Dallas cancer survivor joins Austin-to-Anchorage bike ride to beat disease

Jared Muston has conquered cancer. Now he plans to conquer a 4,700-mile bike ride from Austin to Alaska. Jared Muston trained in Austin on Wednesday. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2007. After going into remission that December, he began cycling. “> JULIA ROBINSON Jared Muston trained in Austin on Wednesday. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2007. After going into remission that December, he began cycling.

The Dallas resident is joining more than 50 other riders as part of Texas 4000 for Cancer, a charity bike ride that starts today.

As Muston makes his journey northward over the next 70 days, he’ll make stops along the way to share his story. But he wants to spread a message, too.

“If someone gets diagnosed with cancer, that person has to believe that he or she is going to be able to beat the disease,” said Muston, 21, a University of Texas at Austin student. “The second you don’t believe you can beat it, that’s when things can start going bad.”

In 2007, Muston, a graduate of Dallas’ Woodrow Wilson High, was just days away from starting his college career when he visited a doctor to check out a lump on his neck.

He figured it was mononucleosis.

Instead, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

The news didn’t rattle him. Instead, he was disappointed that he’d have to delay college.

“I treated it like it was any kind of sickness or disease, strep throat or the flu,” he said. “My attitude with my doctors was: ‘OK, fix it.’

“I didn’t make a big deal about it. That was my way of handling it.”

Muston underwent 12 weeks of chemotherapy, followed by radiation.

He lost his hair and gained at least 15 pounds.

But he didn’t let that get him down. Instead he was looking ahead to one thing: getting to college.

“I don’t think at any point I was concerned about the disease,” Muston said. “My main concern was not going to UT. That’s what I was focused on.”

Starting training

By January 2008, Muston’s cancer was in remission. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is considered to be one of the most curable cancers, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society says. He is back in class and plans to graduate next spring, with law school his goal.

He also needs to slather sunscreen on his neck and chest since both areas were exposed to radiation.

“Little things like that are a constant reminder that I have had cancer and it continues to be a part of my life,” he said.

Muston joined Texas 4000 after passing an information table on campus staffed by some riders.

“It’s being able to say, ‘Look, I had cancer, now I’m riding a bike to Alaska,’ ” he said. “It’s really kind of a personal, physical accomplishment.”

He hadn’t ridden a bike in years. But it would be a way to honor those who helped him along the way, including his oncologists at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

Muston has been training since November. During Christmas break, he would ride. When it was frigid or raining, he would ride. When his legs ached, he kept riding.

He says he rides for those who can’t – and that’s what motivates him to keep going.

Still a part of his life

Muston enjoys biking so much that he plans to race for UT’s cycling team.

“If I’m out for a ride by myself, it’s you and the bike and the road for three hours,” he said. “You’re solely responsible for your entire ride.”

This summer, Texas 4000 cyclists, some of whom will come through Dallas, will travel up to 100 miles each day, said Jamille Ruebsahm, the ride’s executive director.

Their trek is twice as long as the Tour de France.

“The ride itself is a metaphor for the ride against cancer,” Ruebsahm said. “Seventy days, rain or snow or sleet, they get on their bikes and ride. It’s similar to someone fighting cancer.”

The Texas 4000 riders hope to raise $400,000 for cancer research this year.

Some, like Muston, have had cancer themselves. Others have parents, grandparents and friends who are either fighting cancer or have died from it.

Breast cancer. Prostate cancer. Colon cancer. Leukemia. Myeloma. Melanoma. Throat cancer. Lung cancer.

“We all have the same mindset in wanting to do something to help beat this disease,” Muston said.

When Muston was first told the Hodgkin’s lymphoma was gone, he didn’t want to think about cancer anymore.

“I beat this,” he thought. “I can move on. My life can go back to normal.”

But preparing for the bike ride made him realize that it’s OK to keep cancer on his mind. So he can share his story with others. So he can raise money for cancer research. So advances can be made.

“Yeah, I have moved on from this,” Muston said. “I have gotten past it. I’ve beaten it. But it is still part of my life, and there are productive things I can do with it.” CYCLISTS ROLLING THROUGH D-FW

Some of the Texas 4000 for Cancer cyclists will be rolling through Dallas next week. You can meet them from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Renfield’s Corner, 2603 Routh St. Earlier in the day, they’ll visit a local junior high school and UT Southwestern Medical Center. For more details about the bike ride, visit texas4000.org.