A cancer survivor from Cromwell is getting ready to ride for the third time in Closer to Free on her team, The Mermaid’s Arrow.
“Three years ago I couldn’t have pictured myself here right now,” Jackie DePierro told NBC Connecticut. “I didn’t know, the unknown is scary, like you don’t know where your journey is going to take you.”
DePierro’s journey to riding in Closer to Free began on a date back in the Fall of 2015.
“And I had my hair pulled back and he noticed that I had a beauty mark, (and said) ‘oh you should get that checked out by a dermatologist,” she recalled.
She listened and went to a skin doctor.
“He started feeling my neck, and I was like, “what are you doing,” she said, “he’s like I like to give my patients neck checks because I had thyroid cancer so it’s just preventative.”
DePierro said she visited additional doctors and had ultrasounds.
“Tomorrow is actually the third anniversary of me finding out that I had cancer, thyroid cancer,” she said.
In August 2016, DePierro went in for surgery at the Smilow Cancer Hospital to have her thyroid removed.
“It had spread,” she said, “so it was supposed to be a two hour surgery and it ended up being six hours, had spread to my lymph nodes, to my chest,” DePierro said.
Further treatment required she takes pills full of radioactive iodine and there were other adjustments after the surgery.
“With not having a thyroid, I was having a lot of weight issues and just being tired and lethargic a lot and I finally got through all those weight issues,” she said.
Now, DePierro is preparing to put on a survivor jersey for her third Closer to Free bike ride in support of research and patient care at the Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven. Since 2011, the ride has raised more than $15 million.
“There’s no way I can say thank you to this place, what they did for me and for my family you can’t thank them enough,” she said. “I saw a lot of things, a lot of patients that I knew didn’t have probably the prognosis that I did and those people are forever in my mind, thinking of them and I do it for them, too.”
She named her team The Mermaid’s Arrow, because “mermaids are a sign of being strong and feminine and I’ve always loved mermaids.”
“The arrow comes from in order to go forward in life, sometimes you have to go backwards and that’s what an arrow does and that’s kind of how my journey felt like to me,” DePierro explained.
In September, she’ll pedal forward for 25 miles to help make the world closer to cancer free.