Kelsey Bohman survived leukemia and is riding in the Courage Classic again this year to raise money for Children's Hospital Colorado. / Dawn Madura/The Coloradoan
"Something is wrong, but I don't know exactly what it is," the doctor told Bohman and her family at that time.
It turned out that Bohman had acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, a form of cancer normally found in older men.
AML is a cancer that starts inside the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells. While it is one of the most common types of leukemia among adults, it is rare in people younger than 40, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
"Cancer was still the big 'C,'" said Bohman's father, John Bohman. "It's still scary, which is why we did what the doctor told us."
After nine months in Children's Hospital Colorado undergoing chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, Bohman beat the cancer. She has been in remission for more than 11 years.
A big part of Bohman's road to recovery has been riding her bicycle, specifically in the Courage Classic, a three-day, 157-mile ride put on by Children's Hospital.
"My love for cycling grows every year," Bohman said. "Just the feeling of being on your bike is so freeing for me."
Bohman, 23, who is taking time off before starting graduate school, will ride in her 11th Courage Classic on July 21 with 2,400 cyclists from around the country who hope to raise a combined $2.4 million for the hospital.
The first year Bohman participated in the ride, she was only five months removed from hospitalization and completed about 100 miles of the ride.
Her parents ride with her every year, and now she has joined the Wheels of Justice bicycle team composed of about 200 cyclists.
In its seventh year as a team participating in the Courage Classic, Wheels of Justice has raised $1.3 million to date and $290,000 in 2011, said the team's co-founder Heather Purcell Leja.
Since the team raises more than $50,000, it gets to choose where the money goes in the hospital, and Purcell Leja said they donate to the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. This year, the team hopes to raise $300,000. By Tuesday, they were at $106,000.
Having riders such as Bohman on the team is a great reminder of how the money they raise can change a life, Purcell Leja said.
"It's incredible because it makes it so much more than just getting in shape. To just make it up a mountain, to hear what these kids have gone through, it just pushes us to go that much further," she said. "All our suffering pales in comparison to what they get through."
In its 23rd year, the Courage Classic is one of the larger bike tours in the nation and has raised approximately $27.7 million, making it one of the hospital's largest fundraisers.
Tina Garbin, director of communications with Children's Hospital, said they are expecting 2,400 cyclists and 500 volunteers for this year's ride that starts and ends in Leadville and includes Vail and Fremont Pass
Garbin said they have several cancer survivors, such as Bohman, participate in the ride that includes 60 patient riders.
"One-hundred fifty-seven miles in three days is a challenge. The fact that she is able to do it is pretty incredible," she said. "I met her and saw her at the Courage last year and was inspired."
Every year when Bohman crosses the finish line, John Bohman said there are a few tears reflecting on how far Bohman has come since she was first diagnosed with AML.
Aside from the Courage Classic, Bohman also volunteers at the Children's Hospital twice a week as a way to give back.
"It's really rewarding for me. I love the feeling of being there again on the healthy side and not as a patient," she said.
Bohman also launched Kelsey's Kids in 2002, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children with cancer by providing sterilized toys to children in isolation at Children's Hospital.
Written by David Young
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