VALRICO — Fred Rosson is a Harley-Davidson man.
A sleek, special edition Ford F-150 Harley truck sits in his driveway. Hats, posters and other motorcycle paraphernalia surround the Ultra Classic touring bike in his garage.
Riding helps relax and rejuvenate the 59-year-old. In the midst of battling cancer, he says it releases him.
"When you get out there on the bike and you're going through the back roads … you get to breathe the fresh air and just thank God you're alive," he said.
When Rosson, of Valrico, found out he had Stage IV cancer of the throat, lungs and lymph nodes, he told his doctor to be straightforward with him.
"If you have fences to mend, mend them," Rosson recalls of the doctor's message. "If you don't have a will, get a will."
How much time do I have left? he asked.
The answer: maybe six months.
That was about three years ago.
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Rosson handled the side effects of chemotherapy well, never getting sick. Eventually, though, he encountered equilibrium problems. Balancing his motorcycle became a struggle.
Rather than give up riding, he had his 2007 blue and silver Harley converted to a trike. Gone is the original rear wheel, replaced with two on the outside and a new back end.
On Saturday, Rosson will take part in the Miles for Moffitt Poker Run to raise money for the Moffitt Cancer Center. It won't be his first benefit ride, but this one hits close to home.
Moffitt has been his treatment site since his diagnosis in 2007. A man of great faith, Rosson credits God and the Tampa cancer center for his survival thus far.
His oncologist, Dr. Ronald DeConti, said Rosson has fared better than most who suffer from his type of cancer, which started in the larynx and spread to the lungs. Typically, half of the patients under the same circumstance die within a year. They seldom make it three years.
"By the book, he's done better than many, by far," DeConti said. "Yes, I think we have been effective in keeping him around. But I don't want to say this is a perfect fix because it looks like it won't be."
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In the beginning, Rosson endured seven or eight months of chemo. He continued riding in between sessions and even traveled by motorcycle to Key West.
"Bald as jaybird, big ol' fat face from all the chemo and everything," Rosson said of the trip. "Went down there and had a blast."
The cancer started going into remission about six months into the treatment. Then in March, cancerous spots surfaced again.
Now in retirement from his career as a network engineer, Rosson recently began a chemo trial. Based on his own research, the longevity with his cancer is five years.
Still, he remains upbeat.
Rosson rides his trike several times a week for up to an hour and a half at a time. He tours country roads, often by himself. Sometimes he rides with friends.
Knowing that his days might be numbered must fill his mind while on the open road, right? Hardly.
Instead, he simply thinks about "nothing that could possibly affect me."
"I watch traffic, and I enjoy what's there. Prop my feet up on the highway pegs, turn on some Dierks Bentley and just go."
Kevin Smetana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2439.