“Smilow, cycling, this whole process is keeping me alive.”
With every push of the pedal, every bike ride, Lou Gaedt of Montville is doing his best to stay strong. He’s training for the Closer to Free Ride on September 11, while battling advanced prostate cancer.
He was first diagnosed in 2018, and the treatments reduce his muscle mass. Exercising helps him maintain strength, and that's one of the reasons he joined Closer to Free.
“One of the first things was ‘what can I do for both myself and to try to give back,’” Gaedt said.
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A year and a half after his diagnosis, he and good friend Todd Frechette started the team Southeastern Survivors. This year will be his third ride while undergoing treatment. He says he’s sending a message to his friends, supporters and cancer, showing that you can stay strong. And you can fight.
“Who knows how long I’ll be able to ride this,” Gaedt said. “This is my way of telling cancer ‘I’m going to give you a run for your money.’”
The Southeastern Survivors are raising the bar this year, going for 100 miles. The team of four has raised close to $7,500.
“So, I know personally what the generosity of others can do for your treatment. So that’s the goal. That is the main goal.”
If there’s one thing you learn about Lou, it’s dedication. All of this work training and fundraising for Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital is all happening while he’s undergoing cancer in New York at another hospital.
“I had established treatment with a team that I was confident in. And that’s what Smilow provides, confidence,” Gaedt said, adding research and support.
“And Smilow is so important to this area. It’s really home.”
Which is why he’s out there on ride day, for the people here in Connecticut.
“We now have a Closer to Free family. So, people start talking about it, donations start coming in, you hear the stories. (And people ask) ‘would you mind carrying a name?’”
He’s now up to 50 names of those impacted by cancer that will be with him on ride day. He’s joining in person this year.
“It’s always an emotional rollercoaster being a cancer patient,” Gaedt said.
NBC Connecticut met Gaedt in Old Saybrook at one of the most scenic parts of the 100-mile ride. He says his treatment, the ride, the friends he’s made, are all a part of his journey. And when asked what he’ll think about when crossing the Old Saybrook Causeway, he said he’s adding this interview to his story.
“I will be thinking of you, and patients and just the whole experience. But I will, oh yeah.”
NBC Connecticut is a proud partner of the Closer to Free ride.