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Rider Spotlight: Alan Kurtz

Meet ESR Road Warrior Alan Kurtz

Alan talks about the Hometown Challenge, overcoming obstacles and honoring 75+ loved ones

Alan Kurtz, 64, sits in front of a wall of race T-shirts, all cut down to squares and stitched together into a quilt that speaks to his lifelong passion. In front of them rests his road bike, a towel draped over the handlebars from his most recent ride. Running has always been at the center of Alan’s life. He’s completed seven marathons and qualified for the Boston Marathon — one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive running events. He ran the 26.2 miles with pride despite a sprained ankle. Later in life, he began competing in triathlons, which brought him into the world of cycling. Once he discovered Empire State Ride, the rest was history.

WHY EMPIRE STATE RIDE MATTERS

Image shows the back of Alan's custom jersey with the names of 75 people lost to cancer.

Like many, Alan has a personal connection to the cancer cause. He lost his father to cancer in 1984, and since then, he’s constantly sought out ways to honor his father’s memory. Walks and short races to raise money weren’t for Alan; he wanted something that would challenge him and combine his love of endurance sports. That’s when he saw a suggestion on Facebook for a 7-day bike tour. He clicked through, learned about the Empire State Ride and read that it supported clinical trials and cancer research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. He knew he had to become a road warrior.

In 2017, Alan embarked on a journey of a lifetime to end cancer, joining his fellow road warriors in tackling the 500+ miles from New York City to Niagara Falls. He’s been involved with the event ever since. Along the way, he has honored his father’s 56-year legacy, as well as a growing list of other loved ones affected by cancer: his mother who passed away in 2018, his mother-in-law who passed away in 2016, his father-in-law who passed away in 2020, his uncle who lost his battle in 2022 and 71 others affected by various forms of cancer.

Alan also honors his own battle with prostate cancer after receiving a diagnosis this past year.

With cancer affecting so many facets of Alan’s life, he knew he’d keep coming back to Empire State Ride year over year. Of course, life sometimes has other plans.

RIDING THROUGH IT ALL

A global pandemic, the loss of loved ones, hip surgery and other obstacles have kept Alan from joining his fellow road warriors on the road in recent years. But that hasn’t stop him from participating. He’s completed the Empire State Ride 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge multiple times, always finding new and innovative ways to cover the distance.

This past year, Alan rode up the eastern seaboard of his home state of Florida over the course of seven days. He charted out a course that traveled along the east coast from his home near West Palm Beach, finishing up just north of Jacksonville, booking hotel rooms each night along the way. His wife followed him on his journey, meeting him at preset rest stops (with nutrition and hydration) and the “finish line” in front of each hotel.

Along the way, Alan took in the sights, including a statue of a tin man, piglets, Daytona Speedway and a PGA tournament golf course.

“It was beautiful. I’ve seen many parts of Florida driving, but riding it just gives you a whole new perspective. You can take in so much of the scenery: the local developments and real estate, the river, along the Intercoastal Waterway and, of course, the beach. It was really just a great ride. I’m glad I did it.”

For the challenge, he had two jerseys designed. One jersey indicated that his “Sunshine State Ride” was in support of the Empire State Ride; the other included the names of 75 people who motivate and inspire him to ride, a list that is not comprehensive.

“They are not alone,” Alan says. “More than anything, they (and numerous others) are why I ride!”

ALAN'S ADVICE ON THE HOMETOWN CHALLENGE

The beauty of the 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge is that you can log the miles on your terms while still raising funds for the same impactful cause. You can ride anywhere in the world and break up the miles however you choose during the month of July (or beyond).

“If this is a cause that you really believe in and you want to do something about it but can’t afford to go on the road, the Hometown Challenge is your best opportunity to do it,” Alan says. “It’s not that hard if you put your mind to it.”

Here are some of the great benefits you’ll get when you sign up for the challenge:

  • A private Facebook group with fellow riders to connect, share advice and ask questions
  • The new ESR myHUB app
  • Access to experts, including a fundraising coordinator, cycling coach and more
  • Fundraising tools to help you meet and exceed your personal goal
  • Challenge to track your miles during the month of July
  • Rewards to celebrate your milestones
  • A team of other cyclists from around the world, ready to take on this adventure with you

“ESR, to me, is not only about the challenge; more importantly, it’s about the cause. Figure out what you’re comfortable with, get dedicated, get motivated and get out there and do it,” Alan says. “You will get better, you will get more comfortable, and you’ll be able to go farther. It’s not about speed, but you will find yourself going faster, and you’ll find yourself just loving it.”

JOIN ALAN AT THIS YEAR'S RIDE — IN PERSON OR VIRTUALLY

From rider to volunteer, Janice Hetrick embodies the spirit of ESR

Janice Hetrick of Lancaster rode in her first Empire State Ride back in 2017. She says her friend proposed the idea and, at first, she was skeptical. After all, cycling 500+ miles across New York State is no easy feat. But after that first ride, ESR became a part of Janice – and Janice became a part of ESR.  

“It’s a time to concentrate, to think, to enjoy the beauty of New York State while you’re riding.”

The ride appealed to Janice for two reasons. First, she is a runner and athlete. ESR was a challenge she was prepared to tackle. Second, the mission to raise funds for cancer research resonated deeply with her.

Janice is a breast cancer survivor and several other family members have also battled cancer. In fact, her brother is currently being treated at Roswell Park for pancreatic cancer. She says ESR is her calling to give back.

Janice Hetrick at ESR

A community of thrivers

Janice Hetrick and her mother at the finish line

Of all the memories Janice has on the road at ESR, crossing the finish line for the first time is one that stands out.

“I saw my mom there. My mom is also a breast cancer survivor, and she was really leery of me doing the ride for the first time,” said Janice. “But then when she saw me at the finish line, she was crying away, saying, ‘I’m so proud of you. I’m so glad you did it.’

And in the process of getting to that finish line — Janice found community.

“We’re a family,” she explained. “Each year there’s more and more of us who have defeated cancer and are fighters, or if you want to call them thrivers.”

In 2022, a knee replacement kept Janice from being able to return as a rider. Still feeling compelled to be a part of the adventure, she decided to take on a different role at ESR.

From rider to volunteer

For #ESR22, Janice returned to the road as a volunteer for all seven days of the adventure. Along with her desire to give back, she brought an energy that kept the riders going.

“I still knew a lot of people who rode. So, each day, I would wear a different outfit for the different types of cancer.”

Janice took on a variety of tasks while volunteering, from manning one of the rest stops to squirting riders with a water gun when they needed a cooldown and assisting at the HUB (Hospitality Updates and Beverages), which is the central spot for rider information. With each job, she made it fun!

Although through a different lens, she even got to relive that moment of crossing the finish line.

“By volunteering, you are still capturing the moment of everyone arriving at camp just like you arrived at camp. You can see them pedaling and cheer them on. We all had bells and whistles. We cheered them on just as the volunteers cheered me on as I came into camp.”

The experience was so impactful that Janice plans on returning as a volunteer for #ESR23.

For others interested in volunteering, Janice said, “I would explain to them how emotional this is to volunteer. It’s captivating. It’s an uplifting experience.”

Group photo at ESR

Get the Empire State Ride Fundraising App

Enhance your fundraising with the ESR MyHub App.

Riding 500+ miles across New York State makes you a road warrior; raising critical funds for cancer research makes you a champion.

Let the ESR MyHUB app supercharge your fundraising efforts and get you ready for your Empire State Ride adventure.

This is an image of the ESR myHUB app home screen.
This image shows another screen capture of the ESR myHUB app homepage.

Here are some of the great things you can do with the app!

  • Personalize your fundraiser and track your fundraising progress
  • Accept in-person check donations with state-of-the-art scanning technology and bank-grade security feature
  • Send emails or SMS messages to your contacts asking for support and donations
  • Connect the app to your activity tracker. Earn badges and compete against fellow road warriors in fitness and fundraising challenges
  • Integrate with your ESR fundraising dashboard and Facebook fundraiser
  • Share your page on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • And much more!

How to get started.

The ESR MyHUB app is free to download in the App Store or Google Play. Search for “ESR MyHUB” wherever you download apps.

Use the User Name and Password that you set up to log into your Fundraising Dashboard. After your first login, you can also use facial recognition to get into your account.

If you have any questions about the fundraising app, please contact us!

Email: EmpireStateRide@RoswellPark.org  Phone: 716-845-3179

And for more fundraising tools, visit our fundraising page!

Charlie Livermore: Coach, Cycling Enthusiast, Cancer Survivor

Charlie Livermore's ESR Journey

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

With more than 30 years of experience as a professional cycling coach, Charlie Livermore has logged thousands of miles and helped countless cyclists reach their goals. He works as a pro-level contract coach at Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) and has managed professional cycling teams in tours around the world. The BMC Racing Team, cofounded by Charlie, went on to win the Tour de France in 2011.

Charlie’s passion for cycling started decades ago when he bought a bike and subsequently met the president of the Florida Cycling Federation. The president invited Charlie to an upcoming race. Charlie accepted, conquered the race and never looked back.

“Cycling has been my life. I’m a prisoner of passion and discipline. It’s been a great life. I still coach, I’m still riding, and I’m still helping people. I love it. I’ll never stop doing it,” Charlie says.

Charlie rides at ESR.
Charlie and a fellow road warrior smile at Empire State Ride

On Empire State Ride.

Charlie’s involvement with Empire State Ride (ESR) can best be described as a perfect accident. A client needed to get in peak shape for a European cycling tour and pitched ESR as a training event to log his miles. Charlie agreed and joined him on the road in July 2015.

The duo planned to stay at hotels and eat at local restaurants to make it easier to adhere to their prescribed nutrition plan. Then they discovered the catering at camp and started to meet the ESR community. As Charlie got to know the other riders, he saw an opportunity to use his knowledge and become more involved.

He started giving fireside talks each night after dinner. During those chats, he shared tips and tricks for navigating the road and answered questions from new and experienced riders alike. His talks were so well-received that he was asked to come back the next year as a coach. He has returned every year since to set our road warriors up for success.   

“I’ve done all kinds of amazing one-week and two-week long vacations in my life and the one that I keep talking about the whole year is the Empire State Ride,” Charlie says. “It’s a lifetime of stories all packed up into one week.”

“It's a lifetime of stories all packed up into one week.”

Charlie’s reasons for coming back.

Charlie has joined Empire State Ride on the road for more than seven years now. For him, the event goes beyond his love for the sport of cycling. He connects to the ESR mission on a much deeper level.

“I never talk about it, but I’m also a cancer survivor. I resonate with what is going on, and I understand the studies and the clinical trials, because I went on a clinical trial that really made my outcome better. I’m still alive.”

Charlie was preparing for a cycling event in Europe when his cancer journey began. Between cycling regularly, running a cycling center and traveling to and from events, he maintained a healthy lifestyle and felt great. That’s what made what happened next even more surprising.

During a routine dental cleaning, Charlie’s dentist discovered a lump in his throat that wasn’t supposed to be there. He referred Charlie to a specialist to have it biopsied. When Charlie did, the results confirmed the worst-case scenario: throat cancer. He never smoked and realized quickly that a cancer diagnosis can happen to anyone.

Through a reference from a friend at Stanford University, Charlie got into a promising clinical trial for his specific type of cancer that involved less radiation. He signed up and began treatment, anxious for the upcoming cycling event in Europe. Luckily, Charlie took to treatment well and was able to get back to cycling sooner than later.

“I survived. But it would’ve been a completely different experience if I had gone through those three extra weeks of radiation that the normal protocol called for,” Charlie says. “When they talk about clinical trials at ESR, I understand the benefits and how much they can change the outcome. I have respect and passion for the research side of things, too.”

Charlie LIvermore paceline riding with other road warriors
Charlie Livermore holds sign with friends at halfway point.

A full-circle journey for Charlie, it’s no coincidence that he found ESR and the amazing community of road warriors he works with. He says his experience with cancer and love for cycling have made him even more grateful for the journey and connections he’s made with the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.

“Empire State Ride is unique. What this organization is doing, and the passion around it, has been one of my biggest fulfillments in cycling. I look forward to the event every year.”

Terry’s Legacy: The Start of Empire State Ride

Committing to the Cancer Cause.

For 12 years, Terry Bourgeois served in the military and devoted himself to his country. When his military career ended, he started a career in corporate America but he also found himself searching for an additional purpose and direction. That search and drive to make a difference led him to sign up for Ride for Roswell, where he quickly realized the realities of cancer. Cancer was, and continues to be, a leading cause of death worldwide.

“I had just spent 12 and a half years of my life sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I was willing to give up my life for that. But what are we doing about cancer? This enemy is huge. It has no rules and really doesn’t care. This voice in my mind was telling me I had to be part of this fight.”

So, Terry did research on Roswell Park to answer one question: Is Roswell Park really a place that’s doing something about cancer? He dove in and learned about genetic testing and clinical trials. He read patient stories and met researchers and discovered that Roswell was the first dedicated cancer center focused on cancer research. He also learned how every dollar raised gets amplified by $13 through federal, pharmaceutical and other outside support. And he was sold.

He raised his hand and committed to the fight. That was in 1999.

Today, Terry sits on the Roswell Park Alliance Community Board as chairman and the driving force behind Empire State Ride. He’s been a fierce supporter of the fight to end cancer and founded the 500+ mile adventure across New York State.

The Road to the First Empire State Ride.

The first Empire State Ride in 2014 looked a little different than it does today. An idea came to Terry during a brainstorming session about ways to bring in new revenue for cancer research. What if we created an event with two major destinations that would bring in people around the world? What if that event included the Statue of Liberty on one end and Niagara Falls on the other as entry points and sources of hope for participants traveling to the United States? What if the event covered every major city in New York State, through rural landscapes and bustling cities, and ended near the home of America’s first dedicated cancer center? 

That thought stayed with Terry. The more he tossed it over, the more he knew he had to see the idea through. So, he set out to travel across the state on a solo ride that would echo for years to come.

“It comes back to the commitment I made in 1999 that I was going to do whatever I could to help this cause,” Terry says.

He laid the groundwork for his trip by charting out the route and planning stays at local campgrounds. His mother and her friend would fly from North Dakota and meet him in New York City. They could enjoy New York during the day and meet Terry each night at camp. From there, he tuned up his bike, packed his bags and prepared to set off.

But the best laid plans rarely go off without a hitch, and Terry learned that firsthand.

Terry Bourgeois crosses arms in an ESR jersey. Filler content.
Terry Bourgeois smiles in ESR jersey. Filler content.

It started with a call the night before he was scheduled to leave. His mother’s friend just received the news that her father had a tumor on his spine. There was no way she could leave him for a week, nor would Terry want her to. Instead, the new development would fuel Terry’s desire to raise even more money for cancer research. But first, he needed to find someone to step in. He dialed his sister on a whim, knowing that he was asking for a lot. She needed time to think it through.

The next morning, Terry set off without much of a plan. “I think a reasonable person probably would’ve stopped, but I couldn’t,” he says.

As he was pulling out of his driveway, his sister called him. “Good news,” she told him. She would travel from North Dakota to New York City to join Terry on the journey.

On the road.

The first morning started with a broken toe. The pain radiated through his foot. He vowed to push through and embark on his journey regardless. Weeks later, he would learn that his big toe had broken into two. 

Early in the day, his ride went from bad to worse as his GPS, loaded with route, failed to work in New York City. The route he planned to the first campsite was not accessible. He left New York City four hours later than planned on an alternate route in the direction of the campsite.

That first night hit Terry hard. He set up at a campground about 50 miles outside New York City. His toe throbbed, his body ached, and he began to question his journey and his sanity.

Then something serendipitous happened.

He met a fellow camper and told her about his journey. She introduced him to her sister who had been diagnosed with throat cancer. Her sister’s husband had been diagnosed with prostate cancer four months before that. The more they talked and shared stories, the more Terry knew he had to keep going. The family donated to Terry’s ride to support Roswell Park and Terry vowed to do whatever it took to finish his journey.

“The next morning, I hung my jersey over [the sister’s] chair at the campfire, and I signed it ‘best of luck.’ That was a pivotal moment where the negative feelings I had about myself and the voices that told me to quit just went away. A new voice said, ‘Terry, suck it up. This has nothing to do with you, and it has everything to do with her.’”

Despite all the obstacles and odds, Terry made it to the finish line. Why? Because life doesn’t exist without risks, he says, and raising money for cancer research is well worth any trials that come with a 500+ mile journey. Today, Terry’s greatest joy comes from seeing the change Empire State Ride has made in people’s lives.

Terry and Maria, two road warriors, hold their bicycles proudly in the air in front of Niagara Falls. Filler image.
Terry stands with a group of ESR riders and volunteers. Filler content.

“To be part of writing the pages in what will be a history book about how cancer used to be is the most fulfilling thing that I can think of for a legacy. When I get to the end of my road and think about what we've been part of, I'm going to smile."

Join Terry at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

Curious about where the funds go?

ESR road warrior Dr. Joyce Ohm weighs in.

Your fundraising for Empire State Ride has a significant impact on cancer care and treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Few know that better than four-time ESR road warrior Joyce Ohm, PhD, Interim Chair of Cancer Genetics and Genomics. Not only is Dr. Ohm out on the road every July with Empire State Ride — fighting hills, weather and fatigue as she bikes from Staten Island to Niagara Falls—but she’s also in the lab at Roswell Park, fighting to find cures for all types of cancer. 

 

We sat down with Dr. Ohm to ask a few questions and learn more about the impact of the funds raised through Empire State Ride.

Joyce stands side by side with a fellow road warrior at Wagner College this past July.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your role at Roswell Park.

A: I’m a scientist at Roswell Park, so I’m someone who does research for a living. This is what I do, and it’s what I believe in. It is amazing to see riders put a tremendous amount of trust in us — it really is a special, amazing thing to think about. I cannot imagine what it must be like as an oncologist to say to a patient, ‘I don’t have anything else for you.’ As researchers, that’s our job: We’re there to put new tools in the toolbox. The dollars that go to Roswell Park fund that, especially in three key areas.

Two ESR riders smiling

Q: How has cancer treatment changed over the years?

For 20 years, we had chemotherapy and surgery and radiation. For some patients, that’s all we have still today. But there are new therapies being developed. It’s amazing to watch, just in my short career, how much everything has changed. In fact, we’ve reached a point where we’re really treating individual patients, not cancer as a whole, and that has added years to many patients’ lives.

Q: What are those key areas where the funds go?

A: First, they fund genetic testing and the development of new genetic tests — to help us decide what therapies might work best for our patients and to cover the costs of those tests for people who cannot afford them. The research world is completely different now, and how we treat patients is completely different. Now, we often make decisions about treatment based on genetic markers.

The second place the money goes is to clinical trials. New drugs and new therapies go through a rigorous testing process that takes many years and millions of dollars to get to clinic. We have tons of tools in our toolbox, especially for the more common cancers like breast and lung and colon. But for those rare cancers, like osteosarcomas and pediatric tumors, we don’t have new drugs for patients yet, and we’re working really, really hard to get them. A good chunk of the money raised for ESR goes to fund clinical trials, specifically to help patients who run out of other options. It goes to research teams who are asking cutting-edge questions, who are developing new therapies, who are learning more and more about tumors every day and who are learning how to treat individual patients. All of those dollars really, really pay off.

Then, we bring in federal support, pharmaceutical support and support from outside to really help make those dollars grow. And so, the impact of the dollars raised at Empire State Ride makes a tremendous difference for our patients.

Q: So, what does the future of cancer treatment look like?

A: Immunotherapy, including a really huge area of research at Roswell Park called CAR T-cell therapy, is making tremendous strides for our patients in every disease site that we’ve tested it in. We expect to see impressive changes in the next five to 10 years. There are new targeted therapies every day. So, every time we learn something new about a tumor, we’re able to start to think about ways to treat that and target it. New drugs are in development to achieve that.

Q: How does that all tie back to Empire State Ride?

A: Cancer touches all of us in many, many ways. When you think about what someone with cancer is going through today, you realize that what we struggled with on the road for Empire State Ride is nothing. 

But the fundraising is everything, and it’s making a difference.

Q: What does outside support look like?

Statistically, for every dollar that we raise through events like the Empire State Ride, we’re able to match that by $13 from external funding, from federal sources and other places. If every dollar that comes in gets magnified by 13, you can start to imagine the tremendous impact that we can have.

I see riders every day and tell them, ‘Those dollars matter. Those $5, $10, $20 donations are going to turn into cures, and they’re going to save lives.’”

Thinking about joining Dr. Ohm on the road in 2023? Join our mailing list to learn more.

ESR Rider Spotlight: Phil Zodda

Meet Phil Zodda, Athlete and dragon slayer

Phil is no stranger to competition — whether he’s competing or coaching. He’s a six-time runner of the New York City Marathon and soon-to-be five-time road warrior for the Empire State Ride. If you’ve ever been on the road for ESR, you might have seen Phil with a whistle in hand, dishing out Swedish Fish as he cheers on other riders from his bike. He slays dragons and rides for everyone else who does the same.

Dragons? you might ask. They’re Phil’s go-to metaphor for all of life’s challenges: setbacks, obstacles, hills and (especially) cancer. He rides in solidarity with everyone who wants to slay cancer for good. While he’s doing so, he’ll likely be the one helping you overcome your own dragons and conquer Empire State Ride.

“You’ll always come across someone who could use a little verbal support, a little slap in the back of the saddle, just to help them along. I enjoy picking up someone who might be solo, and they’re still out there slugging along. I just come up alongside them and stay there and pace them and talk with them,” Phil says.

The Origins of Dragon Slaying

Phil Zodda proudly holds his bike over his head at the finish line of Empire State Ride in Niagara Falls.The idea of dragon slaying came to Phil during his first year riding in Empire State Ride. Phil had just reached Albany and found himself faced with a hill that seemed to stretch for miles. At the end of the hill was the next camp. To get there, however, he had to climb for what felt like forever. His legs were wiped halfway up, but he kept pushing and pushing.

“My ego was such that I wasn’t walking a damn inch. No one was going to put me on the truck and carry me through. There were four of us, and I think two stopped at the rest stop in Albany and took the bus back to the camp. My friend and I rode onward.”

When the pair reached the top of the hill, people rang bells, cheered, gave hugs and shouted words of encouragement. A fellow Empire State Ride road warrior named Carlos greeted Phil and said, ‘Congratulations, you’re a dragon slayer.’ Carlos handed Phil a patch with a dragon on it, and from that moment on, the metaphor became Phil’s mantra. 

That winter, Phil thought about his Empire State Ride experience and the feeling of accomplishment he felt from tackling a physical challenge while raising money for cancer research. It had been the first time he’d ever done anything like it, and he resolved to return the following year to conquer Empire State Ride again while inspiring others to slay their own dragons.

“I’m no one special. I am not an elite athlete. I’m just another average guy who’s out there on the course. I’m not a young fellow either,” Phil says. “If I can do it and pedal, so can you. And if there’s a reason why you’re trying it, then let’s finish what you started.”

phil's Background

Phil coached high school track for 34 years before he retired. He’s also been involved with the New York City Marathon for close to 41 years, building the finish line, working as a four-mile captain and, most recently, escorting the elite runners on his bike. A retired teacher, Phil brings his passion for guiding others to everything he does, and Empire State Ride is no exception.

Cycling is not Phil’s first sport, but he made the transition from running following orthoscopic surgery on his knee. It wasn’t really until a friend handed him an Empire State Ride business card that Phil started riding regularly, though. He had tossed the ESR card into a drawer and forgotten about it for months. When he rediscovered it, the timing felt serendipitous. At the time, his wife was overseas for their niece’s funeral. Their niece, only in her thirties, had passed away from breast cancer. Participating in Empire State Ride was the perfect way for Phil to challenge himself physically while honoring those lost to cancer like his niece.

Five years later, Phil keeps coming back to ride again.

“Together, we will slay this dragon called cancer and make the world a better place for future generations.”

Join Phil and his team of dragon slayers by registering for Empire State Ride today. Don’t wait — the last day to register is June 29.

Join Phil at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

ESR rider spotlight: Diana Flores

Diana Flores: Detective. Mother. Cyclist. Survivor. Warrior.

As a detective for the New York Police Department, Diana works for the Intelligence Bureau, detecting and disrupting criminal and terrorist activity using intelligence-led policing. The role marks a deviation from her previous job as an investigator in the field, where she faced dangerous and often life-threatening situations. Being involved in those situations taught her courage, strength and the value of doing what needs to be done — a mindset she’s embraced in all facets of her life.

When Diana learned that she had breast cancer in November 2020, that resilient mindset was tested. As the mother of a four-year-old daughter, hearing the words you have cancer was more terrifying than anything she’d ever encountered on the job.  

“Of course, I was afraid. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘I can’t leave my daughter. I don’t want to die,’” she says. “When you’re living for someone who’s counting on you and looking up to you, the last thing you want to do is leave.”

Diana fought with everything she had to stay with her daughter. Over the course of two years, she underwent treatment, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Now, she’s grateful to have returned to a career she loves and a newfound purpose: fighting for other cancer patients.

From cancer survivor to cancer warrior

For as long as Diana can remember, being competitive and active have been pillars in her life. Her favorite childhood memories involved racing her brother, Anthony, on bikes to see who could make it to their aunt’s house first. They took different, more difficult routes every time. In adulthood, she sought out ways to stay active, breaking out her bike for fitness and leaning into anything she viewed as a challenge.

“Movement is medicine,” Diana says.

Naturally, when she saw an Empire State Ride commercial on TV at home in the Bronx, she knew her next journey was about to begin.

“When I found out what [ESR] was about and learned that it was for cancer research and to end cancer, I just got a feeling that said, ‘I have to do this ride,’” she says. “I was going through my chemo treatments at the time, and I promised myself that next year, if I was able to ride, nothing was going to stop me from doing it for myself and those who can’t do it.”

Empire State Ride 2022 will be her first-ever multiday tour. She’s completed other day rides, but this challenge is new to her, and nothing will hold her back. She knows she is stronger than any pain or challenge and is fighting for something bigger than herself. Diana rides today for the advancement of cancer cures tomorrow.

On Empire State Ride

Diana’s decision to participate in Empire State Ride comes less than a year after her treatments ended. She’s honoring not only herself, but her sister-in-law who survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, her mother-in-law who is a two-time survivor of cervical cancer and her daughter for whom she has always fought.

“It’s going to be amazing when my daughter grows up. The technology and the medicine are going to get better. It has already gotten better. You go from people dying from breast cancer — and I know they still do — but there are so many more survivors. So, this ride is going to mean a lot.”

Diana has already started to train and dream about reaching the finish line at Niagara Falls. She’s been following Charlie Livermore’s training plan and has no doubt that reaching the falls will be one of the most rewarding moments of her life. It will take courage, strength and a commitment to doing what needs to be done, but the detective in her has years of practice at that already.

She’s thankful for the opportunity to ride and for the support of her family, especially her husband, William and her beautiful daughter. “I am just happy … happy to be strong enough. That I came out of this on top. It was a tough time, but I am happy that I am here to tell my story and that I am healthy.”

Become an Empire State road warrior and join Diana in the fight to end cancer.

Join Diana at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

Rider spotlight: Doug Field

Meet ESR Hometown Challenge Champion, Doug Field. 

Five years ago, Doug Field felt off, like he wasn’t quite himself. He found himself getting dizzy, disoriented and confused about everyday details. He couldn’t remember how to get to a restaurant he frequented in Manhattan or how navigate his way through an airport without the help of his daughter. Something wasn’t right.

Doug’s suspicions were confirmed during a visit to his optometrist. His optic nerve was badly inflamed, and he was quickly referred to an ophthalmologist and a neurologist. Tests later revealed that Doug had metastases on his brain from cancer that spread from his lungs. He had never smoked. Since that time, Doug has worked closely with oncologists and neurologists to remove the metastases around his brain and prevent the cancer from worsening.

Rising above

 

Today, Doug’s mind is clearer and more focused than before. He undergoes immunotherapy and receives infusions every three weeks, but he’s persevering and continuing to push back against his diagnosis. In fact, Doug will soon be graduating with his Master of Business Administration degree and riding in the weeklong Empire State Ride alongside fellow survivors and thrivers. 

“I feel good, and I’m grateful,” Doug says. “Now, my story is that I’m riding to help fund research to fight, have an impact and enable more people to be eligible for treatment across a range of cancers.”

Doug's 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge

In 2020, Doug completed the Empire State Ride 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge and raised approximately $10,000 in the fight to end cancer. He says that participating in events like Empire State Ride Long Island is a great way to raise funds to drive the research that helps people like him navigate their cancer diagnosis.

“I’m a direct result of research efforts,” Doug says, “My oncologist says that when she finished her oncology fellowship, the rubric showed three boxes for patients with lung cancer, meaning you had three choices [for treatment]. Now she says that it’s an entire spreadsheet of different combinations, drugs and therapies.”

Physically, Doug feels better than ever despite his condition. When the idea of cycling first came up in a conversation with a friend, Doug couldn’t imagine riding the distances he currently does. Now, he rides on the weekends with a group of cyclists and can easily cover 50 or more miles on his own. That all started from a simple desire to do something to further cancer research for future generations.

Whether you’re a novice rider or riding is part of your weekly routine, participating in the Empire State Ride Long Island is the perfect way to raise funds and work toward more clinical treatment options.

Don’t miss out — register today!

Proceeds directly benefit