“What I wanted to do, I wanted to ride with the group the first time,” said Frank Soltesz. “Just to be part of it all, just to see what it’s like.”
He was ready to ride in Closer to Free in 2020, but then the pandemic hit. He decided to hold off until the ride was back in person. While he waited, his own prostate cancer diagnosis came that year.
He monitored it with doctors for a year. When the cancer began to grow, he made a decision before it spread.
“I had to have it removed so I had that done in January, which really made it personal for me,” he said.
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He’s cancer free and ready for his first Closer to Free ride on Sept. 10, in support of Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital.
“I saw how my sister-in-law was treated here, and she had brain cancer. They were phenomenal,” he said. “They were with her all the time. My brother-in-law was able to stay with her and give her the emotional support she needed, too. Anything she needed they were right there to make sure she was comfortable, and she got the top-notch care.”
She’s also cancer free. Soltesz said he’ll be thinking about all of the patients and staff at Smilow on his 65-mile ride when the journey may get a little tough.
“There’s people here at Smilow who go through a lot more than what I’ll be worrying about getting at forty or fifty miles and getting tired. That’s nothing compared to what they go through here,” he said. “That’s all I have to think about. That’s enough for me to give me the boost of energy to make sure I complete that 65 miles.”
He’s training with friends and on his own. He said he rides everyday and puts in about 120 miles a week.
“We’ll start in Bristol, ride down to Southington, loop through Meriden and come back again, so it’s pretty much in the general area.”
On ride day, he’s going it alone, although he doesn’t expect it to end that way.
“I’m going to start out alone, but I’m sure I’m goanna meet a lot of people and based on how we all ride, I’m sure we’re all going to group up and then ride whatever milage we’re going to do that day,” Soltesz said.
The first-time rider is full of positive messages. For those thinking of joining the Closer to Free Ride without a team, he says go for it.
“Oh, just go do it. If you’re into biking, and you want to support it, just go do it. You’ll have a blast," Soltesz said.
He said he can’t wait to ride for cancer research and care, saying he knows from first-hand experience that a big part of the fight against cancer is paying attention to your body.
“So that’s why when I talk to people, you know, when we talk about this, I say go get it checked. I say if you have any questions at all, go see your doctor. Going through a biopsy is nothing. If they can detect it at that point, it’s treatable, it’s going to change your life," he said.
He’ll keep that message with him on ride day as he says he’s still trying to process the fact that he’s a cancer survivor.
“Having cancer, and the physical portion of it is one thing, but there’s still the emotional side of it. That takes a lot longer to get through,” Soltesz said. “I’m cancer free now and we’re monitoring it and it’s good. But the emotional side of it hasn’t caught up yet.”
“So, I know when I’m out there, I feel great. I feel great. I know when I do cross that line, it’s going to be emotional for me that day," he continued.