At first, Daniel Klumpp thought it was nothing.
Just a flared up lymph node, the side effect of a cold, Klumpp thought.
But it didn’t shrink like it should with the time. Instead, it grew. Still, his doctor wasn’t overly concerned. Klumpp, a freshman at FIU, went on antibiotics, hoping to kill the infection.
Didn’t work. And when the swelling reached his collarbone, it was time to sound the alarm. Klumpp’s primary care physician sent him to an oncologist to get checked out.
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The diagnosis: cancer. Lymphoma to be more precise.
“It came as a shock,” Klumpp said, understatedly.
So did the treatment. Six blasts of chemotherapy at UM Health’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and then radiation.
His hair fell out. The always-active kid from Plantation saw his energy sapped.
Now, nearly a year later, he’s in remission and about to do something remarkable. On Sunday, Klumpp will attempt a 72-mile bike ride through South Florida, benefiting the very medical center that helped beat back the cancer that tried to claim his life.
Klumpp, 19, will participate in this weekend’s Dolphins Cycling Challenge, a two-day, tri-county cycling event for charity, now in its fifth year.
DCC had previously raised nearly $7 million — but this appears to be the biggest one yet.
The roughly 2,800 riders this year have raised $3.4 million — all of which will be donated to Sylvester for innovative cancer research.
“As I was going through treatment, I saw huge posters for DCC, saying ‘sign up today,’ ” Klumpp said. “They were six-, seven-foot posters. It grabbed attention.”
Klumpp added: “I definitely wanted to do something. I kind of want to pay back, although this is nothing compared to what they’ve done for me. I really want to do something for Sylvester. It’s the best way to do it.”
Klumpp loves biking — he was back on the roads just a week after his first blast of chemo — and wanted to challenge himself with a long ride.
DCC riders must raise a certain amount of money to participate. Klumpp’s minimum was $500; he has raised nearly $1,700.
He still has a few limitations on what he can safely do — his doctor doesn’t want him to risk injury — but road riding isn’t one of them.
Considering his past year — discovering, and then beating, cancer — any type of participation in this weekend’s ride is special.
Lymphoma, the most common blood cancer, “occurs when cells of the immune system called lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, grow and multiply uncontrollably,” according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
Klumpp did catch a bit of a break — if you can consider any part of a cancer diagnosis a positive. He had Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma ALK-positive, a variation that responds well to standard chemotherapy treatments and puts most patients in long-term remission.
That didn’t make the act of killing those malignant cells any more pleasant.
His chemo treatments began in June. Over the next four months, he would have six of them. By his fifth, Klumpp was in remission. He has been ever since.
He’s grateful for the support of his family and friends. Longtime buddy Austin Ventura was there for every chemo session, even driving down from Gainesville after the school year began.
The illness put Klumpp behind on his studies, but during treatment he remained in touch with his academic advisors and sat in on the classes he would take in the spring. He’s back in school now.
He feels great. And none of this would be possible without the people at Sylvester, he believes.
“They were great there,” Klumpp said. “They really treated me well, handled everything well. All my doctors were on top of it. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t want it to be there, but I enjoyed while I was there.”