Bob and Mike Scherer are about as close as a father and son can be.
“I care about this guy so much,” Mike said of his dad. “But we’re not the most affectionate family.”
Nevertheless, Bob, 61, and Mike, 31, have a very personal – and downright affectionate – Pelotonia ritual. After they cross the finish line in Gambier, they head over to the Kenyon Athletic Center.
“We have a private moment together,” Mike said of their time together before they rejoin the family members who’ve come to cheer them on and share the experience. “Every day is precious; there are no more bad days and I don’t take anything for granted.”
“What’s important now is my wife and kids and grandchildren and friends,” Bob said. “Being in the moment.”
Cancer survivors, Bob (three times) and Mike, have been there for one another, through all the surgeries and rounds of chemo, through all the fears and doubts – and the incredible joy of being told their cancer is in remission.
“We can relate to what the other is going through without even speaking,” Bob said.
“Everyone who’s had cancer shares a bond,” Mike said.
Their bond includes Pelotonia.
“Pelotonia has given me the motivation to keep going,” Mike said. “After seeing (Bob) go through it again, for the third time, all I can think about is riding; I think about Pelotonia almost every day.”
November 18 was definitely one of those days.
Bob was in The James, still groggy from the prostate cancer surgery he’d undergone a few hours earlier. And who should walk into his room to say hello and wish him well? Sheryl Crow, who was in the midst of a tour of the James, hours before she headlined the Pelotonia Check Celebration.
“When she walked in, I couldn’t believe it,” Bob said. “That touched me more than anything.”
After Sheryl left his room, a nurse – stunned by the surprise visit of the superstar singer – asked Bob a question.
“She said, ‘Who are you?’” Bob recalled. “And I said, ‘Nobody.’”
Hardly. Bob – and Mike – are examples of the power of courage, determination and love, and the importance of cancer research.
“The James saved our lives,” Mike said.
The Scherers cancer journey began in 1994 when Bob – a medical equipment salesman – was diagnosed with a malignant, Acinic cell carcinoma (ACC) in his neck that required two surgeries. In 2003, he was then diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, and was again successfully treated at the James.
Mike, a financial planner, rode Pelotonia for the first time in 2010 – in honor of his father. A few months later, “something felt weird” in his chest. It was testicular cancer – and doctors at the James removed one of his testicles.
Mike rode the 50-mile route in Pelotonia 11 – two months after surgery.
“I watched him ride and was motivated to do more than donate,” Bob said. “We were going to ride together (in Pelotonia 12).”
Cancer had other ideas.
“All my tests were clear until May (2012),” Mike said. “I had swollen lymph nodes, the cancer was back. My chemo started in June and ended the Monday after Pelotonia.”
Bob rode Pelotonia 12, in honor of his son, who was waiting for him in Gambier. He stopped a few feet before the finish line, motioned for Mike to join him – and together they crossed the finish line. And yes, there were a few tears.
Mike almost rode in that Pelotonia. “I had one more chemo treatment left, was scared, sad I couldn’t ride and so proud of my dad,” he said. “Pelotonia means so much to me and, at the Opening Ceremonies, I said to my wife (Megan), ‘I’m going to sign up and ride 25 miles.”
Megan made a deal with Mike: If he could walk to the top of the parking garage, where their car was parked, he could ride. “I walked to the top,” Mike said. “But was so exhausted and so out of breath that I had to sit down. Megan said, ‘No way you’re riding, wait until next year.’”
Bob and Mike finally rode together in Pelotonia 13 – and began their post-ride ritual. Soon after they rode Pelotonia 15, Bob was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He’s on the mend and determined to ride Pelotonia 16 with Mike, who remains in remission.
“When we ride in Pelotonia, all I can think is, ‘Why am I so fortunate to still be here and others aren’t?’” Bob said. “Seeing all the people along the route, cheering and ringing bells, that’s what keeps me going for 100 miles.”
“Pelotonia gives you hope,” Mike said.