SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (May 9, 2011) – South Lake Tahoe resident and cancer survivor Valerie Smith will participate in the official activities at the Stage 1 start of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California and experience the race in a way that very few ever will. On Sunday, May 15, Valerie will fire the gun to start the largest cycling event in America, which will travel nearly 800 miles throughout California from May 15 -22, 2011.
Valerie was selected to start the race by Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer®, a national initiative to increase awareness of the important resources available to people affected by cancer – from prevention through survivorship.
Valerie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two weeks after her 34th birthday in December 1999. Doctors found three tumors and the cancer had metastasized throughout her abdomen. During her first surgery, doctors were able to remove most of the cancer, and she was told that chemotherapy was her only shot at living longer than 6 – 12 months. From January to June 2000, Val underwent chemo, was in and out of the hospital, and had two more surgeries. During this time, Val decided that she was going to fight back harder and take control over what she could to conquer the disease. She sought out every book she could find written by people who had beaten cancer, and she found great inspiration from Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About the Bike.” Val was motivated to get out on the trails and exercise, no matter how sick she was; she believed it was her way of being tougher than the disease. If cancer was going to kill her, it was going to have to keep up with her! Val built up strength and even challenged herself by running in a 5K race in which she placed third (even while undergoing chemo!). Val’s cancer did return in the fall of 2002. She had two more surgeries and six weeks of radiation therapy. Today, she has no evidence of the disease and she continues to run not only because she loves it, but also because she feels it keeps the cancer at bay.
Valerie will also meet prior recipients of Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider jersey. The jersey is awarded to the cyclist who best exemplifies the character of those engaged in the fight against cancer – courage, sacrifice, inspiration, determination, and perseverance. Recipients of the jersey during the 2010 Amgen Tour of California include Maarten Tjallingi (NED), Rabobank; Thomas Rabou (NED), Team Type 1; Will Routley (USA), Team Jelly Belly; Lars Bloom (NED), Rabobank; Ben Day (AUS), Fly V Australia; George Hincapie (USA), BMC Cycling; Tony Martin (GBR), HTC-Columbia; Yaroslav Popovych (UKR), Team RadioShack.
“Amgen is proud to be part of the Amgen Tour of California, which is helping advance the popularity of cycling in America while also helping increase awareness of the resources that are available to those affected by cancer,” said Stuart Arbuckle, vice president and general manager, Amgen Oncology. “The Breakaway from Cancer initiative provides a platform and access to our nonprofit partners who are a team of problem solvers to help you fight cancer, whether you’re interested in prevention, facing a new diagnosis, caring for a loved one or struggling with financial issues.”
As part of the Breakaway from Cancer Amgen Tour of California activities, cancer survivors will not only participate in each of the race starts, but also jersey presentations at each finish and other activities throughout the eight day event.
About Breakaway from Cancer®
Founded in 2005 by Amgen, Breakaway from Cancer® is a national initiative to increase awareness of important resources available to people affected by cancer – from prevention through survivorship. Breakaway from Cancer is a collaboration between Amgen and four nonprofit organizations: Prevent Cancer Foundation, Cancer Support Community (formerly known as The Wellness Community), Patient Advocate Foundation, and National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. These organizations offer a broad range of support services complementing those provided by a patient’s team of healthcare professionals. For more information, please visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com.
Amgen discovers, develops, manufactures, and delivers innovative human therapeutics. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen was one of the first companies to realize the new science’s promise by bringing safe, effective medicines from lab to manufacturing plant to patient. Amgen therapeutics have changed the practice of medicine, helping millions of people around the world in the fight against cancer, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, bone disease, and other serious illnesses. With a deep and broad pipeline of potential new medicines, Amgen remains committed to advancing science to dramatically improve people’s lives. To learn more about our pioneering science and vital medicines, visit www.amgen.com.