lance Armstrong’s stomping grounds, into headwinds that slowed his pace but not his determination.
Other difficulties have dogged Broeder along the way. On the third day of the ride, Broeder’s driver was bit by a rattlesnake in West Texas.
“He managed to still get video of me riding before we took him to the hospital,” Broeder said.
Thankfully, Brad Yost was able to fly in from Chicago on a moments notice to replace the ailing driver.
“The wind was so strong last night that it lifted me off the ground a few times,” Broeder said of his May 31 traverse from Jucumba to Encinitas. “If there hadn’t been a barrier there I would have gone off the side of the cliff.”
“It’s insane,” Eric’s wife Pam said as she made breakfast for Broeder and his driver. “Craig’s always been an intense person.”
Indeed, his determination will serve him well as he continues north to San Francisco and through the remainder of the ride.
“I’m on schedule to finish in Austin on Aug. 25,” Broeder said. It will be a dual celebration. That day also marks the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.
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