Two years ago, Danny Sweeney, never thought he’d see the day where he’d be able to cycle on the Rossmoor Pastries cycling team in the Tour of Long Beach. Danny’s cancer journey began when he was 17 years old when he began experiencing extreme exhaustion and was looking very pale. After having a series of blood tests in the pediatric emergency department at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Danny and his family got the devastating news that he had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) – a form of cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells.
At first, Danny was very scared about this diagnosis and what lay ahead for him. He had no idea what AML was and at first thought he was going to die. “I didn’t know anything about cancer,” says Danny. “I had very little hope after my diagnosis.” Within the first few hours of his diagnosis Danny was taken to a private patient room and was visited by Paula Groncy, M.D., medical director, CCS Sickle Cell and Hemophilia Centers at Miller Children’s who helped paint a clearer picture of what Danny was up against.
Dr. Groncy explained that Danny would need three rounds of chemotherapy and then if they found a bone marrow match, would perform a transplant. Danny’s younger sister, Ryan, was a match. “For me it wasn’t too bad, almost like a blood transfusion” says Danny. “But my sister was really scared since they had to put her under sedation.”
Following his chemotherapy, Danny’s bone marrow transplant was successful. To date, Danny’s cancer is in remission, and he follows up with his doctors twice a month, which came down from going twice a week after his final rounds of chemotherapy. According to the National Cancer Institute, AML has a 65 percent survival rate thanks to extensive research efforts, and it looks like the worst is over for the 19-year-old but he knows that close monitoring will be a lifelong habit.
Now Danny is looking forward to enjoying his summer and working at Rossmoor Pastries in Signal Hill before he’ll need to hit the books at either University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Santa Barbara or California State University San Luis Obispo. “I’m not sure where I want to go yet,” he says. “I do know that I want to be around people and not at a desk all day.”
“Having cancer has really made me focus on doing things I like,” says Danny. “I say yes to more things and don’t take things for granted.”
Danny is just one of 13 pediatric and young adult patients with cancer or serious blood disorders from the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center (JJCCC) at Miller Children’s that are deemed “Tony’s Riders.” Teams of cyclists can choose one of “Tony’s Riders” to raise money for in the upcoming Tour of Long Beach fundraising event taking place on Saturday, May 5 benefiting pediatric cancer research at JJCCC at Miller Children’s.
In 2011, Rossmoor Pastries chose Danny as the pediatric cancer patient that they were going to ride for and this year, he is excited to actually ride on this team and raise money for the hospital that helped him through his cancer journey. “I want to do anything I can to support the doctors and nurses that helped save my life,” says Danny. “It’s important to me to be a part of this.”
Amateur or professional cyclists can sign-up for a 31-mile, 62-mile or a 100-mile ride through the streets of Long Beach at the third annual Tour of Long Beach and BikeFest taking place in downtown Long Beach on Saturday, May 5. Visit bikefestlb.com to meet more of “Tony’s Riders” and to register for this fun cycling adventure all while raising money for a good cause. For more information, please call (562) 933-1676.