Paul Egan is well-known in Clinton. He does a lot of volunteer work, but most people know him best as “The Bike Guy.”
Egan has made it his mission to repair and give out free bicycles. However, his work is now on-hold after a life-threatening diagnosis. Egan was admitted to Smilow Cancer Hospital Friday after a tough night of symptoms.
He proves that when somebody supports their community, the community rallies around them.
“I rehab bikes and give them away for free. I've done over 1300,” he said. “A lot of these people had never met me but helped themselves to free bikes at the end of my driveway. And others I've outfitted their family, traded up bikes as the kids grew and stuff like that.”
Recently, there was a post on Facebook that got a lot of attention. Egan wrote that he cannot accept any more bikes for repairs. He told the Clinton community that in June, he had been diagnosed with MDS, a deadly blood cancer.
“I had a blood drawn at 7 a.m., she ordered me the hospital,” he said. “By 3 o'clock that afternoon, I was diagnosed with blood cancer. And it was like, it was like the hammer coming down. It was devastating, life-changing, and immediate.”
In retrospect, he says the warning signs were clear. Egan felt himself slowing down, once during a bike ride with his wife Liz.
“I'm saying to Liz, ‘My goodness, you're getting faster, because I can’t keep up with you!’ And she was getting faster, and I was getting slower,” he said.
Physically coping with the disease has challenges. On top of chemotherapy and a clinical trial, Egan’s treatment was hindered because of a blood shortage due to the pandemic.
“They were only able to give me one bag of blood, which didn't get me up to where they wanted me to be. The shortage is really real,” he said.
Now, thanks to the generosity of a stranger, he has hope for survival. At the end of November, Egan is scheduled for a stem cell bone marrow transplant. He was lucky to match with a donor from the national registry.
“This is an unrelated donor somewhere across the world, I don't even know where, has agreed to go through all this treatment,” he said. “It will cure me. It will save my life.”
Even in sickness, Egan is giving back. He and Liz quickly recruited a team of 20 for the “Closer To Free Ride.” They raised $30,000 dollars for the Smilow Cancer Hospital.
In his Facebook post, Egan writes: “I hope to resume my bike work…” Yet it’s clear his impact goes far beyond fixing a two-wheeler. The post about his health got nearly 600 likes and over 250 comments.
One reads: “You certainly are one in a zillion. Bless you, Paul. And I know you will win this battle sending lots of love hugs and prayers.”
The response humbles Egan and makes him feel incredibly grateful.
“I’m emotionally overwhelmed,” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s because of the bike work that I did. I’ve met so many nice people. And I've never asked anything in return, and then for them to come out like they did, was just amazing.”