NORTH IDAHO -- A fierce pro tri-athlete from North Idaho fought one of his toughest battles off the course.
KREM 2 News first met Derek Garcia during Ironman 2014. Athletes were making sure their equipment was ready for the road. That is when Garcia heard the sound of a tire popping.
He assumed whoever that tire belonged to was stressing out. He was right. The tire belonged to KREM 2 News Director Noah Cooper.
It was Cooper’s first Ironman and he was competing to raise money for the Gleason Initiative Foundation to fight ALS. Garcia had two extra tire tubes and gave him one.
Then, Garcia took off. He ended up setting a personal record, finishing seventh overall.
It was after the race that Garcia’s stamina and strength were not the only reason he stood out.
It was 2012. The devoted father had just turned pro. His wife had gone back to college and was getting ready to graduate. The only thing that was bothering him was that bike riding had become unusually uncomfortable.
“I thought because I was cycling more that that’s what was going on,” said Garcia.
For five months, Garcia tried to push the problem from his mind. The rest of his body refused to follow.
“It’s kind of a male thing that it took me a while to go to the doctor because I felt like, I just, I’m in the greatest shape of my life. There’s probably nothing wrong,” he said.
He was wrong. The day of his wife’s graduation would turn out to be one of celebration and sadness.
“The day that she graduated, that was the day that I went to the doctor and found out you know, basically right as she was walking across the stage is when I got the phone call,” he said.
He found out he had testicular cancer and underwent emergency surgery.
Now, he is cancer free. He knows now that he should have never rolled the dice with his health.
“I’m lucky that it hadn’t spread further, you know? Men will call me and say ‘hey I’m dealing with this or that.’ And it’s like my main advice is just go in,” said Garcia.
He still plans on honing his body into a race-winning tri-athlete. He knows even the top of the podium pales in comparison to what he already has.
“You could have all the accolades in the world, It’s just so little in the grand scheme of things,” said Garcia.