By LINDSAY CAREY
Several surgeries, blood transfusions, and chemotherapy treatments later, a Plainville woman will ride 100 miles in a charity ride on Sept. 6.
In 2008, Rebecca Delong was diagnosed with stage four melanoma on her ear.
“You could go to bed one night and the next day your whole life changes,” said Delong.
After having part of her ear removed at the University of Connecticut ‘s John Dempsey Hospital and having it reconstructed from her arm, Delong was on the road to recovery.
However, in 2012 the melanoma came back as a tumor in her stomach and she had to have a complete hysterectomy so that doctors could take out as much as they could.
“When all was said and done and they retested me after that and I had two small spots still in my stomach,” said Delong. “UConn gave me a three to five percent chance of surviving. There’s no cure and they didn’t have anything they could offer.”
Delong and her family were devastated by the news, she said nothing could compare to hearing that prognosis.
“I’ve known my husband since I was 17. We’ve been married for 38 years, when I went to the doctor’s, I just started crying. I said, ‘I can’t leave him alone.’ I was more worried about him than I was myself.”
Delong said her husband remained by her side throughout everything, attending every test and appointment with her. Delong is also the mother of two daughters.
“I talked to my doctor and she said, ‘I know somebody at Yale’,” said Delong. “I think you should go talk to her.”
She was fortunate to get in a program, because the Yale Smilow Cancer Center is so busy. Apparently, there is almost always a waiting list.
“There’s so many people and only so many openings for the research,” said Delong. This kind of experimental chemotherapy is a two year process that patients start as a group on a strict regimen, so that doctors can compare apples to apples.
Delong did four treatments at the Yale Smilow Cancer Center, until she got extremely sick and couldn’t take anymore.
However, after the four treatments, she was scanned again and her cancer was gone as of Feb. 1, 2013.
“So far, I’m still cancer free, because I was lucky enough to have the benefit of the research and not everyone is,” said Delong. “I think everyone should be.”
Today, Delong is training with her sister Roxanne Stinney to support the Yale Smilow Cancer Center in their 4th annual bike ride, Closer to Free.
Delong and her family credit Yale with saving her life.
“It’s their one big event to raise money and they put all their time and effort into that ride,” said Delong. “I wanted to be a part of it and I was lucky because my sister said, ‘Can I ride with you?’ And I don’t know that I would’ve gone as far as I’m going without her.”
The two have been training on Rails to Trails and also recently took a trip to bike in Vermont.
To participate in the ride, Yale charges costs $100 and riders also have to guarantee that they will raise at least $400 additionally. If a rider does not reach the $400 minimum, they have to pledge to make up the difference. However, because of the support around the ride, most people don’t have to worry about it.
The ride begins and ends at the Yale Bowl. There is a 25 mile ride, a 62.5 mile ride and the 100 mile.
Delong and Stinney have ridden 85 miles thus far in their training, but want to save the 100 miles as a milestone for the big day.
According to Delong, patients at the center can watch the riders from their windows and cheer them on.
“The day of the race is going to be really emotional for me,” said Delong. “Not just the ride and people that I don’t know showing support, the people that I do know.”
Delong already has been receiving donations from her family co-workers, and some of the customers from her job in sales. She and Stinney together have raised over $1,200 thus far.
“It’s overwhelming to know how many people really care about you and want to help,” said Delong. “Cancer is something everyone can relate to there isn’t anyone that doesn’t sympathize.”
Delong’s other sister Rhonda Cancelli showed her support by hosting a tag sale and lemonade stand fundraiser at her house on July 19. All of the proceeds went to the Yale Smilow Cancer Center.
“We’re really just hoping to raise some extra money to put towards it,” said Cancelli. “Every penny helps.”
Cancelli also will meet her sisters along the route while their riding to cheer them on.
Delong said she knows she’ll be in tears all day and that riding has made her and her sister even closer.
“I know the first thing I should do is hug my husband, but the first thing I want to do is hug my sister for riding with me, She’s doing it for me and it’s time consuming. She’s had to give up a lot of time with her family to be out there with me training.”
Both of their husbands have been totally supportive, giving up their weekends to help out driving the sisters places with their bikes and pumping up the tires.
“They know how important it is to us,” said Delong. “After this, I will ride anyways because it’s a great thing for families.”
For hose who want to donate to these Plainville women’s ride for the Yale Smilow Cancer Center, go to www.rideclosertofree.org and search Rebecca Delong, Roxanne Stinney or their group name, Sister Act.
Comments? Email lcarey@SouthingtonObserver.com.
By LINDSAY CAREY