Smilow Cancer Hospital

Rider Pushes Through Cancer Treatment for Closer to Free

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In February 2019, Jenna Kearny had a toddler, a 6-month old, and a new cancer diagnosis.

“So, because of that I had to go through chemo and radiation,” said Kearney.  

Friends told her about the Closer to Free Ride and Team Craft Beer. Not long after, with her husband’s support she joined her friends for the 65-mile ride.  

“Come July I was still doing treatment, I was starting to feel better, I was like, you know what? I’m in. I’m going to do this with you guys.”  

She says the training helped take her mind off the weekly radiation, and helped her body feel healthier.  

“I feel good. I honestly wish I started before that because I think with some of the earlier treatments of the chemo it probably would have helped me a little bit better,” said Kearny.

Training and finishing the ride alone would be hard. But, talking to her young children about cancer? That was tough.

“I think that was my biggest challenge, because they’re not going to understand,” she said, choking back tears. “Like… ‘where’s mommy’s hair?’ When it went.”

They talked about her wigs and how pretty her “new hair” was. And now that her hair’s grown back and her scans are clean, they’re having different conversations.

“’Where’s your other hair?’ Well mommy doesn’t need to wear that anymore.”

Team Craft Beer Founder Marty Juliano says people like Jenna are an inspiration.

“Riding in the middle of treatment, I think her final treatment was the Monday after the ride,” said Juliano. “To see people’s fortitude to do that is amazing.”

He founded Team Craft Beer in 2014, and it’s the largest Closer to Free team at more than 160 members. Through his work at New England Brewing Company, they’re also the largest fundraisers, bringing in $252,000 last year.

“I didn’t set that as a goal but each time we kept surpassing the goal I just kept raising it to the team ,” he said.

He made the push because he says cancer research and patient care needs funding, and through Closer to Free, 100 percent of funds goes right back to Smilow Cancer Hospital.

He doesn’t have to look far for people impacted by the cause they’re supporting. His mother, relatives and friends all had cancer.  

“If there’s not money being pumped into the system to fund the research and help with patient care, we’ll never get to a point where we can find a cure.”

Jenna says the staff at Smilow Cancer Hospital helped her and comforted her through treatment.

“The nurses, everybody, my doctors, everybody has been incredible,” said Kearny. “We cried, we laughed, so it was just a good, comfortable feeling.”

While she was there, she joined some of the research that’s funded in part by the Closer to Free Ride, bringing her journey full circle.

“Me being able to partake in some of those to make a difference is really great and I feel great that can do that.”

With several survivors on Team Craft Beer, Kearny says it is good to gain different perspectives and support. And while she’s riding September 12 as a second-year survivor, she’s keeping two little inspirations in mind.

“For me it’s just I did it and I’m gonna push through and I have my family that I need to do this for,” she said.

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