Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML): Gordon's Story

How Gordon reclaimed a childhood joy

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Gordon Riggs

Portland, Oregon
Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML)
Transplant 2018


Since he was eight-years-old, cycling has been a huge part of Gordon's identity.

"It made me feel alive, energized and free to travel under my own power," says Gordon.

But a diagnosis of chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) in 2008, followed by a stem cell transplant abruptly changed that.

"My battle with leukemia and its treatment definitely affected my sense of balance and my confidence," explains Gordon.

"The rapid aging that came along with my stem cell transplant put biking out of reach. The pain from degeneration and arthritis in my neck and back, largely due to long-term use of steroids to treat chronic graft-versus-host-diseases (GVHD), prevented me from riding a bike for more than about 5 minutes."

But Gordon "remained in denial" that his biking days were over.

"Others encouraged me to seek new, non-biking activities that might fill the void, but I couldn't give up on biking," he says.

His determination to reclaim the joys of cycling eventually paid off.

"A couple of months ago, I tried a recumbent bike. Riding that bike seriously challenged my sense of balance, but I was hooked. I believed I could learn how to ride again."

"Within weeks, I purchased a bike and to my complete delight, I am now rediscovering the joy of bicycling."

"With a recumbent bike, you sit lower and your feet can be flat on the ground when not riding. In that way, the recumbent is much easier to approach. But the pedaling and steering feel quite different from a standard bike. I had to learn to relax into the seat and relax my grip on the handlebars, then the balance became much easier.

"I am so grateful that, for today, I can ride pain-free once again."