Beach volleyball was Kathy Koontz's game until she moved from Florida to central Ohio in 2011.

Her husband, Alan, had initiated her into cycling in 2010, but the pair did not take part in organized rides until after Koontz was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer in 2014.

"I was treated in the James (Cancer Hospital) for three weeks. I got so depleted from the treatment and the disease that I could barely walk 30 feet," Koontz said. "And (I) was really in shape, keeping up with people 15 years younger."

Koontz, a 55-year-old business consultant, and her husband began going on neighborhood walks each night, and as soon as she regained enough balance, she rode around her Dublin neighborhood, she said.

"The weekend of Pelotonia (in 2014) we rode 9 miles and I told him that I wanted to ride 100 miles in Pelotonia the next year. I actually did 180 miles," she said.

Koontz has raised $24,000 in total, including $5,002 this year by the end of June. She hopes to raise at least another $1,000 before the fundraising period comes to a close in October.

"I love the idea that I can pay it forward for the next person who gets diagnosed," she said. "I love the camaraderie. We are all working together to end cancer and ensure that individuals that are diagnosed have treatment available."

She rides with the Team Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma peloton, or Team CTCL for short, a subdivision of Ohio State's superpeloton, Team Buckeye.

"I've become good friends with them; we really care about each other," she said. "If God took me back to the day that I got sick and said, 'You can skip being sick, but it would mean losing out on these friendships,' I'd do it all over again."

Koontz said as a survivor, she feels honored to use her health and well-being to lift up others who are diagnosed with cancer.

"I know what it feels like to be facing a disease that can kill you or disable you. And to have a doctor say to you, 'We think we can get you back to where you were.' ... I feel honored to be a part of Pelotonia, so that people that are diagnosed after me can know that feeling."

Koontz will ride 180 miles from Columbus to Gambier and back to New Albany on Aug. 5 and 6. Hills are frequent obstacles near Gambier.

"Getting on a bike Sunday morning and knowing that you have 40 miles of hills facing you is hard," she said, referring to the start of the second day. "When things get hard, I think, 'Isn't it awesome that I'm strong enough to do this?'

"It's a blessing to have the opportunity for things to get hard. The feeling of, 'That was really hard and I did it,' " she said.

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