Nye hopes to beat cancer, race again
'It’s not over; anything can happen’
He once dreamed of racing in the Tour de France, but now he’d simply be satisfied with racing local events.
Justin Nye’s childhood dream was reawakened when he was diagnosed with cancer eight months ago.
After all, Lance Armstrong did it, why not him?
Nye’s dream was already a long shot, but Olympic training coaches believed he had the tools to do it.
Three weeks ago, however, Nye, 32, was told by his doctors that his cancer is terminal.
Nye is realistic about the future, but is also optimistic.
“When the doctor told me I had cancer, I had a calm, collective feeling, ‘it’s not over;
anything can happen,’ ’’ Nye said.
“That’s what I’ve learned. It’s not over until it’s over. I’ve heard stories of people being terminal and (the cancer is) gone the next day. They surgically remove it and get it out successfully.”
Linda Mulleady is also optimistic about Nye’s chances to beat cancer.
Mulleady started a foundation in memory of her son, Sam Safken, who died of complications from Ewing’s Sarcoma.
The foundation is hosting a benefit dinner Monday at 6 p.m. at Riverside School to purchase a LeMond RevMaster Classic Pro Trainer stationary bike for Nye.
The dinner is $15 for adults and $5 for children under age 12. The food is being donated by the Cowboy & the Rose Catering. Guitarist Richard Gilewitz will perform.
“I’ve always been taught to be self-sufficient and self-reliant,” said Nye, a financial advisor.
“That’s been one of the hardest things to overcome. So many want to help and give.
“Linda Mulleady is one of those people that are amazing that way. She was one of the first to come over to my house. She first to be there for me and help try to me get through this.
She said, ‘I’m not good at a lot of things, but I’m good at fundraising.’
“She’s great that way. I appreciate her and others who want to get involved, even though I’m reluctant, but when you’re beaten down, you sometimes need that help. So many have come out of the woodwork and want to help ... even strangers.
“It’s an impressive thing to see. That’s why I live in Grand Junction. It’s a giving, charitable community. I never lived in a town like this.”
Nye’s family moved to the Grand Valley 16 years ago, about the time he was becoming an avid cyclist.
“Every race I was in, I never placed (lower than) third,” he said.
Encouraged by his father, Nye started building his own racing bikes at age 17 and enrolled in an Olympic junior training camp in Denver. He went through a variety of tests and graded high on the vertical jump.
He raced in the U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier in New Mexico, but the three-stage race was canceled before the road race because of weather, with Nye out of the running.
“(The camp instructors) were impressed with my vertical jump. Either you have fast twitch muscles or you don’t,” Nye said. “I had 31½ inches, six inches above next closest guy.
The next two events I was above average, but never rode a ton (80-100 miles a day).
“I rode a fair amount, but it wasn’t long miles. With sprinting, I could beat anyone. That was my strength with my fast-twitch muscle fibers.”
Nye was determined to work on his endurance, but after he graduated from Fruita Monument High School in 1994, he went on a church mission to France.
While there, he had an opportunity to watch the Tour de France and met a man with ties to a French cycling team.
“I talked to him for an hour,” Nye said. “I came home from my mission, decided to get in shape and go back to France.
“That was my life, racing. I was super excited. I thought my dreams would come to pass, but I also wanted to be married.
“About a month after my mission, I met Emilee. I had big feelings for her. Over the next few months, I was trying to get back to work and training and started to think ‘I should marry this girl, but if I do, that pretty much ends my dream of the Tour de France.’
“I believe I made the better choice. To this day, I still love cycling.”
They married in 1998 and have twins, a boy, Renn, and a girl, Kylee, who are now 2½ years old.
In April of this year, Justin was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer, which means the cancer has spread into surrounding tissue and lymph nodes.
“No one in my family had testicular cancer,” Nye said. “That’s why it was a surprise to me.
From what I’ve read, males of Scandinavian decent 18 to 40 years old typically get it.”
Nye’s cancer, though, has not responded to five rounds of chemotherapy and the family is dealing with his diagnosis.
“I started to think, ‘I’ve got to make sure everything is in order,’ ” he said.
Renn and Kylee understand their dad is sick, but don’t grasp the extent of his illness.
“They are old enough they know something’s going on, but they don’t know what,” Justin said. “We want to take them to a big event they’ll remember. If they can remember time with their dad or slightly remember me, that would be nice.
“We’re looking for those experiences from here on out. I’m still fighting to live, but in case God has another plan, I want to be prepared, too.”
Nye, though, hasn’t let go of his dream to race.
“After having cancer, it really awakened a passion in me to race again,” he said. “Now that
I have a family and kids, I want to try to be as competitive as I can be on a local or state-wide basis.
“In cycling, when you are 32 to 35, you’re pretty much done. Lance trying to make a comeback impressed me.
“I’m not too old, at least to get the passion back.”