It’s almost here! I’ve put in a lot of miles in getting ready for my first Tour DaVita. I’m not convinced that the rolling hills of Raleigh, North Carolina have prepared me for the mountains of Washington . . . but I have done all I can do. The best part of this trip of a lifetime is that I’m not going alone. There are four Wake Forest Warriors participating! One of my patients, Carl, will be going on his first tour. He regularly rides his bike and happens to be a talented photographer. The dietitian, Adrienne, is rolling along as well. She has borrowed a bike and purchased shoes so she can have a more authentic training experience.  A technician, Kristie, who is our ring leader, is preparing for her second tour. She also has upgraded her bike and has spent a lot of time telling us about her awesome experience last year. Me? Well I’m Kathy, a nurse as well as our clinical coordinator. Ten years ago I rode in events like this regularly. I was a triathlete and rode approximately 100-150 miles a week. Now I’m 10-ish pounds overweight and working full time, leaving less hours to be on my bike. In my mind, I’m ready but the reality is that It will probably be a challenge to complete the course.  (I keep thinking of the five mile long hill. FIVE MILES???)

Each of us has prepared for this ride in our own way but we have looked to each other for advice. Fingerless or full gloves, and clip in shoes versus standard pedals. Where to go for a bike tune up? Every day we check in with each other to see how it’s going and discuss our latest concerns. The four of us are a great team because each of us brings something to the group. Carl reminds us of why we ride. Everything we do is for our patients. The fact that he is a dedicated rider reminds us that ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) has not kept him from doing something he loves. Adrienne helps motivate me because she is able to exercise almost every day. I find it hard to get out on the bike after a long stressful day, but she makes it look so easy. Somehow, I find the energy after talking to her. Kristie has helped us prepare for the actual event. She has stressed the importance of having a rolling bag and handy tips on how to make the tour more enjoyable. I feel like I’ve been able to provide some basic bike riding tips and training suggestions. Because there are four of us going, it feels like our whole unit is a part of this experience. All of the patients are aware that the tour exists, and many have helped us countdown to our special trip. I’m proud of our little team and look forward to flying to Washington to do something I love with teammates from across the country.


It’s our second Tour in Washington.  This time we will be riding in the scenic Northwest region of the state, including a ride among the islands inside Puget Sound.  While the last  time we were here the rain gods ruled, this year we are making numerous offerings to the Indian Summer Gods in hopes of having a warm dry early October.  Get ready for a great and beautiful ride!  Many of the small towns we ride through have local Indian names, and we will have fun learning how to pronounce each of these (Swinomish, Samish, Padilla, Fidalgo, Snohomish, etc.).

Once again, I had the good fortune to do a scouting ride of the Tour DaVita route.  A wrinkle this year was an unexpected knee surgery for me, severely limiting my riding.  But heck, who listens to their Orthopaedic surgeon anyway, so I saddled up and made a “promise” not to overdo it!

This year the Tour starts in Monroe, just 40 miles northeast of Seattle.  The route starts in the fertile valleys between Monroe and Fall City.  Day 2 winds its way Northwest towards Burlington, with an extra special route for the Century riders across the Swinomish Indian Reservation to follow along Padilla Bay and Fidalgo Bay.  Day 3 winds from Burlington towards Anacortes, with one of the most spectacular rides ever seen on a Tour, crossing Samish Island and down along Padilla Bay before turning East, crossing over the Tulip fields to Burlington.

Riding with me again this year were two awesome and reliable riders, Seth Winbolt, Senior Accountant with the Accountables in Federal Way, Washington, and Dan DeYoung, Seattle based Audit Partner with KPMG. We were generously supported by my son Max and my wife Chong, who were voluntold to help drive SAG on this year’s adventure. The route is gorgeous, beautiful winding farmland,  twisting rivers, fantastic sea shores, vistas and islands. The topography is primarily flat with intermittent rolling hills and just a couple of challenging hills.  This a great Tour route.  It gets better every day, culminating with the Day 3 ride which is one of the prettiest rides I have ever experienced.

Again this year we arrived with the intent on riding every mile of this year’s route.

However, I knew I would not be able to ride the full route each day because of my bum knee, but Dan and Seth were game to ride the entire route.  Making a scouting ride is a very different experience compared to riding the Backroads supported Tour.   No smiling Backroads teammates, no rest stops set up with goodies.  Generally, the route winds through quiet country roads which are far from convenience or grocery stores, making it difficult to casually stop for needed supplies, so it is important to have SAG (Support and Gear) support. I asked my family to help out so that I could ½ ride and ½ SAG. Driving the SAG wagon consists of drop-off/pickup at the start and finish of each day’s ride, organizing a daily lunch for disoriented, overheated, dehydrated, and hungry riders, and making sure we were safe and accounted for at all times.  It’s amazing how much driving time and effort that entails.

The total mileage for the long version of this year’s Tour is about 230 miles and about 200 for the shorter version. The area is generally flat with intermittent rolling hills.  On average, this is a relatively flat course and the hills we encountered were gentle, with an occasional challenging hill to get your heart pumping. Total elevation gains of ~7300 feet over 230 miles is considered very ridable for the average cyclist. The Tour begins in Monroe, Washington at the Skykomish River Centennial Park, where we will camp for the first two nights.  The road conditions varied a lot, with a healthy mix of asphalt and chip seal. Some of the lanes will get narrow and there are railroad tracks to cross, so remember to pay attention while riding (generally a good rule of life).

The first day of the route is a 70 mile loop that brings you back to the campground.  Day 2 will zigzag over 100 miles, heading generally North by Northwest, ending in Burlington at the Skagit River Park Playfields (70 miles for those cyclists choosing the Metric Century), where we will spend the final two nights of the Tour.  The final day of riding will head West towards Samish Island with a loop back to the Playfields. Washington is a great state and this year’s route is spectacular.  I’ll be waiting to hear how many whale sightings the riders will get to experience!

The weather should be great, but early October can be unpredictable, so be prepared for moderate weather and bring a light weight rain jacket just in case.  The temperature will likely drop down into the 50’s at night so a jacket or warm pullover for the evening is advised.  We found the people are very friendly and cyclist-aware.  On the road, drivers gave us a wide berth and were courteous and safety conscious.

First things first, Backroads has once again designed a great ride this year.  Looking at the MapMyRide maps will reinforce the view of a rolling path winding through fertile valleys and farmland, along the gorgeous bay with incredible views. The roads were generally in reasonably good shape, with a mix of asphalt and sections of chip seal.   This year’s route includes a twenty mile stretch of bike path on Day 2 that is really amazing.  As in all routes that you are unfamiliar with, the roads can be unpredictable, so keeping both hands on the bars at all times is highly recommended.  We did not encounter much road construction, so we should be in good stead come late September.  However, always ride safely and pay attention to your surroundings.

While this year’s course is pretty flat, there are some rolling hills from time to time.  A quick note about riding rolling hills. Rolling hills can be a total blast to ride!  Lots of work and lots of rewards. While riding on the rollers, you will be changing gears much more frequently. Try to catch the momentum of going downhill and pedal through the bottom of the hill, using that captured momentum will help carry you up the hill.  You should be increasing the power of the gears on the way downhill and reducing the gears as you go up the hill.  This is an important skill to master and can make riding through the hills much less challenging and way more enjoyable.

Please also remember that on flat stretches, larger groups of riders can often form and will tend to create pace lines.  Riding in a pace line can be a lot of fun and you will go faster than you would otherwise ride, but you need to keep a few “rules” in mind.  Rule number one, never touch your brakes in a pace line unless you first signal clearly to those behind you that you will be braking (failure to do so will likely result in riders, including you, suddenly hitting the ground).  Rule number two, when you take a turn at the front, maintain the current pace of the line, riding in a steady, predictable pace.  When you find yourself getting fatigued, signal to the rider behind you to come up and replace you at the front (don’t stay up front and slow down as you will slow the whole group).  Rule number three, when you pull off the front, do so by pulling over to the left and drifting to the back of the line.  Do not pull off to the right as you will become a hazard and may find yourself trapped in a dangerous situation.  Rule number four, remember to “latch on” at the end of the line, which takes a final burst of energy so the line doesn’t ride off into the distance without you.  Finally, when you are in a pace line, it is best to be in an easier gear while spinning the pedals a little faster.  This will help prevent you from surging into the rider in front of you. Remember predictability is really important to safe pace lining.

You may encounter lots of wildlife on the ride this year.  You may see deer, turkeys, otters, beavers, hawks, eagles, and yes, whales and dolphins.

Again, this year, we had intermittent user problems following the maps.   We had dutifully printed out the maps and even downloaded them to our Garmins.  We even used the MapMyRide App on our cell phones (this App is pretty darn good and can really give you a great view of where you are going).  Each turn is laid out, right 1 mile, left .5 miles, rotate around the tree, go back, repeat and so on.  Following the maps (or in my case, failing to pay attention) can sometimes be confusing or can take you to strange places.  For instance, the map said turn left (west) and after a while we passed that darn corn field again…

All kidding aside, Backroads will have the route well marked with signs and painted arrows at most turns so no one should get lost or go off course.  Riders should not be worried about getting lost or having to ride through overgrown forest trails, corn fields or tulip fields. We are on the paved roads the entire route.

Ok, a couple of other comments before I move on to describing the course.  Drivers (although there were very few cars encountered) gave a wide berth and everyone we met could not have been more helpful or kind.  There are farm trucks driving on some of the country roads.  Drivers were patient and gave room, but please be careful as trucks and cars will win the physics battle 100% of the time.   The weather may be unpredictable, with wind and rain possible while we are riding.  Be prepared for great weather, but look out for heat, rain, winds and possible thunder storms.  Staying hydrated is incredibly important.   Even experienced riders can overlook this.  Be smart and hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate!

Now, on to the route:

Day 1

The Day 1 Monroe to Fall City Loop is a 70-mile route that climbs 2,300 ft. The majority of the route is a relatively flat ride through fertile valleys with some occasional rolling hills to break it up.  There are three notable hills on this route, with only two being steep, but they are relatively short. Be prepared for quiet country roads and beautiful scenery.  Road surfaces were good to marginal at times.  At about 43 miles in there is a tough but short climb up Stillwater Hill that will challenge you.  The good news is after to reach the top, the next 5-6 miles are mostly rollers making for a enjoyable ride.  As you begin to get close to Duvall, at about 53 miles into the ride you will encounter some hills before flattening out for an easy downhill run back into Monroe and our campsite.   Overall, Day 1 was very enjoyable and a fun ride.

Day 2

This year, like last year, Day 2 is the 101-mile “Century” ride, with a shorter, more manageable 70-mile version as an option.  The route winds 101 miles from Monroe to Burlington, with a 20-mile section of the Centennial Trail bike path, which starts in Snohomish.  We will ride this until just beyond Arlington.  Day 2 is pretty flat, with occasional rolling hills until you reach the cutoff for the longer route.  The extra loop takes you to LaConnor and onto the Swinomish Indian Reservation.  This loop incorporates a beautiful ride along Padilla Bay and Fidalgo Bay.  Be on the lookout for eagles, whales, dolphins, otters and other wild creatures.  As you ride along these bays, the gorgeous scenery will be on your right.  On your left will be the major oil refineries in the Pacific Northwest, which are very interesting unto themselves.  MapMyRide says 3,400 feet of elevation gain for the Century ride (our Garmins’ confirmed that elevation gain), so some up and down, especially on the extra loop for the Century riders, but frankly, it wasn’t that noticeable.  Don’t sweat the elevation gain too much.  It is spread out over 100 miles and there weren’t any super big hills along the way.  Overall, we found the day’s ride to be very scenic and very pleasant riding.

Day 3

Day 3 is a totally awesome and beautiful ride!  This is a course that inspires, and will give you insight into why Washington is so special.  Day 3 is a 58-mile loop route with a scant 1600 feet of climbing.  This flat course starts from Burlington heading North by Northwest towards Samish Island and loops to the South along Padilla Bay before heading East back towards Burlington and our campsite. Riding across the marshland on Samish Island is fascinating and builds the anticipation for the ride around the point of the island. The end point of the Island is about ½ mile long with the Puget Sound to your left and right, providing incredible vistas. I just can’t repeat myself enough when I write that this is a great route which offers great riding.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Overall, this year’s route is terrific and will provide a great experience for both the seasoned rider as well as the novice rider.  Be prepared.  Bring sunscreen, but also bring a light rain jacket just in case. Ride safely. Finally, hydrating is crucial to set yourself up for a spectacular experience.  It is easy to be surprised and become dehydrated on long rides, so a good rule of thumb is a full water bottle an hour!

Enjoy the Tour!!!

Jim “Hammer” Hilger


In September, I will be participating in my eleventh Tour DaVita.  Crazy to think I was still in my thirties when I participated in the first Tour and my kids were 14, 11, and 5 and are now 24, 21, and 15!  My kids have grown up with Tour DaVita and know how passionate I am about the event. They have watched me over the years fundraising, training, and counting on them and Dad to hold down the fort while I was away at Tour.  They also watched in 2012, when I received a cancer diagnosis.  They understood how my fitness from the tour not only saved me physically, but looking forward to the event and the mental preparedness you glean from cycling actually helped me cope with the mental challenge of the cancer diagnosis.  If this is the legacy that I leave my children–that when you are passionate about something you give it your all, that bad things do happen, but you face them head on, and a small group of committed people can change the world–then I am pretty happy with that legacy.

I have written several blogs over the years for Tour DaVita. I have written about reflections of the ride, tips and tricks for new riders, and several others so I pondered on what to share in this blog after ten years.  What really resonates looking back over the past ten tours is the passion and commitment of the riders and volunteers.  Countless hours of preparation and sacrifice come into play months and months before the event even begins.  I wanted to take a moment to pause and acknowledge that preparation and commitment and share a little story of my own that sums up how I feel about the Tour DaVita community.

In the earlier years I did not ride every mile, and that is okay because I rode as far as I could go. Flashback to the 2009 Tour in Michigan: I was nearing the end of a hard day’s ride for me and had very little left in the tank.  I arrived at the final rest stop in an apple orchard at the top of a two or so mile hill we just climbed.  I was resting in the grass, exhausted, with about ten or so miles to go from there to camp.

After mustering the strength to pull myself up, I headed over to a Backroads peep and asked how much farther to camp, and are there any more hills?  The perky response was “You got this! It is all downhill from here, just a few miles down the road.”  I learned in the early years the Backroads folks may fib a little bit when it comes to mileage and terrain.  Of course there are route maps that you can study yourself, but sometimes I just like to hear the confirmation straight from the source, and just between you and me, I hope they fib a little!

The route into camp that day was mostly downhill from the last rest stop, but you had to complete one last climb to make it into camp.  The day was very tough for me and I had to give it everything I had to get myself via pedal power back to camp.  When I was pedaling up that last hill that day into camp, Jim Hilger was walking down the hill to dinner.  For those that may not know Jim, they call him “the hammer” and he does a pre-tour ride every year to check out the tour routes.  I don’t know Jim personally, but have met him in passing before on the Tour.  That day our eyes locked as I was giving one last effort to get up that hill into camp and he nodded at me and gave me a look of recognition.  One cyclist to another, I felt what he was conveying with that nod of respect is, “I know what it took to get you here.”

So if this is your first tour or your eleventh or anywhere in between, before the first air horn sounds at Tour DaVita 2017 and the first rider pushes on their pedals and heads out of camp, I want you to remember one very important thing:  You have already worked very hard to fundraise for a great cause, hopefully did some training rides, sacrificed your time and personal expense to get you here.  So take a moment to realize what you have already accomplished just by being here.  Remember it is not about the destination, but rather the journey. So don’t worry so much about the mileage. Just enjoy the ride.  You already are a part of a community of people that are transforming global health.  So a big Thank You on behalf of the lives you have touched with your fundraising, the inspiration you have provided through your participation, the community you will forever be a part of as a Tour DaVitan, and please always remember…we know what it took to get you here!


Hi everyone, my name is DJ, I’m a patient rider looking forward to riding in the tour for the first time. This is just a bit about me and why I’m riding.

Kidney disease is something I’ve dealt with all my life.  When I was two, both my kidneys shut down, and the doctors didn’t think I would survive. And of course I did, however the doctors informed my parents that the disease would eventually start shutting my kidneys down again, and I would have to seek treatment. Despite this, growing up I was active in different sports and activities. Including soccer, motocross, running and cycling, anything I thought would be fun.

Eventually, my kidneys did fail, and at twenty-two years of age I received my first transplant from my mother. It gave me new life. I returned to running and exercising regularly, finished college and was feeling incredible. I cannot describe how grateful I am to my mother, and always will be, for giving me life twice. Unfortunately, four and a half years after the transplant, right after a ski trip to Colorado, the kidney failed. Then came dialysis.

It was quite an adjustment, but over the course of my three and a half years of treatments, I truly learned how much of an impact proper nutrition and fitness can have on your body. The first two years were filled with tons of complications that made me feel absolutely terrible. This ordeal forced me to look hard at my lifestyle in regards to my diet and activity level. I realized that I had developed habits that weren’t improving my health. I decided I wouldn’t live like that: I started moving as often as I could. I would go hiking or running trails, take my bike out riding and started strength training. This had an incredible effect on how I felt on and off of treatment. Three years after I started dialysis, I ran my first 5k obstacle course.

This past year I was lucky enough to receive the incredible gift of a second transplant. My recovery has been incredibly different, thanks to proper nutrition and fitness. Within two hours of the transplant, I was out of bed walking the halls. I haven’t stopped moving since then. After only two week, I was back in the gym a few times a week walking as much as possible.

My philosophy is to always be looking forward and to stay positive–no matter the outcome or situation. Even though kidney disease sucks, it has made me appreciate how fragile life is and how exhilarating good health can be. It also showed me how deep the cords of love are.

I’m riding this year to show people that you don’t have to be held back by anything, you can adjust, put mind over matter and make it happen. I’m  looking forward to a fun ride, new friendships, and sharing my story with others.


Carl is an avid traveler and an excellent photographer from Raleigh, North Carolina. Carl is also a dialysis patient who will be riding in Tour DaVita for the first time this October! He has been on dialysis for three years and has been diabetic for fifteen years. At his clinic in Wake Forest, Carl talked with a few nurses and dietitians about a biking race they’d come to love: Tour DaVita!

Carl has been cycling for about twenty years, even relying on it for his regular transportation for a while when he had an eye problem. Although he says dialysis can be exhausting and make it difficult to get in the mood to ride, Carl has found that he feels much better when he continues to exercise. In fact, before he retired, he used to ride his bike from work to dialysis!

Some of his best advice for others experiencing kidney disease is, “exercise and staying active are of the utmost importance.” Carl also emphasized that he avoids drinking and smoking. From his mood and mental wellness to his physical wellbeing, he feels so much better on the days when he is able to get on the bike!

Carl is an inspiring example of living life fearlessly. He has traveled to all 7 continents, and he continues to travel now! In discussing his advice for others experiencing kidney disease, he emphasized, “don’t be fearful.” Whether in planning a trip and visiting a new center for dialysis, or for starting dialysis in the first place, he highlighted the fact that it is all doable. His positive outlook is contagious. “This isn’t a death sentence,” he said. “You can live with CKD, it just requires lifestyle changes.”

Since retiring, Carl has taken up photography and has traveled to London among plenty of other destinations. Planning trips out in advance and getting in touch with the dialysis centers in his destinations have allowed his travels to run smoothly. In the coming months, Carl plans to travel to Washington, DC for a family reunion, and he is looking forward to riding in his first Tour DaVita this fall! Two nurses, one technician and a dietitian from his center will be riding along with him.



My experience with Tour DaVita has been nothing but rewarding.  As a patient, I probably feel the “Spirit of the Ride” even more than most.  I am thankful that I can participate and share these special moments with the group, spend time with my DaVita Home Nurses and meet many new friends.  I also recruited my care partner (My Hubby) after my first experience with the Tour.  I am also very happy to speak out and support Bridge of Life and other DaVita programs with their mission concerning kidney disease.

Kidney disease caught me off guard.  After almost three years on dialysis, I still find myself in denial.  I find comfort in trying to use my situation to help others.  I realize that I am very fortunate in my situation while others are not.  Of course, I get the blues at times but my faith sustains me.  Coming to the tour is a great way to join in and try to show my appreciation by saying thank YOU to all the DaVita teammates who work with the patients and contribute in some way.  It is also great to meet other patient riders who have the same tenacity (or more, since some finish) than myself.  No more heart, just more pedal power!

The DaVita spirit is very prevalent during my treatments at the tour.  The staff is overwhelmingly hospitable and you just fall in love with them.  They are so accommodating and treat us like we are royalty.  I am used to doing for others, not having others do for me in this capacity.  I cannot say enough about them.  The only thing missing would be 70 inch flat screen, and really, you don’t even miss that. Having an opportunity to speak with the representatives from NxStage is also a plus.  I have a very vivid imagination.  I want to share my excitement about Nx2Me and focus on “to travel or not to travel with the Cycler.”

I love coming to the tour.  Like every year, I am supposed to start training in March.  As life would have it, I started in July.  My schedule is not too firm, but I try to slip in a ride or two.  My goal is always to finish at least one day.  That did not happen yet.  I get about half way.  Those darn HILLS.  I am a beast on flat land.  I will keep hope alive and until then, I am fully engaged in the “Spirit of the RIDE!”  One for all and all for ONE!  Looking forward to another great experience in Washington!

Ginger Melton

Chesapeake Virginia

Home Nocturnal Patient


Tour DaVita is something I look forward to every year; I can’t imagine not being a part of this amazing experience. From the moment you step off the plane and hear the cheering from the Redshirts who make you feel like a Superstar, to the Backroads staff that get you onto the shuttle going to the campground, it’s all amazing.

This will be my 5th year riding and I am still learning tricks of what to bring and not to bring. If you choose to pack light, there is an amazing store that has deodorant, socks, toothbrush etc. The teammates who run the store are truly great.

You will not go hungry or thirsty as there is plenty of food and drink to keep you satisfied. Of course you sleep in a tent, use a porta potty and shower in a truck, but it’s still glamping right?

Training before the Tour is really important, I also bring my own seat with me because my bum is used to it and I don’t get as sore. I bring 3 pair of padded bike shorts which is a must.

My number one suggestion is to just relax, and don’t stress over how fast you are riding compared to other riders. Take time to meet other people especially the patients who ride and just enjoy the experience!

Get ready for one of the best experiences of your life!


Last year I blogged about participating in Tour DaVita despite the fact that I couldn’t ride (due to hip surgery).  This year I want to talk about fear and getting back on the bike after surgery.

I had surgery in May 2016 and have been medically cleared to ride since September 2016.  My physical therapist advised me to ride for just 5 minutes and to stick to 5 minute rides until I could complete them pain free, gradually increasing from there.

September and October came and went, and I didn’t get back on the bike.  November came, the weather got cold, and I bought an expensive trainer so I could ride inside.  Still, I didn’t get back on the bike.  I had so many excuses: “it’s such a pain to ride for only 5 minutes…”, “I need a speed sensor to use the trainer or I won’t know how hard I’m riding…”, etc.  Then December came, and I found out I was moving from Raleigh N.C. to Washington D.C. Now, with packing and house-hunting, I REALLY had an excuse not to ride!  The months bike-free kept piling up…

The thing is, I love riding—it’s one of my favorite things in life.  I’d been sidelined for a year.  Why wasn’t I getting back on the bike?  I think I knew the answer all along—I was scared.  What if I got back on the bike and it hurt to ride?  After all I’d been through to get the hip healthy—what if it didn’t work?  As long as I avoided riding, I could hold on to hope that one day I would ride again. But if I actually started to ride and had a problem, then the hope would fade and I’d be faced with the reality that I may never again be a bike rider.  I knew this was no way to think, but I was totally blocked by fear.  I needed a catalyst to force the issue and I knew one was coming—Tour DaVita.  When Spring arrived I knew it was time to confront my fear or I would never be able to ride in the Tour.

I’m pleased to say that I rode the bike twice in April (6 total miles), twice in May (13 miles), ten times in June (63 miles), and three times so far in July (23 miles).  My rides aren’t pain free, but I believe one day they will be.  I have a lot of work to do, but I’M DOING IT!  I’m on the road to recovery.  I think my goal is going to be to ride to lunch each day of the Tour.  But my real goal is to keep doing a little more, a little more, a little more—consistently. Not just throughout the Spring training season, but for as long in life as my body will let me.  From now on my body, and not my mind, will decide what I can and can’t do on the bike.  Take that, fear.  Ride on!


Why is it important to me to participate in the Tour DaVita? That’s a big question, with a lot of answers.

I started life chubby and bald.

For a brief period in college I was in good shape. I had a track and field scholarship; I threw the hammer and shot put. As my life progressed after college I got chubbier and balder. Then I got fat. Then I got morbidly obese.

Six years ago I weighed 360 pounds. I treated my body and soul like a garbage dump. I had issues with atrial fibrillation. I had uncontrolled high blood pressure. I had uncontrolled diabetes, an A1C over 7. I had a giant, painful hernia. I had advanced, painful neuropathy in my feet. I had advanced arthritis in every joint in my body. My hips had deteriorated to the point that both need replacing. My kidneys were failing, on a downward trend leading towards dialysis.

I lived alone, I worked alone, I ate alone, I drank too many beers alone. I was miserable, lonely, unhealthy and on the verge of a fatal heart attack or stroke. I thought I hated myself, life and other people. And then I lost my job and my health insurance.

I’m convinced that my sister saved my life six years ago. She talked me into joining a structured weight loss program with her. My words to her were, “Don’t expect much.” I was a bit off on that prediction.

Today I weigh 175 pounds. My blood pressure is rock solid, my diabetes is controlled solely through diet (A1C 4.8) and I go to treatment three days weekly. I’ve been on dialysis for approximately two and one half years. I’ve never missed a treatment. I’m surrounded by people who care about me and I care deeply for them. I have the best outlook on life I’ve ever had.

How did I get from there to here?

It started with the weight loss program. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Why did something finally work? Why was I finally motivated enough to stick with something?

Because everything I’d done for my entire adult life hadn’t worked. I could no longer lie to myself. Unless I made drastic, substantive change, I wasn’t long for the world. I didn’t want to be dead. I wanted to be different. It helped that I had immediate success on the weight loss program. I was so overweight, that just a slight decrease in caloric intake led to rapid weight loss.

Two months in I’d lost 60 pounds. It took me about 4 years to lose the remaining weight. I lost every pound at least twice. There were plateaus, frustrations and some very bad days. But there were so many more good days that I persevered. I noticed a hint of a smile in the face that looked back at me in the mirror. My face. My smile.


This is not a startling revelation, nothing new, but I took things one day at a time. Nobody can lose 190 pounds overnight, no matter how healthy their diet. Nobody can maintain 24 hour vigilance day after day after day without some backsliding. Cheeseburgers are tasty no matter how much I weigh.

By stacking up more good days than bad, the weight continued to come off. What I noticed along the way was that mental baggage was falling aside as well. To this day when I look in the mirror I still see remnants of the person I was, but I see more the person I’ve become.

I did all this in close consultation with my nephrologist and my dietitian. None of us exist in a vacuum. There are resources available to ESRD patients that can greatly enhance our quality of life. By consulting these resources, these hard working professionals, and applying their knowledge, I’m able to live a full life, within the limits of my health issues.

As I said, there were mostly good days, but plenty of bad. Nothing I did stopped the progression of my kidney disease. And that was depressing. Watching the charting of the progression lead to some dark thoughts. As I started dialysis I still weighed 245 pounds. And I thought my greatest hope was merely slowly dying with dignity.

Thankfully, I was very, very wrong about that. I kept plugging away at life. Kept showing up for treatment. What I noticed was that I began to feel better the deeper into treatment I got. There was no epiphany, no startling revelation. I noticed gains in hindsight. Less naps, less mental fatigue, a more positive attitude about life and my future. I established a goal of trying to get a little bit better at being on dialysis on a monthly basis. I continue to work on that goal to this day. Again, no miracles, just work.

I started dialysis with a catheter. Four months in my fistula had matured enough for use. I continued to show up and continued to feel a little better each month. That trend continues.

Six months in I had hernia repair surgery. At that point I weighed 220 pounds. Waking up in recovery, looking down and NOT seeing a giant pulpy mound pushing out of my belly was a great sight. One month later, April 3, 2015, my surgeon released me to exercise as I saw fit.

I joined a gym and started swimming. It was depressing and exhilarating at the same time. I could swim six lengths of a 25 yard pool before exhaustion set in. My muscles had so atrophied that I wondered if they would ever come back. But, like dialysis, I kept going, kept trying. Every week I swam a little more. Six lengths became eight, became ten, became twenty.

After three months I could swim for 30 minutes without stopping. Again, no miracles, just work. After six months I could swim for an hour without stopping. I swam very slowly. I can only swim one stroke, breaststroke. But I kept plugging away at it. Muscle tone began to return. I slept better, my outlook continued to improve little by little. I began to entertain thoughts of a longer, fuller lifespan than I had thought possible only a year earlier.

After eight months of swimming I weighed 200 pounds. I expanded my workout to include yoga. Again, no miracles, but my muscle tone and attitude continued to improve. It helped greatly with peace of mind and positivity and confidence. After three months of yoga I weighed 190 pounds.

I surprised myself. I asked a woman out. I had not dated in ten years. Yep, ten years. That’s a long time to be alone. She said yes. I was stunned. She was amused. We dated a couple months and remain friends. I continued to expand my social circle.

I expanded my workouts to include weight training and stationary bike riding. About ten months ago I reached my current weight of 175 pounds. As always, no miracles, only work. I’ve maintained that weight since.

And then, in October of last year, the social worker at my dialysis facility presented me with an opportunity I had to jump at. He told me about the Tour DaVita and since that day I’ve been obsessed with not only riding in the Tour, but riding every mile. One hour after registration opened this year I was registered.

In October of this year I’ll be riding in the Tour DaVita. Not only do I get a personal challenge and test, it helps others at the same time. It’s not cheap to treat me for ESRD. I feel a great sense of responsibility and obligation to “earn my keep”. If others can look at what I do and take away something to help in their own lives then I’ve done some good. The Tour represents to me the culmination of all the work I’ve done to change my life and lifestyle. It represents proof that hard work matters. I firmly believe that we all have more strength in us, and are capable of more, than we ever thought possible. I firmly believe that change and growth are possible at any age and in every life.

I have received support and help from many people. The staff at my dialysis unit are aware of my goal
and encourage me when I’m there. Friends and family ask about my progress and this increases my accountability and progress. The more people that are aware of my goal, the more I feel responsible and accountable. It’s like a continual feedback loop.

I now cross-train four to five days a week for about three and one half hours each day, with an ultimate goal of being capable of five hours for three days running. I swim 3 days a week for 90 minutes. I lift weights two days a week for 30 minutes. I attend one hour yoga classes 3 days a week. And most importantly, I ride a bike four days weekly. I’m up to 100 miles weekly. I ride the canal roads around my home in Phoenix, Arizona, where, by the way, it’s extremely hot this time of year. I’m on the road by 5:30 AM. I base my bike training on the suggestions on the Tour DaVita website. Each week I add 5-8 miles to my total, and ideally by October, I’ll be capable of riding 70-80 miles daily for three consecutive days.

My training has definitely NOT been a straight line of constant progress. It’s been necessary to get much better at time management. The reality is that I haven’t always succeeded. I’m getting better at it as I progress through the process. As I add time to my workouts it takes time away from other areas of my life, forcing me to focus better and maximize my time and effort. Every Sunday I take the time to plan the coming week. I’m getting better at following the plan.

I also realize that to accomplish my long-term goal, it’s necessary to break it down into smaller, weekly goals. At the age of 53, with a host of physical issues beyond ESRD, my goal of riding a bike 200+ miles over the course of three days may not be realistic. At this stage of the process it appears that I’m on pace to accomplish this, however, physical realities may not allow for that.

I’ve definitely had to rest more than I had hoped. Days off for recovery are just as important as the days I work out. I’m also having to adjust my definition of success and failure. If I don’t ride every mile, have I failed? Or, have I succeeded in doing all that I can with the time I have and the body I have?

What DOES it mean to succeed? I reflect on WHY I’ve chosen this goal. Part of the WHY, as I mentioned, is that I hope to inspire other ESRD patients to get as much out of life as possible. WHY do we go to treatment every day? WHY do we expend the effort to better ourselves and continue thriving in the face of adversity? Quite simply, life is for living not merely existing.


Our Monday ride day was absolutely amazing! We woke up super early and packed up all of our belongings since today was move day. After a quick breakfast, several of our DaVita Rx Tour DaVita riders were able to head out on the ride by 6:50. Thanks to the amazing backroads tech for getting my bike back to 100%, todays ride was much more smooth. Since I wasn’t having to get off the bike every 3 miles to fix my chain, I held a much better time today thankfully. I did have a slight accidental detour which added about 1.8 miles to my overall mileage, but luckily it wasn’t an extreme amount. I was so happy to run into my mom and son on the route about 5 miles before lunch. They are such great cheerleaders. 🙂 After hanging out with them for a bit, I headed out for lunch. At lunch, I was so glad to spend some time with many members of our team. We had one teammate who was chased by a dog and after the dog ran into her, she wrecked her bike and actually broke the bike. She is such a champion that she waited until they could bring her a backup bike so that she could finish off the ride! Between lunch and the next rest stop, we passed some of the most breathtaking views! No picture can do the view justice.


The last 16 miles of the 67 mile route was intense. Thankfully from the amazing teamwork with another DaVita Rx rider, we made it through the challenging hills in the last part of the ride. My goal for today was to finish the 67 mile route and give my mom and my son an opportunity to watch me cross the finish line. I was over the moon excited to see their excitement at me finishing. 🙂 It’s such a privilege to attempt to make them proud in the way that they have made me proud cheering on and supporting our riders out on the route and at the finish line. Here is me and my son Ryo shortly after finishing. He stole my ride glasses!!


Once again, I was so lucky to be able to watch a handful of riders from my team cross the finish line. Our DaVita Rx riders CRUSHED IT today!!!! We had the following achievements:

14  people completing the 100 mile ride – 6 of these 14, this is their first Tour DaVita

7 completing the 67 mile ride

14 riders completing distances between 51 miles and 40 miles

15,077 miles completed today by all DaVita Rx riders!!!!

I am so proud of our group!!

My mom and Ryo even made the slideshow that played during dinner. 🙂 Tonight in the program, there were so many tears shed as they played a video about Matthew Purvis. <3 Everything about Tour DaVita is always so amazing and I can’t imagine ever not being a part of it. Maybe next year I will see if I can redshirt or help out in some way. We have one more day of riding ahead of us. Please pray for safety, strength and willpower for all of our riders to make it through the final ride day tomorrow. We love your support!