Empowerment.

Leeanne Mako said that was what she gained a few years ago from participating in a kayaking camp in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts.

The trip, sponsored by the First Descents organization "was my first time physically challenging myself after I went through my treatment," she said. "It was an empowering experience knowing I could do it after all I had been through."

The 27-year-old Grove City resident was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December 2013.

She went through several rounds of chemotherapy and received a bone-marrow transplant in May 2014.

The following year, she was kayaking with other young-adult cancer survivors from across the United States. First Descents offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to provide legitimate outdoor challenges that push their limits and help them face their fears, and by doing so, help them regain the confidence and self-efficacy lost to cancer, according to its website.

Participating in the Pelotonia bike ride will be another empowering experience, she said.

Two years ago, Mako volunteered at the Pelotonia starting line.

"The energy and strength of all of the riders was really contagious," she said. "Everyone was so positive. You could feel all the hope they have for finding a cure for cancer. I knew that I just had to ride this year."

On Aug. 5, Mako will ride in Pelotonia for the first time, taking the 25-mile route from Columbus to Pickerington.

"It's my first year, so I wasn't sure what to expect," she said. "I've never been a big bike rider, so I'm taking it easy this first time.

"I really enjoy the social aspect of riding bikes. I love riding with other people and getting tips from more experienced riders."

She said she is participating in the Pelotonia for herself, but also for all the people she met during her journey through treatment and recovery.

"I'll be thinking of all the people who helped me along the way: the doctors and nurses and my fellow cancer patients I met, some who have passed away, but many others who are survivors," Mako said. "I'm three years in remission and I've been fortunate not to have any serious lasting side effects from the transplant. AML is not that common in someone my age and the survival rate isn't so good.

"What I've been concentrating on is getting back into shape. Going through cancer treatment takes such a toll on your body. I'm grateful to still be alive."

afroman@thisweeknews.com

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