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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.

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