May 14, 2019 11:15 AM


Dan Nelson rides his bike while being pushed uphill by another cyclist

Orignally published August 2018

From time to time, HCI invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HCI.

By Dianne Nelson. Dianne’s husband, Dan Nelson, is a Huntsman Hero who rode the 30-mile segment of the Huntsman 140 this year in spite of a terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

Pushing Up a Hill: The Journey of Team #DanStrong

Right after Father’s Day in 2016, we bought Dan a new road bike, looking forward to many exciting adventures ahead. The next week we were at University of Utah Health, receiving shattering news that Dan had a tumor sitting on his brain stem. Since then, he has had countless brain surgeries and emergency treatments that have given us the gift of time.

There were many days when Dan wasn’t able to walk on his own, and a full year passed where he walked with the assistance of a walker or cane. Going from the front door to the end of the driveway was a workout that would leave him exhausted for days. Amid all this, Dan never gave up and always responded with a smile and his signature thumbs up when he wasn’t able to speak.

A few months after his last chemo treatment, Dan heard about the Huntsman 140 and set a goal to ride 5 miles on his road bike in the 2018 event. He pushed through his fatigue, and last fall he was able to ride 2.5 miles as his “long” ride, which took every ounce of energy. During the winter he worked with a physical therapist and spent some time on our spin bike in the basement. As soon as it was warm enough, we were out on the road and Dan was determined to not just ride 5 miles as planned but the full 30-mile segment.

The weekend before the Huntsman 140, we had a familiar but unwelcome event that took Dan back to a wheelchair again. Dan’s determination pushed him through and we were able to “walk” out of the hospital. He spent the next week recovering. We both weren’t sure what to expect during the ride, but one thing was certain—Dan was going to give it EVERYTHING he had.

This ride, with our friends and family who have been at our side through this entire journey, was nothing short of a bright, beautiful miracle. On the last hill, Dan was exhausted and not sure if he could push through. My brother-in-law, Cody, rode right by his side, put his hand on his back, and literally pushed him up the hill. The group fell completely silent at that moment, all of us with tears of admiration in our eyes. We all sent silent strength to Dan to help him up the hill. It was symbolic of our journey and how, in the hardest of times, we have never been alone. Together we stand strong and keep fighting.

Everyone who took this journey and ride has been profoundly touched, and we are so thankful for this incredible event that will be part of our story forever.

The Dan Strong team takes a group photo during the bike ride

Each June, the Huntsman Sports Festival brings together patients, donors, community supporters and friends to walk, run, and ride to support cancer research at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI).

Team #DanStrong raised more than $5,000 in 2018 to support the neuro-oncology team at HCI. They plan on participating in the 2019 Huntsman Sports Festival. Dan’s prognosis is stable and he and his family are living each moment to the fullest.

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