Featured Rider: Barbara Gilmartin-Przybyla

Why do you participate in the Ride for Roswell?

To help raise funds to fight this terrible disease which has taken far too many lives including my Dad, family members and many friends. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in March 2021 as well as suffered a stroke four months later. I previously had Malignant Melanoma over 30 years ago, thankfully diagnosed very early.

My boyfriend Jim worked with me to get back in the saddle as I was determined to ride in 2021, roughly a month after the stroke. We both reached the Extra Mile level in 2021 and are shooting for the Peloton in 2022! I never imagined Cancer would happen to me. I am very active, eat well and was into the first year of my retirement when I went for my yearly Mammogram. I am so very thankful to my Doctors and the Staff at Roswell … I am here today, recently celebrating another birthday and prepping for the 2022 Ride For Roswell. I will also continue share my journey with friends and family … about 20 friends scheduled their Mammograms with good results!! Jim and my daughters Kristin and Kathryn have been my rocks during this journey. I hope to be there for anyone who needs support or just a friend!

Barbara with partner
Barbara with partner

What is your favorite part about Ride weekend?

For several years I volunteered on race day at the start gate or rode. Always exciting to cheer on the participants! The opening ceremonies including watching the Peloton riders arrive at UB was very emotional for me in 2021, just months after going through a whirlwind of being diagnosed, surgery, treatments and subsequent stroke. The feel of “community” was so prevalent!

What have you been doing to raise funds for the Ride?

I started fundraising on my birthday in January via Facebook and Instagram. I will continue to update on social media and will plan a fundraising event.

Getting more time, thanks to cutting-edge treatments at Roswell Park

James Ace and his wife, Carol, own a restaurant in Belfast, New York, where they’ve been serving their neighbors for the last 40+ years. The past 10 years of James’ life have been blessed with grandchildren and great grandchildren whom he has been so delighted to get to know.

If it hadn’t been for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, he believes he would have missed out on getting to know them. Without donor support, patients like James would have far less access to lifesaving advancements like the one that saved James’ life.

Cancer entered James’ life 10 years ago, bringing him to Roswell Park. Clinicians found “horribly aggressive cancer in his right kidney,” with very limited treatment options, according to James’ longtime doctor Thomas Schwaab, MD, PhD, and The William and Nancy Gacioch Family Endowed Chair in Translational Research.

“This man had no other chance but trying something cutting-edge, something completely new, something completely out of the box. Something you really can’t get anywhere else but a place like Roswell Park,” Dr. Schwaab said.

Breakthroughs in research and advances in treatment at Roswell Park gave James hope. Dr. Schwaab collaborated with Anurag Singh, MD, Director of Radiation Research to give James his best chance. Dr. Singh was studying a novel approach to radiation at the time called stereotactic body radiation therapy which concentrates on the center of the tumor instead of a larger area, which was more typical at the time and still is in many cases. This was a research project that was funded thanks to donations to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.

James and Carol were all in. “What other choice did we have at the time?” Carol asked. “It was that or just go home and die, and I think that was just an opportunity that was presented to us that we had to take.”

Four weeks after radiation, Dr. Singh’s innovative approach allowed Dr. Schwaab to completely remove the cancer from James’ kidney. He still followed through with chemotherapy and new immunotherapy options, but James’ once daunting diagnosis was behind him. To this day, James’ kidneys are “still looking good,” Dr. Schwaab confirmed.

“It just makes you feel like it was worth it to keep going,” James remembered. “I don’t know how many times I wanted to give up if it weren’t for [my Roswell Park doctors] who kept me going.”

Breakthroughs, like Dr. Singh’s innovative discovery, in cancer research and treatment are made possible by donors.

“He was one of the first people that we treated like this,” said Dr. Singh. “James Ace participating in this study has had an impact on kidney cancer patients throughout the world … He had the confidence that we could do what we were saying and that actually gave us confidence, as well.” What was once a bold step forward, funded through passionate philanthropy, is now saving lives on a regular basis.

That is the power of making a gift to Roswell Park.