Diagnosed with testicular cancer in his last year of graduate school for physical therapy, Scott Capozza is a 17-year survivor.
"It was complete blindside when that happened," Capozza said. "So, I used exercise to help me get through my treatments."
Capozza was already a runner. He added cycling to his exercise routine.
"So I really equate cycling as part of my comeback from cancer," he said.
Now, Capozza works as a physical therapist at the Yale Cancer Center’s Survivorship Clinic, one of a few in the nation offering a multi-disciplinary approach to rehabilitation.
"The needs of survivors is wide ranging," Capozza said.
At the clinic, doctors, dietitians, social workers and physical therapists empower patients to have healthy lives after cancer treatment.
"Without the (Closer To Free) ride it would be impossible to offer the Survivorship Clinic," said Dr. Tara Sanft, the clinic’s director.
Both Sanft and Capozza encourage survivors to sign up for Closer to Free.
"It's great to be able to actually be out there riding alongside some of the survivors who’ve come through our clinic," Capozza said. "Because it really has shown they are taking the next step."
This year Capozza will be wearing an orange jersey as a bike marshal during Closer to Free.
Bike marshals ride alongside the cyclists to help them with everything from changing a flat tire to stopping traffic.
Two years ago, Sanft recalls a former patient in her 30s riding the most challenging 100 mile distance.
"She wanted to finish so badly that two ride marshals helped push her," Sanft said. "Literally get her and her bike over the finish line so she could complete that day."
Her determination will inspire Sanft as she rides with hundreds of cyclists striving to make our world closer to cancer free.
"She recently passed away from her cancer," Dr. Sanft said. "This year is going to be particularly emotional for me as her doctor."
This year there is a new 10 mile route in addition to the 25, 62.5 and 100 mile rides. Organizers are hoping this shorter distance appeals to families with children and encourages recent cancer survivors to ride.
NBC Connecticut is a proud sponsor of Closer to Free on Saturday September 10.