CRESTVIEW — Randolph Westphal wants people to know they should never give up.
The 55-year-old German — who passed through Crestview this week — bicycles through several countries, with help from his Siberian husky dogs, Chinook and Nanook, to prove there's always hope.
He should know; doctors diagnosed him with malignant melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, in 1987. Since then, he has received 28 cancer-related surgeries; four were life threatening. On top of that, a 1996 hit-and-run nearly took his left leg and he had to use a wheelchair for a year. And he was hospitalized in August with a bacterial infection.
But all adversity fades quickly in the past when it's possible for Westphal to get back on the bike. He brings a message of endurance with people in cancer support groups, hospitals and universities.
"I just tell them my story," he said. "A lot of people find hope in a good story."
Westphal purchased a car to assist in his travels, under doctor's advice. However, it has not deterred him from his life's mission: to raise worldwide awareness of perseverance.
The Quality Inn hotel, near the Interstate 10 exit in Crestview, provided a free room Monday night for Westphal and his 8- and 10-year-old dogs. Westphal said he lives on donations from people he meets.
Offering a complimentary room is highly irregular at the hotel, Quality Inn general manager Teresa Davis said.
However, "it was something that I felt like I needed to do," she said. "If I was in a similar situation, I would hope that I would have the same amount of determination he has shown."
Most people would be discouraged after learning that they have a terminal form of cancer, she said.
"He has a strong will," she said.
Westphal plans to travel through south Florida, with stops in Panama City, Tallahassee, Tampa and Key West, before heading back to Canada.