Two weeks after the birth of her fifth grandchild, June Rice told her daughter Kim Crowley she wasn’t feeling quite right.
“In true mom fashion,” Crowley recalled, “she kind of brushed it off and said I’m probably fatigued so I called one of my best friends who’s a neurologist at Yale.”
An MRI at the Smilow Cancer Hospital last July confirmed that Crowley and Melissa Shepler’s mom had brain cancer.
“Two days later she had a brain surgery to do a biopsy and that’s when it was confirmed she had grade four glioblastoma,” Crowley said.
“Unfortunately, with the hard situation that we were going through I have to say that the care and support that we were given by those who work for Smilow was top notch,” Shepler said.
Surrounded by family, 63-year-old June Rice passed away in December.
“She loved like no other and she loved hard whether you were family or friends you knew it and you felt it,” Shepler said, “and every single day I just hope to carry that through with how I am with my family and just remember I want to love like she did.”
Near the end, Rice got to meet members of the NBC Connecticut family. She visited the studio to watch her favorite anchor team, Kevin Nathan and Kerri-Lee Mayland.
“And Kerri-Lee came to visit my mom in the hospital the last few days she was with us and came to the services and we feel a real special bond with them,” Crowley said.
Crowley’s husband is an owner of Stony Creek Brewery, which hosts registration and post ride parties for Closer to Free.
Nearly $15 million has been raised since 2011 from the bike ride in support of research and patient care at the Smilow Cancer Hospital.
"We decided to do the ride because obviously it’s important to the brewery here,” Shepler said, “but most importantly we want to honor my mom."
Rice’s daughters said they cherish their mother’s love for flowers.
“My mom just planted hydrangeas everywhere, hydrangeas made her so happy it was just her signature flower,” Crowley said.
That’s why they have named their team for the Closer to Free Ride “Petals for June.”
“A lot of what we learned is to go big, to try new things, to challenge ourselves and this is a new challenge for us,” Shepler said.
On September 7 and in years to come, they will be riding with family and friends in honor of their mom to make the world closer to cancer free.
“We owe it to her to help get one step closer to a cure for cancer,” Crowley said.
NBC Connecticut is proud to once again be a media sponsor for the Closer to Free Ride.