Wake County News

Cary man beats cancer to get back to Ironman competitions

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) - A Cary athlete has conquered more than triathlons.He’s also a cancer survivor.

Ryan Switzer has finished four Ironman Races and is getting ready for a fifth. When he started training for his first Ironman in 2012, he didn’t expect it to change his life the way it did.

“The more I trained, instead of feeling stronger, I felt a little weaker,” he recalled. He went to the doctor for tests. 

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“We had gotten the phone call. Ryan actually did have a malignant tumor they found after a colonoscopy,” explained his wife Amy. “It was immediate fear."

Their fears were made worse because that phone call came as Amy was recovering from a brain aneurysm.

“My immediate thought was so we have these two big diagnoses I have two girls what is their future going to be like,” Amy wondered.

“At the time they were 6 and 10, so of course that was quite a shock with them not knowing what's going on — scared they were going to lose mom and now maybe they're going to lose Dad,” added Ryan.

The next several years were filled with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries..

“He became really frail and weak and really it was hard to see,” Amy said.

As weak as he was, he got back on his bike.

“I didn't want to feel weak or defeated by cancer and I thought I needed to stay strong,” he said. “I did an Ironman right after one of my surgeries and right before another.”

Now, Ryan and Amy Switzer are both healthy, but cancer isn’t far from their minds.

"I would love the day we find a cure, but until then, we need to help people that have to deal with it day in and day out. I like to participate in any way I can to help those going through the same situation,” Ryan explained.

That’s why he recently raced in the Victory Ride to raise funds for cancer research and local cancer hospitals including Duke and UNC Lineberger.

His wife said Ryan inspires her.

“There are days I can't run two miles because I can't get my mind wrapped around it.  I'm tired. I have all these excuses. He perseveres through so much more it makes you proud.”

Ryan said it takes a team to fight cancer and he was fortunate to have a lot of support. Along with his family, Ryan said Dr. Yousuf Zafar and his colleagues at  Duke, the Holt Brothers foundation, and many friends, and even strangers, all helped him keep a positive attitude throughout his treatment.

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