‘I’m a cancer killer:’ mountain biker returns to race course just months after beating cancer

Jeff Asbell is a winner. He competed in his first mountain bike race since beating an aggressive form of neck cancer.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 7:04 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - When Jeff Asbell first talked with WCTV about a shocking diagnosis, the future remained uncertain.

He had recently received news of the aggressive squamous cell neck cancer, and doctors weren’t sure what treatment options would be best.

Fast forward nine months, and the outlook is bright. A scan in late July revealed he was cancer free, and he’s back on the race track.

Asbell is an avid mountain biker, taking part in competitive races across the state for years before hitting the medical speedbump in late 2021.

“I sat here in this chair this morning and cried,” Asbell said, reflecting on the moment he showed up to Tom Brown Park Sunday to take part in a Florida State Championship series race.

He wasn’t crying because he ever doubted himself. He cried because he had proved himself right.

“I’m not a cancer survivor, I’m a cancer killer,” he said. “Cancer didn’t stand a chance against me. I can’t say I’m a survivor, because I’m not a victim.”

He carried that attitude through two months of treatment, including 35 radiation sessions and seven chemotherapy appointments. He called the experience “torture.”

“That was quite a rough time, a really rough time,” he said.

He lost nearly 50 pounds in the battle against cancer, but over time, the results showed the treatment was working.

“I just felt brand new, I felt that I was moving forward. I had confirmation,” Asbell said.

Once cleared, he immediately circled Sept. 4 on the calendar. He wanted to make his return right in his own backyard.

Along the way, he inspired other bikers sponsored by local shop Epic Bikes, including Shawn Herman.

“This week I felt a little tired, wasn’t really feeling it,” Herman said. “Maybe I wasn’t going to race. But if Jeff can be out here, I can be out here. He’s encouraging all of us.”

Nearly twenty miles later, and Asbell crossed the finish line. Unlike in the past, Asbell didn’t make the podium for his age group, but that wasn’t the point. He had already won.

After the race, Asbell took to the podium and raised a special bike over his head. He had spent his recovery painting ribbons on the bike, along with messages like “It takes courage to beat cancer.”