When he was hired in 2017, Bloom Farmer Mike Cohen brought along the unstoppable spirit that had previously carried him through two years of leukemia treatment. He quickly established himself as a valuable team member known for hard work and a positive attitude. Then, soon after being promoted, Mike received the second impossible medical blow of his life.
Now armed with an even more inspiring story and a new heart, Mike Cohen continues to embody our core values. We’ve been blown away by his incredible recovery, which has coincided with his role at Bloom Farms Wellness and is carried out every day with calm confidence and pure fearlessness. Congratulations, Mike!
Celebration is a typical response to achieving victory over a life-threatening disease. When he beat cancer, Bloom Farmer Mike Cohen celebrated in a unique way by cycling over 3,000 miles across the United States.
So what sort of celebration should ensue when someone not only beats cancer, but also then survives a blood clot-induced heart attack and receives a heart transplant? Naturally, a second bike ride across the country is only appropriate answer—if you’re Mike Cohen, that is.
What seems like a lifetime of battling happened to Cohen all before the age of 35. It took many small but vital victories, a willing heart (or two) and daily support and determination to get to where he is today.
Born and raised between Brooklyn and Levittown, New York, Cohen grew up in a loving family of four. He enjoyed a relatively normal childhood surrounded by encouraging parents and a bright future ahead of him. However, after turning 18, he received news that would change the course of his life forever; he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“It was mind-blowing. I didn’t know how to react. I thought it was something I could just deal with and continue my life as it was going. I wasn’t able to. I had two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy ahead of me,” Cohen says.
He may have thought of himself as a strong and resilient person before his diagnosis, but after his health challenges, Cohen would emerge years later even stronger, wiser and more unstoppable than ever.
“Chemotherapy really beat the life out of me. Mentally, physically. I went in to the hospital and the diagnosis as a kid, and I finished the treatments and came out a soldier,” Cohen shares.
Cohen was declared cancer-free in January 2007. Like any cancer survivor, Cohen believed a celebration was in order.
Starting in California and traversing through Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and eventually landing in New York, on his bike Cohen could not be stopped. Every pedal was moving him closer and closer to a new life and further from his experience with cancer.
“It was very similar to my experience with chemotherapy. Day by day. Pedal by pedal. You couldn’t achieve the goal without focusing on each and every step to get there,” Cohen says. “Once my body became used to the routine, it became easier.”
When Cohen finished cycling 3,168 miles cross-country, he was very confident that both his body and the current direction of his life were good. A few days after receiving a promotion at his new job, Cohen was excitedly cooking dinner in his apartment when he started feeling an incredibly strong pain in his chest, left arm and the left half of his jaw. Cohen was quickly rushed to the ER for several immediate tests. The hospital nurses confirmed that this young, otherwise healthy man was having a heart attack. This fateful trip to the ER led doctors to discover a golf ball-sized clot in the left ventricle of his heart.
The blood clot’s location put Cohen at extreme risk of a stroke. If a piece of the clot was to become dislodged, it would be on a one-way track to Cohen’s brain. His life had shifted outside his control once again, and Cohen found himself on medication, kept in the ICU for the days to follow and unable to move without supervision.
After no response to medications, a failing heart pump and a second blood clot scare, Cohen felt almost out of options. He decided to forego a replacement heart pump and listed himself on the heart transplant list.
“When I first found out about the heart attack, I told my brother, ‘Next chapter.’ In my opinion, nothing would ever hold a candle to the experience of two years of chemotherapy. So lucky for me, I was able to use that experience as a point of reference and constantly just take each day at a time. There was only so much I could control,” Cohen shares. “I was able to break down the process and realize, the only control I had was my mind. So I did the best I could.”
Hearing this sort of health news would most people into shock, but not this young, cycle-crazed cancer survivor.
Four days after his 33rd birthday—26 days into his residency at the USCD Sulpizio Cardiovascular Floor and the last day of his eligibility to be highest status on the transplant list—, as Cohen was starting to lose faith in finding a donor, his medical team finally found a match.
On February 25, 2018, the hopeful patient underwent a 12-hour surgery to replace his heart. It was donated by Lt. James Mazzuchelli, a 32-year-old Navy flight surgeon.
Before his transplant, Cohen had been wanting to celebrate his sixth year of being cancer-free with a second bike ride across the U.S. After receiving a successful transplant, Cohen knew it would be a way to pay proper respects to Lt. Mazzuchelli, who had literally saved his life.
“That confirmed my desire to ride my bike from San Diego, California to Jacksonville, Florida, to meet James' family and pay my respects at the Jacksonville National Cemetery where he's laid to rest,” Cohen says.
This second cross-country ride is not a singular quest. Beyond meeting his heart donor’s family and paying his respects, Cohen wants this ride to represent hope for anyone who is experiencing heart issues, cancer or any adversity in their lives.
“I want to inspire those who follow me, follow my ride or even just hear my story. I want to spread the message anyone I can reach to never give up on your life, no matter what your circumstances, no matter how many times you get knocked down. Push harder to achieve what you want, and realize that anything is possible. Never stop dreaming, never stop working hard and strive to stay positive no matter how impossible it may look,” Cohen shares.
Cohen has set up a fundraising goal to help cover the expenses of the six-week ride. Any overage will be donated to UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing).
“I chose UNOS for obvious reasons, mainly to support how easy and important it is to become a donor. James chose to save as many lives as he could by becoming a donor. Life is by far the most precious gift you can give,” Cohen says. “I hope others in similar situations as me are able to be able to receive such an incredible opportunity to continue living and make the donor's family proud.”
Mike is currently training for his ride across America and will set out on his homage to Florida in October 2019.
“Not everyone has to have a story like my own to make an impact or recognize that we have everything we need to create and accomplish any achievement or goal. You only fail when you give up,” Cohen says.
Born and raised by the beach in Southern California, Valeri Spiwak lives and breathes West Coast culture and its surrounding artistic charm. Valeri, with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism and a Minor in French, continuously seeks to explore the beautiful and obscure, and shares her adventures through captivating wordplay, clever writing and skillful copy.