February 21, 2011


Cancer survivor hiking 2,600 miles

Cortland native begins trek from Mexico to Canada in April

Staff Reporter

At 68, lung cancer survivor and Cortland native John Casterline will hike 2,656 miles from Mexico to Canada this spring to raise funds for lung cancer.
Casterline is taking on the Pacific Crest Trail with a determination that comes in part from his diagnoses of two different types of cancer last year.
The diagnoses came about 4 1/2 years after he beat stage-four lung cancer.
Casterline left Cortland in 1964 when he joined the U.S. Navy and now lives in Florida. He retired in July 2006 from his job as a retail information system manager with 7/11.
One week later he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, which he fought for a year until it went into remission. Having survived the diagnosis for almost five years places him in about the 10th percentile of people diagnosed with that level of lung cancer, he said.
Casterline will be trekking the distance just a month after completing radiation treatments for throat cancer, which he was diagnosed with in December.
The last dose of radiation is scheduled for March 9.
The hike begins April 28.
Casterline said he is excited to begin.
For the past year, Casterline has undertaken a rigorous training program of daily stair climbing and hiking with a backpack weighed down with about 35 pounds, to prepare himself for the excursion.
Over the course of the radiation treatments, which began Jan. 17, Casterline took his training down a notch, walking about 6 or 7 miles a day instead of 15, and lowering the backpack’s weight, due to residual fatigue from his therapy.
He will be tackling the trail to raise awareness and funding for lung cancer research. He hopes to raise $26,000.
During the trip, he will mark his fifth year since his lung cancer diagnosis. He has been free of lung-cancer since Feb. 5, 2007.
Casterline was also diagnosed with prostate cancer in August. A successful operation removed the tumor in November.
When the throat cancer diagnosis came in December, Casterline opted for a treatment that was less likely to be successful but would allow him a better quality of life during treatment.
Knowing he could not have hiked the trail with a larger dose of radiation, Casterline chose a form of radiation treatment that directly blasts the cancer near his vocal chords instead of a bigger area of the throat and neck.
Speaking Saturday from his home in Orlando in a voice made raspy by the treatments, Casterline said he is staying upbeat about his prospects for defeating throat cancer as well.
He stays positive because of his will to live, he said.
Casterline and his wife, Sue, have two sons and four grandchildren. Casterline said the support he has received from family and friends is “overwhelming” and he credits the medical team at MD Anderson in Orlando for his care.
His doctors know better than to try to dissuade him from his goal of completing the trek, Casterline said.
Without a positive outlook, Casterline said, he would not have beaten lung cancer.
“If you have a positive mental attitude, you make sure you exercise, you make sure you eat healthy nutritious food, you make sure you choose the right doctor and you make sure you take Tarceva religiously,” Casterline said, referring to his daily dose of cancer-fighting medication.
Casterline chose the Pacific Crest Trail because he loves the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and the beauty of nature.
He chose the cause because he wants to fight cancer.
“We have got to get rid of cancer. This is crazy it’s still around,” Casterline said.
He wants the money he raises to ultimately help research the disease, improving treatments and one day eradicating cancer totally.
While on the trail this spring, Casterline plans to call some friends with whom he graduated from Cortland High School in 1961. The 50th high school reunion will take place during his hike.
Casterline urges those diagnosed with cancer to fight it.
“Just go do something about it. Get out there and fight it. Fight it with nutrition, fight it with exercise, fight it with mental attitude,” Casterline said.
Cortland resident Michael Colasurdo, a lifelong friend of Casterline’s, described him as a phenomenal athlete and someone with great drive and determination.
“It’s an awful lot to take on but I can see him doing it. It’s hard to see anybody else doing it but he has got the drive and the desire. If there’s any possible way at all, he’ll finish,” Colasurdo said.
To learn more about Casterline’s journey or to donate to the cause, visit


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