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North County group keeps rolling to beat cancer

Bernard Llave is the main spoke in the wheel that makes b.strong keep on rolling.

“It has grown,” Llave said, “and we keep raising money.”

Llave, of Cardiff, heads to Lake Tahoe this weekend for America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride. He’ll do so with about 100 members of b.strong, the team in training group from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

It was two years ago that we met Llave as he was cursing his fate and praising his friends. After the recurrence of his cancer, Llave was unable to run in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, an event that he had trained for with his newfound buddies.

But the race, and the show, had to go on. Llave didn’t make that starting line but he’s a long way from being finished.

“I had a less than 30 percent chance to survive five years,” he said. “But I’m still here.”

He has no plans to go anywhere other than to traipse across the Sierra Mountains on a bike. It’s a 100-mile trek and Llave, 43, isn’t certain he can reach the century mark.

“I’ll try my best to complete the ride,” he said.

But there’s another milestone b.strong is aiming for and that’s $300,000 to fight leukemia and lymphoma. That money goes to research and clinical trials, both of which have accelerated since Llave got involved.

“That is all due to the fundraising we have been doing over all the years,” Llave said. “It’s proof that the money really is going to support the cause.”

Back to b.strong. When it was clear Llave needed more time to get back on his feet, his running pals gave him support by forming a group which always had Llave in mind.

Now that he’s back riding a bike, Llave and the crew are returning the favor.

One of the b.strong riders can’t make it to Nevada, since she’s in La Jolla’s Scripps Green Hospital battling cancer. So on a recent training session, the b.strong posse rode to the hospital to cheer up their mate.

“We had signs outside her window to let her know she wasn’t in that room alone,” Llave said. “I’ve been there for weeks and you can go a little stir-crazy. We wanted her to know that we are thinking about her.”

Dee Christman, Bernard’s wife, must wonder about her husband’s thoughts. He enters her into numerous events to keep the cause alive, but a 100-mile bike ride?

“She complains how tough the training is and I let her have her little rant,” he said, smiling. “Then I say, ‘You know what is really tough, battling cancer.”’

The joy this couple has is evident and it’s easy to see why North County neighbors have rallied for b.strong.

“It’s just amazing this group of people,” Christman said. “They have helped us from when Bernard first got the diagnosis, when there was really nothing on the horizon for treatment. Now 5 1/2 years later there are treatments in the works.”

Team b.strong has completed runs, walks, triathlons and after this weekend, it adds a bike ride to the resume. It’s an impressive list, all in honor of an impressive athlete who decided to stand and fight when cancer came knocking.

“I feel pretty good,” said Llave, who still receives blood cells donated by his sister. “We’re just going to keep raising money. If there’s a medicine out there that can’t help me, I hope it can help someone else.”

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Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports