After beating rare cancer, 'signing up for Obliteride was a no-brainer'

Keith Winkle will come back to Seattle from Alaska to ride because research saved his life; the Aug. 9-11 bike ride will raise funds to benefit Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Keith Winkle
Keith Winkle, a cancer survivor treated at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, will ride in Obliteride Aug. 9-11. Photo courtesy of Keith Winkle

When Keith Winkle was getting radiation treatments at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, he rode his bike 18 miles from his parents' house to each appointment, then rode all the way back—sometimes with a detour around Lake Washington. It's the kind of commitment to beating cancer—and to cycling—that powers Obliteride, the Aug. 9-11 bike ride to raise funds for Hutchinson Center research. Winkle is training for the event's 100-mile segment.

"I've seen cancer hit so many people that signing up for Obliteride was a no-brainer," said Winkle, an emergency room physician who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. "Plus there are so many good rides in Seattle that I wanted to go back and do them when I actually feel good."

Doctors diagnosed Winkle with Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare skin cancer, in August 2012. He came to Fred Hutch and SCCA for radiation, surgery, and an experimental treatment that used high-intensity electric shocks to drive medication deep into his tumor.

"The shocks are about half the strength of a lightning bolt," Winkle said. "The first one wasn't so bad, but I drank a 22-ounce beer before I went in the next time."

The treatments were so successful that Winkle is now in full remission—and extremely grateful for the lifesaving research that fueled his recovery. It was only about five years ago that researchers discovered a virus to be the cause of Merkel cell carcinoma. That finding paved the way for one of the innovative treatments that Winkle received, which used a DNA vaccine to combat his tumor.

"If I had this cancer 20 years ago, I probably would've died," Winkle said. "Thanks to research, I survived."

Register for the Aug. 9-11 Obliteride or support Winkle through his Obliteride participant page. Thanks to sponsors, 100 percent of every dollar raised will directly benefit Fred Hutch's cancer research.

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