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Dickinson native racing across America for higher purpose: Brandon Sickler, once diagnosed with leukemia, takes on 3,000-mile ride

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Dickinson native Brandon Sickler, 29, had four minutes to talk before being called to a planning meeting of "A Race Across America" in Oceanside, Calif.

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"It's the longest bike race in North America -- 3,000 miles," Sickler said while relaxing by his bike. "The race starts at Oceanside and ends at Annapolis, Md., next Saturday or possibly on Friday."

Sickler is a member of the eight-person team that leaves today, and expects to cover more than 170,000 feet of elevation across the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains.

"It's an ultra-distance race, but it's more than a race," he said.

He is riding for Above and Beyond Cancer, a nonprofit organization that fosters charitable and educational awareness.

The purpose of Above and Beyond Cancer is to reduce the burden of cancer by mobilizing cancer survivors into advocates who seek to improve the outcomes for those diagnosed with cancer, according to its website.

Above and Beyond organizes adventure-based programs for cancer survivors, which are designed to inspire the public regarding the participants' cancer advocacy work.

During the upcoming bike race, the participants will distribute 1,000 water bottles marked with stickers in memory someone diagnosed with cancer, Sickler said.

Sickler was diagnosed with leukemia at age 20 while a student at Dickinson State University.

He is the son of Warren and Kimm Sickler of Dickinson.

"I think it's awesome, because he's come a long way since he's had cancer," Warren said. "He's a walking miracle. He dropped to a 10-percent survival rate. There were times when he didn't have much of a chance. It's a total miracle he came through this."

Sickler was into mountain biking before he was diagnosed with cancer.

When asked if Warren could keep up with Brandon, the answer is, "No! No way I could keep up with him," he said.

While Sickler's four minutes of conversation had expired, the public may follow his adventure with a live GPS link on the website, www.raceacrossamerica.org.

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