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Cancer Survivor Bikes Through South Florida To Encourage People to 'Be The Match'

MIAMI (CBSMIAMI) — A cancer survivor is biking his way through Florida to highlight bone marrow donation.

Bob Falkenberg is a volunteer and stem cell courier for Be the Match because he wants to help others going through what he did.

He's in the process of biking 600 miles to raise funds and awareness. CBS 4 caught up with him outside of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

"I started in Jacksonville, at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, and this is day seven of the trip," he said. "We've got three days left to get to Key West."

For him, the journey is personal. 

"13 years ago, I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of leukemia," he explained.

Falkenberg needed a bone marrow transplant, and after months of chemo, he got a match. 

"You assess your life when you're facing odds like that, when you have less than a 50-50 chance of making it," he said. "So I made a commitment right then that, if I live through it, I would spend a great deal of my time, as much as I can, trying to help people out."

He has been able to do that through riding "By the Mile" benefiting Be the Match. From Colorado, he is visiting as many transplant centers as possible by bike. 

In fact, this is not his first long tour. He's also biked from Minneapolis to Boston to Jacksonville. That trip took two months.

Serving as a stem cell courier was what brought him to Jackson Memorial Hospital, when he learned about their participation in the Dolphins Challenge Cancer event. 

"I see all these cycling jerseys on the wall, and I said 'We've got to get these people involved!'"

Dr. Edward Dela Ziga was one of them. He specializes in stem cell transplant in the pediatric Oncology/Hematology Clinic at the Sylvester Cancer Center.

"Some parents have to leave their jobs. They go through a lot of social and economic issues," Dr. Dela Ziga explained. "If I can ride a few miles, have a few body aches, and raise some money for them, I think I'm going to do that."

"I have been sponsored today by three families who I took care of in our center," he continued. "Today, we've raised over $20,000."

All of the money goes to the Patient and Family Support fund.

One of the messages they hope to get out is the need for people to register, particularly those who are African American, Asian American and Latino American. They say they are traditionally underrepresented on the registry.

Click here to learn more. 

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