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July 12th, 2010
04:34 PM ET

He beat cancer but not Pamplona's bulls

After Michael Lenahan went through chemotherapy and recovered from testicular cancer, he decided he would do one thing every year that he'd always wanted to do.

In the summer of 2007, he and his brother went to Pamplona, Spain, for the Running of the Bulls - something his brother Lawrence had his mind set on, and that sounded exciting to the cancer survivor. Michael was 23, Lawrence was 26. The older brother told CNN in 2007 that it was also a trip to "celebrate life in a way a little bit more intensely."

They joined the millions of people in white shirts and red bandannas who invade the small city for the festival of San Fermín, which takes place from July 7 to July 14 every year. In the mornings, the daredevils among the revelers run along with bulls through Pamplona all the way to the bull ring.

It's an event that leaves between 200 and 300 people  injured annually, according to the Council of Pamplona.

The brothers' plan was to run on the first day, enjoy the festivities, and check out other European destinations.

But that plan was ruined by a bull that, in the midst of the commotion, gored both brothers at the same time with each of its horns - Michael in the leg, Lawrence in the left buttock.

"I could see the back of my knee bone. It was a pretty bad wound," Michael Lenahan said this week, looking back on the experience. "I thought in the chaos of the moment that I was definitely going to have to lose my leg."

The first 12 hours after the bull attack were the scariest for Michael, but once doctors told him he would be OK, he just wanted to know how he could get home. He had already been through a life-threatening event involving hospitalization, so as long as he knew his leg would recover, it "wasn’t that big of a deal."

"By that point, I was pretty used to those types of circumstances, and dealing with doctors; all of the drama that comes with that kind of a thing," said Lenahan.

The brothers stayed hospitalized for a week, and then returned to their respective homes in the United States. Lenahan has no lasting damage to his leg, except for some scars to remind him of that fateful day.

Will Lenahan go back? "Definitely," he said, although he'd probably choose a different route.

"My advice would be: don’t run on the first day; watch it first, because it’s not like what you see on YouTube," he said. "It’s a lot faster, and a lot scarier than what you see just watching it on a computer screen."

As for how he's changed after these monumental experiences, Lenahan says he was more conservative by nature before he got cancer, and now dabbles more in risky ventures.

"I think they’ve probably both [cancer and the Spain injury] given me a little bit more perspective about what’s important to me vs. what’s not," he said.


soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Jessica

    I think people who do events like this should have to pay for whatever hospital expenses are incured out of pocket. there are risks one has to take daily simply to live, then there are risks people take, just so they can be idiots. this is one of this idiot risks, like climbing a mountain...you lose, you pay...not me.

    July 12, 2010 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lisa

      Uhmm... so should people having babies have to pay everything out of pocket, it is a choice?

      July 12, 2010 at 19:51 | Report abuse |
    • Jenna

      Jessica, I'm with you! Lisa: Yes, it is a choice to have a baby, remember a little thing called BIRTH CONTROL, or just saying no? Seriously...I think if, with all we know, and the resources available, that yeah, you want to have a child? Well than grow up and do it and pay for it. If you can't then buy a condom for God's sake it's cheaper for everyone, this planet is far to crowded as it is. As for running with the bulls? Silly macho,testosterone driven behavior...think about what happens to them at the end of the line. you get to go home,they get to bleed to death for the amusement of a crowd. Nice.

      July 12, 2010 at 21:31 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      The moral of the story? DON'T DO ANYTHING. SIT STILL. BREATHE SLOWLY.

      One false move and you could become a burden to society!

      Seriously, people. If they have the resources to travel abroad, they probably have the resources to pay for their hospital bills, as well. Unless you're saying they shouldn't have insurance? In which case, that's what insurance is for. The vast majority pay in far more than they get out. Long-term care for the terminally ill costs the system far more than a single injury. Criticize him for wasting other people's hard earned money for his cancer treatments, if that's your concern. But watch out because that sounds inhumane.

      July 12, 2010 at 21:49 | Report abuse |
  2. Roland

    Good for him! I am glad he beat cancer and I hope he is enjoying his life, whatever he chooses to do, running from bulls, climbing moutains or whatever! Go for it! Life is short, live it.

    July 12, 2010 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Bill Hannegan

    Jessica, I'm absolutely OK with that as long as I don't have to pay for your maternity costs. If you want to have kids, you pay out of pocket.

    July 12, 2010 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lisa

      lol, I totally didn't read your comment before I made mine... great minds think alike 🙂

      July 12, 2010 at 19:53 | Report abuse |
  4. Don

    Please remember that attitude jessica when you decide to have akid. You know, all the rot about paying for IT yourself, cuz IT is your problem NOT someone elses.

    July 12, 2010 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. LaRofromNorthAL

    FYI Don & BIll : Folks having kids ensures the continuation of the human race... and means someone will be there to pay *your* medicare bills when you need it down the road. Running with the bulls does neither.

    July 12, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Don

    Bottom line, If he pays his medical bills, or health care cost its not your business, or mine or jessicas business. You want to pick and choose who and what you pay for, well i will choose too. As far as my medical bills being paid by someone, GOOD, ive paid for your kid for 20 years with my tax dollars, and they can now pay my medical bills.

    July 12, 2010 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. DALLAS GUY

    The author of the article writes, "They joined the millions of people in white shirts and red bandannas who invade the small city for the festival of San Fermín, which takes place from July 7 to July 14 every year." HUH?? Sorry Ms. Elizabeth Landau – CNN.com Health Writer/Producer, but 'millions' of people do not descend down upon Pamplona for the Festival of San Fermin. Tens of thousands perhaps, but millions? Do some research before you write such a silly story.

    July 12, 2010 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CM

      hi dallas guy,

      actually, it is indeed millions, if counting all days of the festival. 2000-3000 run the bullrun route all 8 mornings between the 7th and 14th of the festival, and i'd estimate that most of those each day are "non-repeat" runners. now, that's likely less than 1% of all the festival-goers, which includes hundreds of thousands of wives and kids.

      for a look at what the opening ceremony looks like on day 1 alone, see youtube .com / watch?v=FsSabSbmg3M
      be sure to take out the 3 spaces (after youtube, after com, and after the /)
      and keep in mind that there's a ton more people who aren't able to squeeze into that main square to witness the opening ceremony first-hand.

      how do i estimate the numbers? i was at san fermin last week and ran the damn bullrun on july 9th of this year. it was nuts.

      July 12, 2010 at 19:06 | Report abuse |
  8. animal

    I call it natural selection, it keeps the human herd lean...on the other hand, I also find it inhumane treatment of the bulls. how dare you kill an animal for pleasure or sport!

    July 12, 2010 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Zach Swan

      Animal, it is inhumane treatment because bulls are not human. It's the way the world works.

      Now if I were a bull and given the choice of a) being penned up for 6 mos to 2 years, then getting a bolt in the back of the head so I could be butchered or b) living for 4 to 5 years roaming almost-free on a huge ranch then going out the way these fighting bulls go out, I'd definitely pick the latter. There are no other options other than not being brought into the world in the first place (man gave life to these bulls.)

      Besides, those bulls tried to kill me on Saturday and again yesterday.

      July 13, 2010 at 05:49 | Report abuse |
  9. Ludog15365

    Hey Dallas Guy- the population of Pamplona swells from approximately 200k to 2 million + on weekends during the festival.
    You should check it out, it's quite a party.

    July 12, 2010 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Christine

    The bulls suffer tremendously for the entertainment of humans and then they die. Wow, isn't that fun......not.......I don't feel sorry for anyone who gets gored or killed out there. If they weren't doing this inhumane act, no one would get hurt or killed. If humans want entertainment, use humans. The animals have no choice. Pain is pain, people, whether it is inflicted on a human or ANIMALS. It's just that the animals have no choice or VOICE.......Been in animal rescue for 15 years and I have seen it all.

    July 12, 2010 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Maria

    To all of you who complain about medical bills. I don't know what happened when he returned to the USA but he did not pay a thing while being treated in Spain as we have a free health system. It's being pay by us through our taxes and we are very proud of being able to afford to treat everyone, including tourists.

    July 13, 2010 at 07:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christine

      MARIA....Lo siento, pero Your health system is not FREE. The taxpayers pay out the YIM YAM for it. As you know, that is how it works in a socialistic society. The majority of Americans do not want this type of health system, even though, this loon of a president we have pushed it through. Yes, our present system could use some reform, but, the socialistic from of health care is not that good. I have talked to many people from countries who have it. Presently, you don't have to wait for medical tests or treatment in the USA as you do with Socialistic Health care. It becomes selective treatment ie. age, etc. WE DON'T WANT THAT. We hope to change what Obama has done and the sooner the better.

      July 13, 2010 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
  12. Wally

    You mess with the Bulls, you get the Horns!
    I think if this guy beat cancer and wanted to run with the bulls, BRAVO! Yeah, I relaize it's not the most sensable thing we do as hairless apes on this planet, but geeze.
    If I had the opportunity to do this, I might.

    July 13, 2010 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Maria

    Christine, you might not have to wait for medical tests or treatment but most people can't afford them either. At least that's the info that gets to Europe. CNN have run countless stories about people getting into serious debt while fighting for their lives or even not going for treatment because they could just not afford it. That does not happen here. And if you have a serious illness like breast cancer, here you don't wait for months for treatment or rack up thousands of dollars/euro while treated. I have a friend who lived in California for a year and did not have a scan while pregnant because they were asking her a thousand dollars for it. Do you prefer that? Ok with me. I prefer to pay a portion of my salary and know that I won't get screwed if I need a doctor.

    July 13, 2010 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. David

    I realize this story is about Running with the Bulls which is happening now, but the accident happened three years ago. Why are they posting it now?

    July 13, 2010 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Christine

    MARIA...First of all, you need to widen your TV network viewing. CNN has always leaned to the left and that is well known over here. I listen to a lot of talk radio here and many people from other countries have called in with horror stories of having to wait longer than normal for tests, some having lost relatives in the waiting process. I defiinitely DON'T want that. There are many places that will allow people to pay for tests on a sliding scale or allow them to set up a payment plan. People just don't ask. This country helps people a lot more than you realize or HEAR on CNN....Many here in this country choose not to have health insurance so they are counted in the statistics of people who do not have insurance. It was and is their choice. Many MANY people come here from Canada for medical care and procedures because the waiting is TOO LONG in Canada. Plus in many socialized countries, people are put on lists according to age to get help.....with the elderly on the bottom of the pole. You may not be elderly now, but, it is inevitable that one day you will be. Many countries that are on socialized medicine are running out of money for the system....then, that is when they get VERY SELECTIVE. You won't hear that on CNN....A portion of your salary? What is the percentage you pay in Taxes? I am always seeing and listening to a man in the British Parliament who is always warning the USA against socialized medicine. He has lived it as well and does not like it. You may not be facing any health issues as of yet in your life, but, one day you will.....l would prefer to get treatment asap no matter MY AGE or condition. That is how it is here.

    July 13, 2010 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mark McKee

    Good for the Bull. It just goes to show that if you beat cancer, and you're an a$$hole, you will still be an a$$hole, who beat cancer. It's so inspiring! sniff, sniff...

    July 13, 2010 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Billy

    So you fight a deadly disease only to go and risk losing your life?

    Dumbest story about the dumbest people I've seen today.

    Go bulls!

    July 14, 2010 at 02:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Maria

    CHRISTINE, where are those horror stories comimg from? South America? Definitely not from Europe. I had the misfortune of having a relative sick with cancer and two days after she went to her GP she was seen by a consultant, tests were carried out within a week and quemo started in less than two weeks. Unfortunately the cancer was very agressive and she died 6 months later. She did not pay a thing, including the use of a new drug. The long waiting lists are for ailments that do not pose a serious risk to your health but in some cases, those delays do cause deaths because there are people who are weaker or develop other problems. CNN might be leftist. Does that make the stories they run less accurate? I'm not talking here about politics and sure enough you prefer to get treatment asap, but only if you can afford it, right? The real reason most socialist health system are burdened and running out of money is the fact that they are treating long term, incurable illnesses like diabetes, which requires permanent expensive care. Try to get private health insurance in the USA if your family has a history of diabetes. Poor people in the USA are actually covered by a socialist health system and struggling and not even the Republicans got rid of it because it meant certain detah for millions. By the way, how do you afford your medicals bills? I would love to know because you seem to be either very healthy or have enough money to afford a serious illness. Either way, lucky you but many are not in your position.

    July 14, 2010 at 04:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. wally rockwell

    When it comes to dumb animals being subjected to cruelty as i think The Running is i am all for the animals.I am happy that these boys were not killed but i am happy they were gored and wish more were injured so this barbaric sport was stopped.I personally think all Latinos have a mean streak in their soul.

    July 14, 2010 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Red Bull

    Hi Redbull here,

    I always root for us bulls. If these dip shites are stupid enough to tease us and run with us, they need a good goring! Also, since they don't seem to care that we die for their sport, I cheer my buddies on when one has the luck to stick some dumb a s s onto the end of his horn. We bulls laugh loudest when one of these stupid wankers gets his nadz yanked off or we get a clean shot at a kill.

    July 14, 2010 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.