Mom comes through Piqua along bike tour for late daughter


PIQUA — A Colorado mother who is on a 32-day, 1,000 mile bike tour to memorialize her late daughter, made her way through Piqua on Tuesday, June 11, on day four of her tribute.

Gil Schaenzle, 67, is cycling on her Aventon bike for an estimated 1,000 miles through Ohio, Ontario, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, ending in Washington D.C., to honor her daughter and raise awareness for The Healing NET Foundation.

Of her trip so far after coming through Piqua, Schaenzle said, “The ride so far has surpassed my expectations. It is so verdant and bucolic! I’ve felt very peaceful traveling up Little Miami and down the Great Miami. I love tree tunnels and was hoping for just one. Instead, about 70% of the trails have been tree tunnels.”

In December 2016, the then 60-year-old, had an epiphany. That’s when she told her 20-year-old daughter Anna Rose — who was suffering from a rare cancer known as NETs (neuroendocrine tumors) — she wanted to run in 50 national parks. Gil asked her daughter to be her support vehicle driver once she’d recovered and felt up to it, but Anna Rose declined, saying she wanted to run with her mom instead, said a press release from Gil’s team.

Sadly, Anna Rose died just three months later, on March 26, 2017, following her 21st birthday. In November of that year, her mom began her nine-month tour as a tribute to Anna Rose. On Aug. 4, 2018, Gil crossed her personal finish line in Rocky Mountain National Park, having traveled 42,000 miles to walk, run and paddle 350 miles in 51 national parks, at 12 national monuments and two national preserves.

It had been a profound physical and spiritual journey, fueled by grief and love, with emotions as raw as the blisters on her feet, all while fending off bobcats, bears, alligators and freezing temperatures, said the release. Five years later, in fall 2023, Gil began mapping out a new adventure — cycling along historic canals in the eastern U.S., from Ohio to Washington, D.C.— again in Anna Rose’s memory but also to raise awareness of NET cancers and funds for the Nashville-based Healing NET Foundation and as encouragement to all NET patients courageously fighting such an insidious disease.

In early June, Gil and Fred (Gil’s husband and Anna Rose’s dad, who will be chief mechanic, van driver and his wife’s biggest supporter) Schaenzle will set out from their home in Evergreen, Colorado, on a 1,200-mile trip, bound for Cincinnati, and the start of an estimated 1,000-mile bike ride through Ohio, Ontario, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, ending in our nation’s capital.

For just over a month, the Schaenzles will be cooking, bathing and sleeping in their van, nicknamed “Hope.” Anna Rose’s beloved bear “Teddy” (that traveled to all the national parks during the first campaign) will be along for this ride, too, in a handlebar bag on Gil’s bike. Gil has also set up a mailbox that will be active until May 31 to receive photos of NET patients and loved ones who have passed away from NETs (Gil Schaenzle, 3719 Evergreen Parkway, Suite A, PMB 1015, Evergreen, CO 80439). She plans to carry these photos in pannier bags on her bike.

“I would love to take every NET patient and every person who has passed from NET cancer with me on every mile of the trail,” Gil says.

“The first campaign was spiritual … to honor Anna Rose and the trip we had planned, to share her cancer journey and encourage other NET patients and their families,” Gil adds. “This one also pays tribute to her—the courage she showed and the bravery of others like her—but crucially, we want to bring greater awareness to a cancer that is still misdiagnosed.”

Gil Schaenzle’s efforts are supported by The Healing NET Foundation, a national nonprofit whose mission is to optimize the care of those with neuroendocrine cancer through education and collaboration among physicians, health care providers, patients and caregivers.

“We need doctors to think NETs when patients present with symptoms that may initially seem to be caused by something else,” said Mia S. Tepper, MBA, executive director of The Healing NET Foundation, in the release. “The key to this disease is the right treatment by the right team at the right time.”

Because NET cancer is a rare disease, patients have a hard time finding doctors who are well versed in their diagnosis. The Healing NET Foundation, in collaboration with experts in the field, has identified a need to expand the number of physicians with knowledge of NET care, both to meet the demand of a growing patient population and to replace retiring doctors.

For more information or to make a donation to support NET cancer research and fellowships, visit The Healing NET Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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