Noemi Kearns is a mother, business owner and cancer survivor.
“I know that I’m sitting here today talking to you 100 percent due to the care that I had at Smilow,” Kearns told NBC Connecticut. “Not only the aggressive course of action, but truly the care after my surgeries.”
This Saturday she is riding in Closer to Free with her youngest daughter to give back to the hospital that saved her life.
“While we’re incredibly fortunate to be able to get the world’s greatest care for cancer and this horrible disease, the reality is the need just keeps growing,” said Kearns, speaking publicly for the first time about her battle with cancer.
In September 2013, Kearns rode in Closer to Free for the first time with Carl’s Crusader’s after designing the team’s t-shirts and logo. She is the owner of Ink & Pixel Agency in Guilford and one of her children’s former teachers, Stacey Hubbard, started the team in memory of her husband who died from cancer.
“I felt that I’m strong, I’m healthy,” she said. “These are people that are battling cancer that have the capacity to step up and ride, I can do the same.”
A few months later, during her annual exam there was an unexpected “red flag,” Kearns said. The diagnosis from doctors was a rare form of cancer.
“I had the less than 10 percent of cervical cancers, the ones are harder to detect, a needle in a haystack,” she said. “I had no medical history, I had no symptoms at all, I didn’t know I was looking for it and they found it.”
Kearns said she needed several surgeries at the Smilow Cancer Hospital.
“The course of action was swift and immediate,” she added.
Kearns had her uterus removed during the final operation in June 2014.
“The choice to, as the doctors put it, to slam the bus into a brick wall with menopause was something I was willing to do to not risk having my cancer come back,” Kearns said.
A year after the surgery that saved her life, Kearns lost her father following his own brave fight with cancer.
“So my dad and I were actually battling cancer at the same time,” she said, “tragically he passed in July of 2015.”
Kearns took two years off, before getting back on a bike for the 2016 Closer to Free.
“The feeling of pride that I have putting on my survivor jersey is indescribable,” she said.
Thankful for the care she received at Smilow and feeling fortunate to share her story, Kearns now rides every year with her youngest child, 10-year-old Sadie Bea.
“I’m going to be riding on Saturday for my father Paul Zelanski who was an amazing man and for my children because I truly believe that we have the capacity to be closer to free,” Kearns said.
NBC Connecticut is a proud media sponsor of the ride in its eighth year that raises millions of dollars for patient care and research at the Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven.