In 2014, Mariana Militello participated for the first time in The Ride For Roswell. She rode in honor of her grandfather, who passed from esophageal cancer. This year, she’s riding as a 22-year-old cancer survivor.
In Fall 2016, she came to the horrifying discovery that she had a massive brain tumor located in her hypothalamus. After receiving a biopsy, Mariana was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), a rare cancer that occurs in only 1 of every 1 million adults.
The journey was far from easy, she said.
“No one can prepare you for the heartache and suffering you will endure while battling cancer.”
However, as far as brain cancers go, Mariana said she basically won the lottery. After a year of chemotherapy, she is in complete remission and learning how to acclimate back to her life. She thanks Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center for saving her life.
“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,” she said. “In fact, I was lucky enough that Dr. Higman, the head of pediatric oncology, actually specializes in LCH and was kind enough to reach out to my family and inform us that she would love to treat me here at Roswell Park.
“This sense of community and compassion that Roswell Park provided me during these unforeseen hardships is why I ride.”
Why She Rides
For The Ride For Roswell 2018, Mariana is really making her mark. She’s fundraised more than $11,700 and was featured as a top go-getter for several weeks in a row. A Ride go-getter is someone who has secured the greatest number of donors for a specific week. She credits her fundraising success to the power of social media and the new Facebook integration.
Because of the amount of followers she has on Instagram and friends she has on Facebook, Mariana knew it was the best channel to reach the most number of people. So, she opened up her heart, shared her story and kept posting her fundraiser to remind people of her efforts. And it worked.
“It was incredibly heartwarming and exhilarating to see the immense amount of support I received,” she said.
All the support she’s received from friends, family and Roswell Park is why she wants to give back any way that she can, whether it’s volunteering, fundraising or simply sharing her story to people going through similar hardships.
“It’s definitely crazy how drastically your life can change over the course of a few years, but here I am,” Mariana said. “That unexpected passage forever changed my life. More specifically, it made me realize the active role I wish to have in giving back to my community, and helping others get through their cancer battles.”