Pitcher searched for a way for him and his wife to have the vacation they wanted, looking into adding a buggy to the back of a recumbent bike to pull his wife along.
He contacted Utah Trikes, which custom built a 35-pound buggy and trailer complete with air suspension.
About $3,000 later, Pitcher had the buggy sent to Denver, where he tested it with Pam riding through the hills of Breckenridge. He got a lot of compliments and questions along that trip. He returned with an idea: “I wanted to turn something bad into something good.’’
Then he learned about the Challenge.
He had several other patients in mind but one was too old and the other was too heavy.
A little over a week before the Challenge, he asked Lazaro to join him.
“I felt happy he asked me,” Lazaro said. “In Cuba they don’t do things like this.”
Lazaro had gone through his own difficult time.
“There are seven types of cancer and mine was the worst,” he said. “I had two surgeries in Tampa to prepare my leg, and the one here in Miami. It is not easy accepting that I have just one leg at 17.’’
But amputating the bottom portion of the leg was his best bet, as he could be fitted for a prosthetic limb that would give him more mobility.
“He will be able to sprint and even be able to ride in the cycling challenge next year,” Pitcher explained. “He couldn’t dream of doing any of this before. It is an honor to have been able to ride with him. He pushed me toward the end. I was tired. He tells me, ‘You can do it!’
Michael Mandich, son of the late Dolphins broadcaster and former player Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mandich, was equally touched. “We have had amputees participate before but I have never seen anyone being pulled like that,’’ said Mandich, president of the Challenge. “We had 61 cancer survivors participate out about 1,500 riders. And there were 300 to 400 survivors there as a part of UM’s Survivor Day.”
Lazaro started the lengthy process of being fitted for his new prosthetic limb on Nov. 9. He will receive it in about a month.
“I am happy. I am going to be able to run, jump and do what everyone else does. I will be there [at the cycling challenge] next year,” he said. “I have one dream. I am not even sure I can do it. I don’t even know how to walk in this country. I want to be a Formula One driver. Like the races they have in Homestead. If that doesn’t work I want to be a scientist. Now, I have my whole future ahead of me. I am not giving up. I will never give up. I will do whatever it takes.”