Leukemia Survivor Rides to Celebrate His Win Over Cancer

For Tom Johnson, life’s better on two wheels.

However, since early 2015, Tom’s time on his bike was severely limited as he experienced one of life’s most difficult challenges, fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia — a type of blood cancer that attacks a person’s white blood cells. The condition is characterized by the overproduction and accumulation of cancerous immature cells called lymphoblasts. These cells are produced in the bone marrow and multiply continuously, causing damage and destruction of normal blood cells. If not caught early, the disease can have a major impact on other organs.


Luckily for Tom, he turned to Dr. Abhay Jella, an oncologist and hematologist with cancer.

After diagnosis, Tom spent 61 days receiving inpatient care at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee. His treatment primarily focused on chemotherapy.

Between treatments, Tom took his mind off the process by doing what he loves the most – riding his bicycle.

His first ride in March 2015 was just two miles — limited by his exhaustion from the grueling treatment. Slowly, he built up his mileage and was able to expand his two-mile rides to treks covering 50 and then 60 miles over the past year.


Throughout his treatment, he held a dream of biking along Wisconsin’s magnificent roads.

On Sept. 1, 2015, more than seven months after being diagnosed, Tom was declared in remission by the Dr. Jella and the team at Aurora St. Luke’s.

A year later, on Aug. 29, 2016, he celebrated his one-year remission anniversary by completing a 104-mile round trip ride from Waukesha to Port Washington and back.

Throughout the ride, he thought about the care he received, especially from the hospital’s nurses and staff.

What made the trek even more memorable was one of his nurses during treatment, Maria, a cancer nurse navigator, joined Tom for 25 miles of his ride.


Together they spoke about his time in treatment, about the beauties of the Oak Leaf Trail they rode and about life. It was a day Tom will never forget, and a day that made him all the more grateful for the care and treatment he received.


Meet the Author

Aurora Cancer Care helps fight cancer on all fronts at facilities across the Aurora Health Care service area.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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