Next week, La Jolla native Giovanni Doemeny will complete the last leg of his 636-mile bike ride to raise funds and awareness for testicular cancer causes; scheduling a stop in La Jolla on Sept. 24 and departing to the Mexico Border the next day to complete the trip.
Joined by his girlfriend Melanie Luther, Doemeny peddled away from the Bay Area on Sept. 10 on a quest to raise $10,000 for his newly formed Ikigai Global Wellness LLC, a website initiative dedicated to holistic healing resources and wellness courses. Ikigai will, in turn, donate 10 percent of funds to the cancer awareness programs Movember Foundation and Live Strong.
Speaking from San Louis Obispo en route to the Border, Doemeny said the effort is personal, following his own testicular cancer diagnosis just four months ago. “I was pretty shocked when they told me it was cancer,” he explained. “I noticed the symptoms (testicular enlargement), but I never thought it could be cancer. I thought it wasn’t serious. I was 25, active, fit and healthy, and I couldn’t believe I could be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. I never doubted I would overcome it, but it shapes your entire world.”
In June, he underwent biopsies and testing and, after learning the cancer had not spread, underwent surgery to remove it at the UC San Diego oncology center.
“So far, it looks like I’m out of the woods,” Doemeny said. “I decided to put on this event to celebrate my health and demonstrate to the world that you can get through a challenge and still be strong on the other side of it.”
Inspired by pro-cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer in 1996 (and as a long-time outdoorsman), Doemeny said he wanted to challenge himself, and a riding a bike from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Border seemed like a good way to do it.
“It’s definitely the longest ride I’ve ever done, and I’ve never done anything like this,” he said. “I have family in the Bay Area, so I’ve seen the coast by car, but it’s a whole different experience going by bike. The distance we’ve had to cover is an average of 50 miles a day, so we’ve been challenged by being tired and sore. We’ve had to overcome the mental hurdle and fight through the fatigue and the curveballs along the way. For example, we got two flat tires on the first day.”
In a nod to his diagnosis, he added: “You don’t expect these challenges, but you take them as they come.”
Now in Southern California, next week will bring the last few days of the trip. On Sept. 22, Doemeny and Luther ride from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach; the next day, they plan to make their way to Dana Point, before reaching La Jolla on Sept. 24.
“My parents, John Doemeny and Christina Orciuoli, still live in La Jolla, so we’ll probably stay at their house that night,” Doemeny said. The last day, Sept. 25, they ride the 35 miles from La Jolla to the border.
According to press material, the goal is to raise $10,000 and awareness for the importance of self-examinations, early detection and to empower each individual to create a healthy lifestyle for their well-being, through free content on Ikigai’s website: ikigaiglobalwellness.com
“Our goal with Ikigai Global Wellness is to create a network of health practitioners, coaches and information accessible to anyone going through similar situations, or who wants to educate themselves on prevention,” Luther said. In addition to being Doemeny’s girlfriend, Luther is the co-founder and lead lifestyle coach for Ikigai.
To raise the money, Doemeny and Luther launched an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign Sept. 5. To further incentivize donors, prizes are offered at different contribution levels — $13 gets you a shout-out, $38 buys a holistic nutrition guide, and $64 earns a T-shirt.
Ten percent of what is raised will go to Live Strong, which was established in 1997 as the Lance Armstrong Foundation and now has the mission of connecting people with cancer with the services they need; and the Movember Foundation, which encourages men to grow a mustache during the month of November to raise awareness for men’s health issues.
The latter of which, Doemeny has been involved with since his days at La Jolla High School. “I grew a mustache every November for Movember, and never expected to need their services,” he said.
According to the National Cancer Institute, testicular cancer is the 24th most common form of cancer, and there were an estimated 9,310 new cases in 2018 thus far. Approximately 0.4 percent of men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2013-2015 data.
— To learn more or donate, visit ikigaiglobalwellness.com