Wednesday evening I attended my local multiple myeloma support group’s monthly meeting.
I soon learned that we had an unscheduled speaker: Myeloma patient and cross-country cyclist Andy Sninsky.
A citizen of both Austria and California, Andy was just finishing up a cycle ride of over 1300 miles from New Orleans to Jacksonville, Florida.
Why? “To raise awareness about a disease I hadn’t heard of until I was diagnosed in 2008 while I was in Europe.”
Andy’s story is fascinating. While living with his wife (an Austrian citizen) in Vienna, Andy was hospitalized for weeks before doctors diagnosed his multiple myeloma. In the meantime, Andy suffered severe bone damage and needed to wait almost a year until he was strong enough to undergo a stem cell transplant.
Andy tells how the couple lived in a three story home–and he couldn’t even make it up one flight of stairs. “So I went to live in a monastery with an order of monks which had been there since the 1600’s. I still have a tape of their Gregorian chants to help keep me going while I ride.”
You can’t make this stuff up! Andy went on to tell us that after almost two years of constant medical care in Europe, he never even saw a bill. He loves European “socialized medicine.”
“Thank God I was diagnosed in Vienna, Austria,” Andy repeated several times during his 20 minute talk.
This guy is a character! He shared how when he headed off to New Orleans, no one believed he could complete the journey. “I didn’t have any sponsors,” he said. “All the IMF (International Myeloma Foundation) gave me was this hat and T-shirt.”
He wore both Wednesday evening–worn and faded. His shirt untucked, his nose red and sunburned. But I could tell that Andy didn’t care. He was just happy to be alive! To be biking and seeing things he never thought that he would live to see.
I’m not easily inspired. But this guy fires me up!
“I’ve already raised over $2000 for the IMF already this month!” Andy shared, proudly. “No one thought I could do this. All of the money I raise is designated to go directly to multiple myeloma research.” He added.
At the end of his talk, Andy made an unusual request. “I’m looking for people to bike with me from Jacksonville to St. Augustine on the first weekend of May–probably the 5th and 6th.” He continued. “Just to be able to do something together as a group is powerful. We will stop and spend Saturday night on the way–then continue and dip our front tires in the Atlantic Ocean.”
I promised Andy that I would pass his sojourning request along. He calls himself the “Crazy guy on a bike.” There apparently isn’t any monetary commitment to join him that weekend, just the joy for him of riding in a group.
We all enjoyed a meal together (we always serve food at our meetings) and swapped myeloma tales. At the end of the evening, Andy asked if he might stay with someone in the group for the night, before he headed-off to speak to another Florida support group the next day in a car he had borrowed from his cousin. I’m sure he would have slept in the back seat if no one had stepped-up, but a wonderful member of our group, Carolyn, offered him a place to stay.
And why not? Andy handles himself with a humble grace you might expect from one of the monks who took him in back in Austria.
You can reach Andy to wish him well–or to inquire about the final leg of his journey–by emailing him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
He does have a sort of basic website/journal set-up online: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/directory/?user=volcandy
I’m telling you again–this guy is a character! You couldn’t help but fall in love with him after listening to his stories–and witnessing that infectious grin.
I’m glad his transplant worked. I’m glad that Andy is going to be able to “dip his front tire into the Atlantic Ocean,” just like he did after he arrived in New Orleans a few months back.
Good luck, Andy! Thanks for brightening our lives!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat