American Cancer Society

How one cancer survivor uses the bike trail to make a comeback
From running to biking, staying as active as possible after a cancer diagnosis is important.
Linsey Knerl  |  for the American Cancer Society

Whether it’s climbing an actual mountain or setting sail for an epic water adventure, many adults have
unrealized life goals that require them to be physically active. It’s common for them to claim that they
will get to it someday – when they are in better shape or have more time.

But what about someone with cancer? Many often feel they shouldn’t put off their life goals until a better

James Zambroski is a cancer survivor who is managing to live as most of us live, but going even farther –
to compete in some of the most strenuous athletic activities available. His journey is one that everyone
can learn from, whether you’re fighting a disease or simply needing a reason to get up and do that one
thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Always active, even after a diagnosis

At 68, Zambroski has always considered himself to be an active person. And he’s never stopped moving –
from doing all of his own yard work, including maintaining 50 rose bushes, to getting certified by the
Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) as an advanced open water diver.

“My logbook shows 75 dives in the Atlantic off the east coast of Florida and, during a week in Honduras, I
was awarded an Iron Diver medal for completing all dives during a week aboard the Roatan Aggressor,” he

When he received an “advanced, high grade” prostate cancer diagnosis in 2018, he had some decisions to
make. One of those decisions was whether to participate in the Chicago Marathon, which he did just two
months after learning about his cancer.

This cancer survivor’s road to surviving cancer was a feat of the human spirit.

“Now, mind you, out of about 14,800 finishers, I was around 14,700. In fact, my wife and her friends were
so worried about where I was that they began looking for me in race course medical tents,” he explained.

He described his run as more of a “plod,” but he wasn’t going to miss out on the experience that he had
planned for with his wife. The couple was involved in running clubs in the Tampa Bay area, and the social
aspect was just as important as the physical one for Zambroski.

A surreal experience

The realities of cancer treatment coulldn’t be ignored, however, and when radiation began, Zambroski
needed to change course.

“Every morning for six weeks, five days a week, I got up at 7 a.m., didn’t pee, drank 16 ounces of water
so I would have the required full bladder, then got in my car and drove 25 minutes to radiation oncology
at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida,” he said.

Describing the experience as “totally bizarre,” he admits that he felt disconnected from reality during
treatments, like he was in a daze. Still, he maintained his focus on getting back to health.

“I kept telling myself, ‘This is cancer. This is what you have to do to beat cancer,’” he said. “And that
made it all right.”

Endurance for the many miles ahead

With both chemo and radiation behind him, Zambroski has since embarked on a new journey, one that has
him riding a bike instead of running or diving. Most recently, he participated in the American Cancer
Society’s 300 Mile Bike Challenge, which had him covering over 100 miles in the first seven days alone.

Cycling was a natural next step in his physical fitness routine, and he explained why he chose a bike over
putting on his running shoes again.

“Since my testosterone levels needed to be lowered with treatment as a means to fight my tumor, bike
riding was a little less strenuous and a whole lot more fun,” he said.

“Mentally, I was more up for persuading myself to go for a ride rather than a three-mile run. I already was
doing tough things over which I had no choice (radiation and chemo, for example); I wasn’t into gutting it
out for a maximum workout, like running, just because I thought I should.”

The decision to take two wheels to his next destination has been a rewarding one.

“Truth is, I just liked riding a bike better than lacing up running shoes and pounding pavement,”
Zambroski said.

He not only enjoys the experience of the open road, but he has also used his time on the trail to share
with others. Taking selfies and sharing them on Facebook, along with his Map My Ride stats, has become
a habit for Zambroski, one that will likely encourage others to get up and start moving, too.

Advice for others with cancer

It’s understandable that not everyone can follow in Zambroski’s footsteps to put hundreds of miles behind
them so soon after cancer treatment. He shares what has worked for him outside of physical activity.

“I have found great comfort and support by being public about my illness. It takes a lot of getting used to
– hearing your name and the word ‘cancer’ in the same sentence,” he explained. “Telling people I have
cancer, what I’m doing about it, what the doctors are saying, what’s my next step and so forth is very
empowering, especially when the people I’m speaking to are uncomfortable with the subject.”

Now in remission, he gets checkups every six months to keep tabs on any possibility of a recurrence. His
own outlook appears bright.

“I am very positive about the future, partly because I know this particular treatment regimen works. And if
something else comes up, there are options,” he said. “I will never curl up in a ball and surrender to
anything health-wise; I will fight, fight, fight and talk about it every minute. But today, I’m grateful,
feeling good and successful, so far.”

There have been significant advances in the early detection and treatment of prostate cancer that men
may use to see better health outcomes. Ask your doctor if prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, a type
of blood test used for early detection, is appropriate for you.

The American Cancer Society has additional resources to help you determine the best course of action for
a long, healthy future and the many miles ahead.

Visit the American Cancer Society at to find out more about screening, diagnosis and
treatment, and get cancer information and one-on-one support.