• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 10s

Cancer survivor completes epic journey

By Shannon Ballard 1:49 PM July 25, 2014

Sam Dresel looks at his life in moments, and pulling up to the “Welcome to Anchorage” sign Tuesday was a big one.

He just completed the motorcycle ride of a lifetime, logging more than 2,300 miles from the Pacific to the Arctic Ocean and documenting the entire 10-day trip.

“It’s been a big dream of mine for a long time and to finally do it is pretty awesome,” Dresel said.

An adventure like this isn’t totally out of the ordinary for Dresel. He’s a combat firefighter who served in Iraq and performed search and rescue missions during Hurricane Katrina.

But to fully understand how much his ride meant to him, look back at where his epic journey started six years ago on his 20th birthday.

“It was 8:32 or so in the morning and I was doing a physical to go to Iraq for combat firefighting over there. I walk in and he says, ‘Hey you’re a firefighter so I’m not going to sugarcoat this, you have cancer. We’re going to need to do a biopsy but I’m pretty sure you’re terminal,’” Dresel said.

He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The doctors gave him less than a month to live.

“The therapeutic thing for me was to make this bucket list. It was like four pages long, front and back, with thousands of things on it,” Dresel said.

He wrote down things he would do if he survived, like bungee jumping and hiking in Patagonia.

The ride through Alaska was at the top of the list.

He waited six years, with the list tucked in his gun safe, until the doctors came to him with the good news.

In December, Dresel learned he was cancer-free and it was time to start checking off the list.

“We might as well make it a documentary and see if we can raise money for the American Cancer Society and North Star Volunteer Fire Department up in North Pole, Alaska,” Dresel said. “Those two were instrumental to me when I was going through chemotherapy.”

Life is about moments. Dresel’s advice: Don’t wait for them — create them.

“Making it through all that, it makes you defiantly appreciate each moment,” he said.

Dresel and his crew are hoping to have the documentary finished by next September.

They plan on entering it in local film festivals to inspire people to live their dreams.

On another note, while Dresel was at the Artic Ocean he got engaged to his girlfriend Balinda O’Neal, who was the woman behind the camera the entire trip.

Latest Stories

  • DayBreak

    Meet this week’s Daybreak Adopt-A-Pets

    by Daybreak Staff on Nov 27, 8:04

    From the Anchorage Animal Care and Control Center: Dogs: Merry: female, unknown age Seriously, can Merry be any more adorable? She’s not just cute, but sweet, gentle and affectionate — even crawling into your lap for attention! So give yourself a Merry Christmas and adopt Merry! Shadow: female, unknown age Looking for a dog to […]

  • Sports

    Buzzer beater falls short as Seawolves lose to MTSU in Great Alaska Shootout

    by Jake Edmonds on Nov 27, 7:08

    The last time the University of Alaska Anchorage men’s basketball team had beaten a first-round opponent in the GCI Great Alaska Shootout was 1996. The Seawolves gave themselves a chance against Middle Tennessee State on Thursday, but fell short 75-72. After going into the half up 35-31, the Blue Raiders rallied to take a 62-47 […]

  • News

    Open on Thanksgiving: Workers say it’s about more than a bolstered paycheck

    by Eric Ruble on Nov 26, 22:58

    Most people would argue the biggest perk of working on a holiday is the extra pay. But at Kaladi Brothers Coffee on Northern Lights Boulevard, the staff said there are other benefits to working on Thanksgiving. “We didn’t have as many customers as we typically have, but they were very grateful that I was here,” […]

  • On-Air

    Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Skip Black Friday, shop local

    by John Tracy on Nov 26, 16:30

    Black Friday: The retail cure for the Thanksgiving hangover. Big-box stores lure us in with one-time only deals, and we respond like Santa to sugar cookies. Last year, Americans spent more than $50 billion on Black Friday weekend. But, before you set your alarm clock for 5 a.m., I want to encourage you to sleep in […]

  • News

    Mountain View gas station serves free meals for holiday

    by Shannon Ballard on Nov 26, 16:00

    You don’t usually find a full kitchen at a gas station, but a former take-out counter in Mountain View serves a different purpose once a year. On Thanksgiving, it serves the community. In Sook Baik owns the neighbor Shell station. Like many who have found their way to Alaska, she’s an immigrant. She moved from Korea with close […]

  • News

    Soldotna man killed in house fire Thanksgiving morning, wife survives

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 26, 15:37

    A Soldotna man was killed in a residential fire Thursday morning after waking his wife and alerting her to the danger. Alaska State Troopers in Soldotna received a 911 call reporting a fire on Mackey Lake Road at 7:14 a.m., according to an online dispatch. One of the residents of the home, 90-year-old John Kelsch, […]

  • Lifestyle

    Tips for safe online shopping in the age of hackers

    by Amy Kraft / CBS News on Nov 26, 15:35

    Nearly 135 million Americans will be shopping on Thanksgiving weekend according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Although Black Fridayand Cyber Monday are perfect times to buy gifts for the upcoming holidays, they are also the perfect time for hackers to steal customers’ credit card and personal data. “Security has now become a board […]

  • News

    Meals on Wheels delivers Thanksgiving dinner for Anchorage seniors

    by Heather Hintze on Nov 26, 15:33

    Long before the sun came up Thanksgiving morning, volunteers were hard at work at the Salvation Army’s McKinnel House. There was an assembly line of people scooping mashed potatoes and piling on the turkey for more than 300 dinners for the Meals on Wheels program to make sure no senior citizens go hungry this holiday. […]