Paul and Liz Egan are an adorable couple from Clinton who share laughs and the end of each other’s sentences.
The loving pair has been through some tough times in the last year that would challenge even their rose-colored view of the world: one year ago this month, Paul was diagnosed with cancer.
“June was when I was diagnosed,” Paul said. “So, I went through all summer receiving chemo and actually rode in the Closer to Free Ride last year while I was receiving treatment.”
He received a bone marrow transplant in January. It was a process that involved a four-month stay at Smilow Cancer Hospital in quarantine to keep his immune system healthy. And it worked.
“I am doing really well. I have a brand-new immune system,” Paul said.
This year will be their first in-person ride when Closer to Free returns to the Yale Bowl on Sept. 10.
“Well, first when Paul was diagnosed last year, it was that feeling of being totally helpless, like what do I do now?” Liz said. “And one of the things that the Closer to Free Ride provided was this feeling of being empowered like I could do something.”
Paul is known as “The Bike Guy,” fixing hundreds of bikes each year and giving them away in Clinton. So, when word of his diagnosis came out, so did the community support.
Twenty people joined Team Bike Guy Boosters in the first year. This year, they’re expecting more.
“So, we were training now for 40 miles, where our team is probably going to be about 30 members this year. So, we're all excited to be in person,” Liz said.
They’ve set a $50,000 goal and they are happy to see that all of the money raised will go back to Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, which was once Paul’s home for four months.
“That makes me very happy because I was in a clinical trial. And while I was receiving my treatment, I was witness to some things about the care that just amazed me.”
During treatment, he said, he saw staff care for patients with compassion and respect. One recently lost her home and was living with her husband in their car. Another was in handcuffs. Cancer doesn’t discriminate and neither did the Smilow staff.
“And I saw the care, and how it was given by these amazing nurses. And it touched my heart,” Paul said. “It just touched my heart. So, the fact that all the money goes to people like that, you know, it makes me feel really good.”
Another warm-hearted moment he’s looking forward to is seeing the Smilow Salute and waving to patients from the outside of the hospital. A friend has already prepared him for what that part of the ride is like.
“There was nothing like driving down and seeing all the kids, you know, in the tunnels and anybody who could be outside wave on the riders. And he said it really moved him. And I cannot wait to experience that firsthand.”
About the 2022 Closer to Free Ride
- The Closer to Free Ride is on Sept. 10.
- You can ride or volunteer in person or join remotely.
- Funds raised go toward research and care at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center.