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Every year since its inception, Dr. Bjorn Holmstrom has trained for and participated in the annual Cure on Wheels, Inc. Capitol Ride, a 3-day advocacy bike ride for cancer research. This year would be no different.

He and his fiancée, Dr. Jacqueline Wesolow – both hospitalists at Moffitt Cancer Center – were already signed up for the ride when they learned about the chance for vaccinated health care workers to win tickets to the Super Bowl.

“When I put my name into the lottery, I was like, there’s no way,” said Wesolow. Holmstrom said he entered the lottery thinking maybe one or two people at Moffitt might get a ticket.

They had both gotten messages from colleagues in their department telling them to check their email. “There were at least three people who had gotten tickets,” said Holmstrom. “You know, we’re the ones who see COVID patients at Moffitt. Anybody who has COVID gets admitted to the internal and hospital medicine service. So we’re kind of frontline in that respect.”

“I sat down in my office and didn’t want to check my email, he said. “I was ready for the big letdown – no email, no ticket. But I opened it up and sure enough it said ‘Congratulations.’

For the next hour Holmstrom says he was in shock, thinking this must be a mistake. “This is this Super Bowl. And a super historic Super Bowl, too, with the Bucs playing here in Tampa. And I’m a pretty big Bucs fan, I was a season ticket holder for 12 years.”

Dr. Wesolow and Dr. Holmstrom

Dr. Wesolow and Dr. Holmstrom with their Tampa Bay Buccaneers Derrick Brooks '55' jerseys on. "Greatest Bucs player ever," says Holmstrom.

Wesolow also won a ticket. “It was a such a surprise. This is a once in a lifetime experience,” she said. “I had to re-read he email several times.”

After the shock and excitement, Holmstrom started thinking. “I was like okay – the Super Bowl is Sunday – what time does it start? It’s at 6 o’clock. How can we get from Lake City to Tampa, then back to Lake City again?

“We wanted to go the Super Bowl, but we wanted to do the Capitol Ride,” Wesolow said. “So, then I thought, well now what?”

Logistically, it seemed impossible. This year the cyclists are riding a reverse route, starting in Tallahassee and coming back Moffitt. Sunday would be the first leg of the ride – from Tallahassee to Lake City.

Holmstrom has done the Capitol Ride every year, and Wesolow has participated since 2017 – so not participating was not an option. But who could miss a chance to go to the Super Bowl?

“The NFL has so graciously honored us,” Holmstrom said. “We feel so blessed that they would do this for health care providers, not only allowing us to go to the game but truly hosting us. We get there early, have a concert with Miley Cyrus (I’m a massive fan – I have an autographed guitar from her!), they’re feeding us, then escorting us into the stadium. It’s something we can’t miss.”

The couple decided meeting up with the group on Monday at the halfway point was the most logical compromise. They will meet in Gainesville and ride to Ocala, spend the night in Ocala with the group, then finish the last leg of the ride from Ocala to Moffitt on Tuesday.

“It’s always amazing to ride and represent Moffitt, and to be alongside cancer patients and survivors,” Holmstrom said, “as well as fellow Moffitt physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and researchers, promoting Moffitt and raising cancer awareness.”