Cycling enthusiast Kevin Scoggins suggests turning over and enjoying the view.
Added Scoggins, “Then you start climbing back up.”
The 44-year-old outdoorsman knows a thing or two about grappling for success and picking himself up off the ground. He clocks 2,000 to 3,000 miles between his road and mountain bikes every year. The distance includes miles pedaled in competitions.
Two years ago, Scoggins placed first in the Black Bear Rampage within his weight class. More than 20 riders competed alongside Scoggins within the Clydesdale class on the 40-mile trail. He finished the ride in 3 hours and 43 minutes.
And to think, Scoggins’ love for cycling began with a trip to his mailbox.
“My driveway is three-fourths of a mile long. I made it to my mailbox and called my wife to come get me because I thought I was going to die,” Scoggins said of his short bike ride. “I didn’t die. So I thought, ‘I’m going to do it again.’”
Scoggins says his decision to challenge his body completely changed his situation. Just three months short of a year earlier, a doctor diagnosed him with Non-Hodgkin’s follicular lymphoma disease. NHL is a cancer of the immune system, specifically the lymphatic system.
According to information provided on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website, an estimated 69,740 people living in the United States will be diagnosed with NHL in 2013. Among these cases, 37,600 will be male. The blood-borne cancer is the sixth most common cancer in males.
Scoggins received the call while at home with his then 14-year-old son, Zack.
“Are you going to die?” Zack asked after hearing the news.
Scoggins sat for a second and thought about his son’s question.
“Well son, everyone is going to die. That is the cycle of life,” Scoggins replied. “I will make this promise to you right here, right now. I won’t die from this. I will fight it to the last fiber of my being.”
Continued Scoggins, “I might get taken out by a bus tomorrow, but I will not ever give in to this.”
He was given seven years to live.
Eight years, 68 IV chemo treatments, six months of oral chemotherapy and one clinical trial later have found Scoggins relentless in his pursuit of life.
He explained his situation is no different than anyone else facing an uncomfortable reality.
“You have to decide who you want to be at that point. You can crawl in a hole and pull the door behind you, or you can decide to take full advantage of this,” Scoggins said. “Don’t live life so much to the extent you are going to cause yourself harm by living, but leave no stone unturned.”
Subtle changes have taken place since Scoggins’ learned of his diagnosis. He still enjoys the same activities, along with some rather exciting new ones, but even more so. He has realized the truth in the often repeated words, “the grass is greener, the sky is bluer, a hug is tighter.”
The disease initially took away his strength and vitality. An unfortunate side effect of the numerous treatments has been the loss of some short-term and long-term memories. He fought to regain his strength and has challenged himself to make new memories.
“[Cancer] can take things from you, you will never get back. It forces you to make better the time you have,” Scoggins said. “I am trying to be a better person and the dad everyone wants their dad to be.”
Added Scoggins, “It will take from you, but you can’t let that rule you, either.”
It was his choice to decide to fight for his life, just as it was his loved ones’ choice to fight alongside him.
According to the eight-year survivor, caregivers are the “unsung heroes” of any difficult situation, specifically cancer.
After receiving an initial diagnosis, Scoggins and his wife, Leisa, went to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for a second opinion. The two talked the entire way back to Chattanooga. Would his cancer, this unwanted newcomer, cause a permanent disturbance in their life?
They decided the disease would not change who they were or how their family lived.
If Scoggins was sick during the holidays, they would still celebrate. They determined not to be ruled by the cancer. As Scoggins explained it, “Cancer doesn’t have me. I have cancer.”
Friends, family, doctors and co-workers were instrumental in keeping Scoggins fighting from the time he learned of his cancer in July to his driveway bike ride the following March.
“You can’t give [caregivers] enough credit. In my mind, I know what I am going through. I know what I am feeling. I know I am not putting on a show,” Scoggins said. “Caregivers are looking at it from the outside. They don’t know what is going on in there. They are trying to react the way you are acting.”
Leisa and Scoggins’ father, Leon, played a special role in the first months. It was hunting season and Scoggins never missed out on the chance to participate. The only problem was early treatment had taken a toll on the then 36-year-old.
Carrying gear and setting up the equipment was a difficulty.
“My wife would go with me. She didn’t hunt, but she would carry my tree stand and help me put it up,” Scoggins explained. “My dad would come get me every morning and take me out to the woods where I was going to hunt. He would leave and then come back to get me. She would do the same.”
Cycling brought a whole new group of supporters into Scoggins’ life.
He realized quickly everyone had their own demons to handle, their own battles to fight. Discussing their issues and sharing their stories was beneficial in two ways. First, it allowed the individual to talk through their problems. Second, it gave everyone a new tool to use in their own struggles.
“I always used to say ‘the motley crew’ was going bike riding, because you had all these diverse people from different backgrounds,” Scoggins recalled. “What brought them to that little trail out in the Ocoee is nothing short of a God thing.”
Today Scoggins continues to challenge himself. One of his main goals is to change the way people see cancer. This is not for his own benefit so much as an opportunity to encourage others.
“If someone thinks of someone with cancer, I don’t want the deathbed scene flashing in their mind,” Scoggins said. “I want someone to think that is just more reason to live.”
The recent Black Bear Rampage held several weeks ago found Scoggins sporting a purple jersey in support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training organization. The No. 68 was emblazoned across the back, the same number of IV chemo treatments Scoggins’ has undergone. Anthony Palmer, a TT representative, showed up at the race after hearing Scoggins’ story. A tent was also set up to further educate those gathered for the event about NHL and other blood cancers.
Scoggins hopes to continue spreading awareness for Team in Training even as he works to encourage others through whatever difficulties they face.
Hitting rock bottom is going to happen.
The goal is to have faith in something, anything, so when the chaos ends it is possible to once again face the climb.
“... Whenever you stop [falling] it gets quiet. There is a passage in the Bible that says, ‘Be still and know I am God,’” Scoggins said. “You’ve got to have a degree of faith in something.
“I’ve talked to people who are agnostic and atheist. I don’t try to convert people. If that is what you believe, then that is fine, but you’ve got to believe in something, and when you believe in it, really believe in it.”
Added Scoggins, “You’ve got to set your faith in something as far as being able to roll over and look up.”