'Riding for People to Know They're Not Alone'

Pictured: Mariana Militello (center) with her parents, Susan and Edward Militello.

Three years after a cancer diagnosis, Mariana Militello prepares for her third Ride for Roswell

Mariana Militello's life turned upside down in the summer of 2016 when she learned that she was one in a million. A biopsy revealed that she had a massive tumor in the hypothalamus region of her brain — an extremely rare cancer called Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), which occurs in only one out of every one million adults.

"No one can prepare you for the heartache and suffering you will endure while battling cancer," Mariana says. As a 21-year-old, she watched her friends live their lives and even graduate from college while she "sat on a couch for 11 months not being able to do things I used to do. There was a point where I couldn't even walk up the stairs, and to go from someone who ran seven miles a day to someone who couldn't even walk up the stairs was pretty demoralizing."

She spent all of 2017 going through chemotherapy and recovering, slowly regaining her physical strength. Now in remission, she's able once again to walk, drive, and even ride her bike 20 or 40 miles.

She's grateful to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center for the care she received, and that's why she'll take part in The Ride for Roswell on June 22. It won't be the first time: Two years before her diagnosis, she rode in honor of her grandfather, Edward Militello, who had been fighting esophageal cancer for four years. "When you ride for someone, it's showing that you support them, that you care for someone, and you care to cure cancer," Mariana explains.

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'The Treatment I Needed in the City I Call My Home'

Now the event is even more personal. "The sense of community and compassion that Roswell Park provided me during these unforeseen hardships is why I ride," she says. "Because of Roswell Park's amazing facility and brilliant doctors, I was able to get the treatment I needed in the city I call my home."

In 2018 Mariana raised more than $11,700 and was the top "go-getter" for several weeks in a row, lining up the most donors in specific weeks. She credits her fundraising to the power of social media, including her connections on Facebook.

In February of this year, Mariana announced her plans to ride again, encouraging her followers and friends to ride with her to raise money for cancer research and patient-care programs.

She thinks back to the days when she was still receiving chemotherapy. "I think my friends have been the most supportive, loving friends I could have asked for. I was lucky enough to get my treatments here at Roswell, and they would come up and we'd sit there, we'd laugh, we'd talk, and that was part of the support I received.

"People don't realize when we all join together and ride for cancer patients, cancer survivors, people who lost their battle to cancer, what it truly means to them and how important it is to show that love and respect. Even if you don't know anybody who has cancer, you're still riding for a cure, riding for people to know they're not alone."

Register now for The Ride for Roswell, or donate to a rider of your choice.

Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.