This weekend, George Keulen will celebrate his new second birthday with a long bike ride.
On June 16 and 17, the North Delta resident will cycle 235 kilometres from Crescent Beach to Manning Park, located more than 25 kilometres east of Hope.
The following Monday will be the second anniversary of his double-lung transplant.
“Less than two years ago, I was living in St. Paul’s Hospital and not able to walk 10 feet without becoming out of breath, and now I can bike over 100 kilometres in a day and feel pretty good after,” says Keulen, 30.
His participation in Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s GearUp4CF ride is his way of keeping a promise to himself and giving back to those who supported him during his struggle with cystic fibrosis (CF), an incurable and often fatal lung disease.
On June 18, 2010, Keulen was given a donor’s lungs in an eight-hour operation that saved his life after years of deteriorating health.
Keulen, who stopped bike riding when he first got his driver’s licence as a teen, committed himself to the CF ride last fall, and spent much of the winter and spring training on his new bike – just last week, he cycled up to Cypress Bowl.
“I haven’t felt this good since I was 16 or 17.”
Many of the people training with him for the ride, mostly friends and family members of those with CF, don’t even know he had a double-lung transplant, and he admits having some fun in telling them.
There are 51 riders in the 2012 GearUp4CF, split into three groups: A one-day, 100-kilometre ride to Chilliwack, the two-day Weekend Challenger ride that Keulen has chosen, and a nine-day, 1,200-kilometre ride to Banff, Alta., to test the hard-core Marathon Team.
Keulen is the only member of the ride this year who has undergone a lung transplant.
It’s not the first athletic June milestone for Keulen. Last year, a day before the first anniversary of his operation, Keulen did the Grouse Grind – something he promised himself in hospital just five days after his transplant.
Although he’s in better shape than ever, Keulen must take anti-rejection drugs every 12 hours for the rest of his life, and is susceptible to chest infections. He’s had two serious colds in the last year, both requiring hospitalization.
Keulen is dedicating his ride to two people: His cousin Erin Luymes, who died of CF at the age of 19 in 2003, and his lung donor.
The goal for this year’s GearUp4CF ride is $200,000. So far, the ride has raised more than $750,000 for Cystic Fibrosis Canada since 2006.
For more information or to donate to George Keulen’s ride, visit www.gearup4cf.org/