Danni’s Journey — a survivor’s story
As a Niagara Falls native, Danni Pierini knows how powerful it will be for Empire State Riders when they cross the finish line at one of the natural wonders of the world. And as a young cancer survivor who faced the disease at the age of 16, she also knows how important it is to help fund critically needed cancer research.
She told us the story of her battle — and why she thinks everyone should consider taking part in the Empie State Ride:
Q: Can you tell me a little about your cancer journey?
Danni: Leading up to my 16th birthday, I began having pain in my left leg right above my knee. I was walking down the stairs at my high school when my bone in my leg snapped and I fell down the rest of the stairs. They put rods in to stabilize it, but I was later diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that starts in the bones. I was scared at first when the doctors told me, but before I even left the hospital that day, I was determined to beat it.
Q: What kind of treatments did you undergo and for how long?
Danni: I went through 16 weeks of intense chemotherapy, a hip, femur and knee replacement, and then another 16 weeks of chemotherapy after that surgery. A year and half later, I was officially cancer free.
Q: What kind of challenges did you face?
Danni: I faced many challenges during my journey, as all cancer patients do. As I said before, I had a hip, femur and knee replacement, which was an obstacle in itself. Losing my hair at 16 when teenagers are all about their hair and makeup was difficult. I lost all of my naturally blond hair that I had finally grown out to the middle of my back. I even lost my eyebrows and eyelashes. But I knew I had to keep positive and fight it, because there was no other choice.
Q: What was your experience like at Roswell Park?
Danni: My experience was amazing. I have a connection with all of my nurses and cancer buddies that many people don’t have with their everyday friends, and I actually get excited to go for my follow-up scans to be able to see everyone. I benefited from many of the support groups at Roswell Park, including Carly’s Club and Teens Living with Cancer, which are both supportive groups for young patients and their families.
Q: What do you think ending the seven-day adventure across the state at the Falls will be like for the riders?
Danni: I think the ride ending here at the Falls will be like a breath of fresh air and make the whole ride worth it. It’s so beautiful.
Q: Do you have any favorite restaurants or things to do that you would recommend to visitors who will be in town for the Empire State Ride?
Danni: My favorite restaurants here are Como on Niagara Falls Boulevard and Michaels on Pine Avenue. They are both Italian restaurants.
Q: From your perspective as a cancer survivor, why do you think someone should consider participating in this event to help in the fight against this disease?
Danni: I would encourage everyone and anyone to help raise money for cancer research — I do it myself as much as possible, because if it wasn’t for cancer research, I would say 75 percent of cancer survivors wouldn’t be here today. Thank you to all the riders who are doing this for us. I plan to be there in Niagara Falls to cheer them on at the finish line and thank them!