When Darci Figlia started pedaling her bicycle in the first annual Closer to Free Ride to benefit Smilow Cancer Hospital in September 2011, she had a powerful incentive to meet her 25-mile goal.
A little more than two years earlier, she had been diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma. As Darci steered her bike alongside several hundred other riders, however, she maintained strength in knowing she was cancer-free.
Darci, who lives in Oakville, CT, had not been too alarmed at first when her husband Paul pointed out a suspicious-looking mole on her back. After her dermatologist examined it, though, he ordered a biopsy.
“About a week later, I was at Yale-New Haven Hospital meeting with a surgeon, Dr. Stephan Ariyan," she recalled. Under the supervision of Dr. Ariyan and an oncologist at Smilow, Harriet M. Kluger, MD, Figlia underwent two surgeries – one to remove the malignant mole, a second to excise lymph nodes to which the cancer had spread.
Her doctors also recommended chemotherapy treatment using what was then an experimental (and now FDA-approved) drug called ipilimumab. Determined yet realistic about beating her cancer, Darci agreed, telling Dr. Kluger, “If I’m not going to make it, I might as well help somebody else out in the future.”
Along with the support of her family – including two beloved rescue dogs, Tara and Bo – and her chemo nurse, Jan Shanley, RN, Figlia battled through months of chemo and CT scans, until Dr. Kluger finally said her treatment was complete.
Darci’s reaction? “I’m free!”
Remaining healthy and thankful to YNHH, Darci will be present at this year’s Closer to Free Ride. “My attitude is that we only have a short life to live, and I’m going to make the best of it.” Ride on!