My why will always be in memory of my beautiful, sweet, innocent, silly, giggly, 5 year-old cousin, Katherine, who died unexpectedly from pneumonia and complications following many long months of successful cancer treatment at Roswell Park. She had won the battle against her disease, but cancer knows neither logic nor reason.
Over the last 32, nearly 33, years since Katherine left this earth, I have been reminded countless times that cancer knows neither logic nor reason. In September 2020, after a very short battle with Stage IV lung cancer, I lost a dear friend, Jeanne Vilardo. Just over a month later, my cousin and Katherine’s cousin, Emily, age 32, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My hope was to ride the 2021 Empire State Ride in Jeanne’s memory and in honor of Emily, but the universe had other plans. I was registered, but as outdoor riding season approached, I was tired, I had nothing left in the tank. So I made the incredibly difficult decision to cancel my plans for the 2021 ESR.
Just a few short months later, on September 2, 2021, I too was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am among the very lucky ones, my cancer was caught early, at Roswell, at my routine mammogram. My prognosis is excellent. The cancer has been removed, and as I write this in January 2022, I have one chemo infusion remaining, to be followed by radiation.
But the last 4 months have taken a toll on those I care deepest about, my husband, EJ, and my children, Lily (14) and Jack (11). This year, I ride for them. No parent should have to look their innocent children in the eyes and say, I have cancer. That was the most difficult thing I have ever done.
Throughout this cancer journey, EJ, Lily and Jack have kept my body and my soul nourished and for that I am forever grateful. They have been so brave and have handled all the fear and uncertainty with love and grace. EJ, Lily and Jack, thank you for all you have done to see me through this journey, I simply could not have done it without you by my side.
And this year I will ride for my parents, my sisters, my extended Gioia-Phelan family, for EJ’s family and for all my friends near and far, who have supported me with countless cards, gifts and meals. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you.
Never could I have imagined that I would be adding patient and survivor to my Roswell resume. I have volunteered at Roswell in some capacity for over 30 years, and that will continue for as long as I am able. During this year’s ride, I will join the many that are survivors, I will continue to be inspired by those who are in the fight for their lives, and I will always honor those who have been lost to this insidious disease.
In other years, I would have said that completing the 2018 and 2019 Empire State Rides was life-altering, and while nothing can top crossing that finish line, beating cancer is truly life-altering and I am forever changed.
I am now among the many who can say that Roswell Park saved their life. With your financial support, you have made that possible and I would be honored to have your support on this year's ride.
With much love and gratitude,
Allison Gioia Flammer
My Personal Blog