Francis Reinhardt was just 48 years old when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1980.

“She had never been sickly, but she had begun not feeling well, and she finally decided to go to the doctor,” Francis’s daughter, Cheryl, said. “She was told she had one week to live.”

Just one week later, Francis passed away.

“We were in shock. It just happened so fast,” said Cheryl. “My brother was only 16, and it was very difficult for both of us.”

Thirty years later, Cheryl was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer herself. She was 48 years old — the same age her mother was when she was diagnosed. Cheryl assumed she, too, would only have one week left to live.

“I quit my job. I thought, ‘this is it. If I only have one week to live, why work?’ I just started to mentally prepare,” said Cheryl.

After her initial diagnosis, Cheryl came to Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) for a second opinion, and met Kunle Odunsi, MD, RPCI’s Deputy Director and Chair of Gynecological Oncology.

“My attitude immediately changed when I came to Roswell Park,” said Cheryl. “When I first met Dr. Odunsi, he told me, ‘I know what to do,’ and even though I wasn’t sure what would happen, I could sense that I was in good hands.”

Cheryl underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and went into remission shortly after. But, eight years later at a checkup, the doctors found another tumor.

Despite recent advancements, ovarian cancer still claims 14,180 lives each year. By riding, you will be making a difference in the fight against this disease, and the funds you raise will help scientists develop new treatments that could save lives around the world.

“I went outside, and pulled out every weed in the front of the house because I was so angry,” she said. “I mustered up everything I could, and I told myself, if you got through it the first time, you can do it a second time.”

After a few more rounds of chemotherapy, Dr. Odunsi asked Cheryl if she would be willing to participate in a clinical trial for a new, groundbreaking treatment that had been developed by Roswell Park scientists with critical support from fundraising events like the Empire State Ride. This new treatment — an ovarian cancer vaccine — works by stimulating the immune system in the fight against cancer.

Having already experienced the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy and hopeful for a promising alternative treatment, Cheryl agreed to join the trial. Today, 12 years after her initial diagnosis, she’s back in remission and doing well.

“I didn’t expect to live for five years, and according to the statistics, I shouldn’t be here,” said Cheryl. “But I am, and I really believe it’s because of the new treatments I was able to receive. Now, I don’t take anything for granted.”


How You Can Help Patients Like Cheryl

Despite recent advancements, survival rates remain poor for women diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. The disease still claims 14,180 lives each year.

But Dr. Odunsi and other scientists at Roswell Park are pressing on, determined to build on their progress and develop more effective treatments to help patients like Cheryl.

In 2013, Roswell Park received a prestigious, highly competitive award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to further research on new therapies that use the immune system in the fight against ovarian cancer. Although the grant from the NCI covers the majority of the cost of the five-year initiative, the project does require additional funding from Roswell Park — and that’s where you can step in. By riding and enlisting the support of your family and friends, you will be helping scientists continue their work on this cutting-edge initiative.

The money you raise will support four groundbreaking projects: three clinical trials evaluating new immunotherapies and one study looking for ways to reduce risk in women at high risk of developing ovarian cancer.

“The NCI has recognized that our research has very high potential for changing the lives of ovarian cancer patients around the world,” said Dr. Odunsi. “This research is a combination of all the understandings we have built for more than a decade, and we expect we will be able to be able to improve outcomes of patients who are battling this devastating disease. It is thanks to our supporters — like the participants in the Empire State Ride — that we have been able to progress this far.”

About the Author

The Empire State Ride is a fully supported, seven-day, 500+ mile adventure across New York State with one mission: to end cancer.
Post Category: Where The Funds Go, Why I Ride