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Denise Rides Cancer Free

January 23, 2023

From Cancer diagnosis to cycling 65 miles, Denise celebrates the Closer to Free Ride

Denise was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, and with your help, she has reached her five year mark and rides Closer to Free

Denise knows all too well that ignoring unusual physical symptoms — however harmless they might seem — is a very bad idea.

There is a history of cancer in her family. Denise’s mother passed away from breast cancer, and her dad is a prostate cancer survivor. “I learned early on that routine exams were key,” she says. “But even more important, I always paid attention to anything that didn’t seem normal.”

So in 2018, when she noticed some abnormal gynecological symptoms, she told her doctor — even though she was almost sure they were just a part of perimenopause.

After some diagnostic testing, “I was shocked when I heard the words: ‘You may have cancer,’” she says. She was only 49.

“I did not want to die young like my mom,” she says. “And I couldn’t bear the thought of causing that kind of pain and grief to my family if the cancer had a poor prognosis — they had already lost so much when we lost my mom.”

Denise’s doctor recommended a hysterectomy to determine conclusively whether she had cancer. “It was when I woke up from the surgery that I learned it was, indeed, endometrial cancer.”

Fortunately, the surgery eliminated Denise’s cancer. She didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. But she’s being monitored closely by her doctors at Smilow Cancer Hospital as she makes her way to the five-year mark, when her chances of recurrence will be significantly reduced.

The worry never goes away

“People say, ‘Hey, it’s so great — you beat it!’” Denise says. “But the worry never fully goes away. It’s there in the back of my mind, before every appointment, every mammogram or ultrasound, or with any pain.”

In 2019, Denise celebrated one year cancer-free by cycling and fundraising in the Closer to Free Ride to benefit Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center. “I’ve ridden every year since to celebrate and help others.” Last September, her fourth year, she rode 65 miles.

From the thousands of riders and families who gather at the Yale Bowl at dawn to the caregivers and patients who wait outside Smilow to say “thank you” to the survivors and their loved ones who cheer and hold up banners along the entire course, Denise never fails to be amazed at the vast number of people who are impacted by cancer.

“Community is the key,” she says. “That sense of community reminds you that whatever your differ­ences are, there’s always something that connects us. That’s pretty powerful. Together, you can do more than alone.”

Closer to Free 2023 will be extra special for Denise. She looks forward to celebrating five years riding and five years cancer-free!

Closer to Free donors — YOU ARE HELPING SAVE LIVES! Thank you