Here's what happened last year: In May 2019, healthy and fit (as I have been for 53 years) and returning from a vacation, I though I maybe caught a cold on the plane back to the U.S. Less than a week later, I was diagnosed with Leukemia (ALL) and immediately admitted to the RI Cancer Center. I underwent chemo in preparation for a Bone Marrow Transplant at Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). The odds weren't great. There was no guarantee I'd find a donor in time...or ever...and 65% of people my age with ALL don't make it.
When worlds collide: My childhood friend (who's daughter survived cancer when she was 4 years old) has been tirelessly running a fundraiser for Cancer Care in Northwest CT (where I grew up). It's a bike and walk fundraiser and its called the Tour of Litchfield Hills. It's a pretty big deal. In the 18-year history of the event, the participants have raised over $1.2 million to help provide cancer care to people in need in northwest Connecticut. The event is held the first Sunday in August. Knowing this, my sister (Betsy Cracco) formed a team (aptly named, "Team Joe"), to ride in my honor as I was undergoing treatment for cancer.
What happened after that: My sister and a few others took tests to see if they could be a donor match for me, but no one was. Then I got lucky. Dana Farber, through the International Donor Program, found a good match and my bone marrow transplant was scheduled for Septemer 12th. DFCI admitted me, stuck tubes in my chest, chemo'd me up, sent me for 3 days of total body radiation and then did the bone marrow transplant. I remained in Dana Farber recovering and being monitored for a month. It was the most difficult month of my life. When I was discharged, I was a shell of my former self.
The recent past: As the saying goes, "Don't count your chickens before they've hatched" (so I won't) but since that time, I've taken dozens of pills every day including daily chemo, had more blood tests and infusions than you can count, seen my doctors weekly....and have worked very hard at recovering. Part of that recovery process has had me on a bike trainer to rebuild my strength and and stamina. And that brings me back to the Tour of Litchfield Hills. This year, instead of just being on the sidelines while "Team Joe" rides in my honor, I'm going to ride IN the Tour of Litchfield Hills along WITH Team Joe and the other fundraisers . I've set a goal of completing the 55-mile ride.
My ask: Frankly, I'm lucky to be alive. I've thus far survived cancer becuase other people before me have selflessly donated to fund cancer care and cancer research. I hope that you'll help me support cancer care in NW CT by sponsoring me this year as I ride in the Tour of Litchfield Hills with my sister and the rest of Team Joe.
Tour of the Litchfield Hills 2020
The Tour is a non-competitive 12, 30, 50, 75 and 100 mile bike ride through the scenic Litchfield Hills for riders of all ability levels. For walkers and runners, the Tour also offers 2, 4 and 6 mile routes through downtown Torrington. This year's Tour will be held on Sunday, August 2nd.
The Tour's mission is to bring together community resources with the common goal of raising funds to support the care, treatment, education and prevention of cancer for residents living, working, or receiving treatment for cancer in Northwest Connecticut. By donating funds to The Cancer Care Fund of the Litchfield Hills, Inc., we will have a positive effect locally, in the Northwest corner, as our friends and families battle the disease.
For information on the routes, elevations, lodging, and photos, please visit www.tourofthelitchfieldhills.com
The 17th annual Tour of the Litchfield Hills will be held on Sunday, August 2nd. The Tour benefits The Cancer Care Fund of the Litchfield Hills, Inc. There are rides of 12 miles, 30 miles, 55 miles, 75 miles and 100 miles. All of the rides are on the scenic, though hilly, roads of Litchfield County. There are also walking and running routes of 1.2 miles, 4 miles and 8 miles. All routes start and end at Coe Park, Rt. 202, Torrington, Ct.
Numerous rest stops provide water and fruit. Sag wagons patrol all the routes. The registration fee is $45 if you register before July 15th; $50 if you register on or after July 16th. The registration fee includes a t-shirt and a free picnic at the end. All participants are urged to raise funds to benefits The Cancer Care Fund of the Litchfield Hills Inc.