Stories From The Ride: Pelotonia 16

Dr Michael Caligiuri and his daughter Cristina

Pelotonia is all about family.

And for the many members of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) who rode in Pelotonia on August 6 and 7, this includes their actual families, as well as their colleagues, their patients and the growing Pelotonia community of riders and volunteers they met along the way to Pickerington, New Albany and Gambier.

“Even complete strangers become your family because of this shared experience of riding in Pelotonia,” said Doreen Agnese, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery. “That’s how it is for me, with everyone I meet.”

Here are some of the memorable moments experienced by the OSUCCC – James riders who rode with Team Buckeye, Ohio State's super-peloton:

Ted Teknos and his patient Nancy Wasen

Ted Teknos, MD, Chairman, Department of Otolaryngology (Head and Neck Cancer)

Dr. Teknos has ridden the two-day, 180-mile route in every Pelotonia. Soon after he completed day one’s 100-mile route to Kenyon College, he spotted a familiar face. It was Nancy Wasen, a patient he first met in 2010, soon after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 head and neck cancer.

They hugged, chatted, and posed for a photo.

“I love Pelotonia, it’s a purely-good event that brings people together,” Dr. Teknos said. “And, together, we make a difference.”

“What a great day,” said Wasen, who is doing well and was a first-time Pelotonia volunteer. “I hope to volunteer two days next year and be at the finish line in New Albany (on Day Two).”

Dr Caligiuri Pelotonia 16

Michael Caligiuri, MD, Director of the OSUCCC and CEO of The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

Pelotonia has become a family reunion of sorts for the large Caligiuri family, a growing number of whom are becoming Pelotonia riders.

“It was a phenomenal weekend, and I got to ride with my sister, my brother, two nieces, my son and my daughter,” said Dr. Caligiuri, who is one of 10 siblings. “And another sister was here (to watch) Pelotonia for the first time. She was blown away by it and said it was the best-organized and most inspirational event she’s ever seen.”

Dr. Caligiuri spent a good part of day one of Pelotonia riding with his daughter, Cristina. “She flew in from New York for Pelotonia and we rode together for about 50 miles on Saturday,” he said. “We had such a great talk about life in a way that’s often hard to do. That’s one of the benefits of riding, you really get to spend time with someone.”

Doreen Agnese, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery

Dr. Agnese spends much of Pelotonia catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.

“During the opening ceremonies I went to get some water, asked one of the volunteers for a bottle, and it was one of my patients,” she said. 

Dr. Agnese rode with another of her patients, rode with co-worker Kate Shane-Carson, MS, LGC, and spent some time with the mother of a patient who lost her cancer battle. 

She also made a new friend, a well-dressed gentleman who rode the 25-mile route on a CoGo Bike Share bike. “He was wearing a Jeni’s (Splendid Ice Creams) bike jersey with a Navy blazer over it, salmon-colored pants and brown loafers … I really enjoyed talking with him.”

Karl Koon, Director of Rider Recruitment for Team Buckeye/Pelotonia

One memory “is seared into my head,” Koon said of a Team Buckeye member he met who traveled from San Francisco to ride for his grandmother. She is being treated for a brain tumor at the OSUCCC – James. 

“I can’t stop thinking about this image of him holding her hand and walking with her,” Koon said. “It was just so sweet and this woman was so appreciative and so excited to be part of his Pelotonia experience.”

Dr PG Porcu and son

Pierluigi Porcu, MD, Associate Professor

Dr. Porcu has ridden in every Pelotonia, the past seven with his son, Sebastiano. His extended Pelotonia family also includes the 90 members of Team Buckeye – Team CTCL/Cesidia Fund. About 20 members of the peloton are patients.

“It’s mind-blowing to see my patients riding,” Dr. Porcu said. “One of the things that is so important for our team and our approach to treating cancer is that the patients and their families are part of our team. It’s important for them to be engaged, and Pelotonia is a way for people to feel engaged.”

Christine Scarcello, MBA, Director of Research Administration

“This was my eighth ride and the most important thing to me was that my two daughters (Elizabeth and Regina) flew in and pulled their mother through to the finish,” Scarcello said.

Jeff Mason, Pelotonia Fellowship Administrator

“My favorite moment was riding through Granville,” Mason said. “The whole town came out and was cheering and yelling for us. It was amazing.”

Sameek Roychowdhury, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor

Dr. Roychowdhury’s many highlights included seeing “a yellow-freckled doe gleefully prancing in the grass around Mile 60” and sitting in the air-conditioned tent at the final rest stop on day one.

But number-one on his list was “meeting the mother of a child with leukemia who is in the middle of beating childhood leukemia,” he said. And, being a doctor, teacher and scientist, he spent some time riding with this woman, explaining the history of the care her child is receiving at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “This is the first cancer for which chemotherapy was invented, and first published in 1948.”

Dr. Roychowdhury also told this woman what so many of the OSUCCC – James riders told so many of the other riders they met during Pelotonia: “Thank you for riding.”