BY BILL PHILLIPS
When Domenico Rositano joined the Wheelin’ Warrirors of the North and signed up for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, he had several people in mind who wanted to ride for. Turns out he’s riding for himself too.
A week after he signed up for Wheelin’ Warriors of the North in Februrary, Rositano was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Rositano played football in Prince George in high school and has coached football in the city for about 29 years, which took a physical toll. Hit with osteoarthritis in both knees, just standing on the sidelines for a game was enough to lay him up for a while so he needed to step back from football and coaching.
“I took a year off to get healthy and I kept seeing Wheelin’ Warriors out there so I thought it might be a different challenge for me to try,” he said.
Cycling helped with weight loss, which also helped his knees.
Plus, he had some personal motivation to get involved with the Wheelin’ Warriors team which has just passed $800,000 in funds raised for the BC Cancer Foundation.
“My mom is a breast cancer survivor and grandfather had lung cancer, he was a survivor too,” said Rositano. “My uncle passed away from cancer, so I wanted to ride for them.”
However, the reason to ride became even more personal with his own diagnosis.
He had his first surgery February 25, which confirmed he had cancer … a golfball-sized tumour on one side of his thyroid … and on March 21 he had his second surgery to get rid of his other thyroid, which turned out to be cancerous as well.
“I didn’t think I’d be going through it,” he said. “It kind of hit me a little bit.”
However, it’s not going to stop him from riding.
Just two weeks after his second surgery and he’s already been out on his bike … not for long rides, but rides nonetheless.
“I don’t sit around,” he said. “I’m not going to let this thing beat me down. It’s not a terminal cancer, but it’s still cancer. I’m not going to sit around and do nothing. I’ll do what I can, get out and exercise as much as I can and stay active.”
While his surgeries are over, Rositano will find out later this month whether he also needs radiation therapy to deal with his cancer. Even if he does, he’s still committed to riding this August.
“I’ll be done my treatment by July and then I’ll have three weeks of training before the ride,” he said.
Rositano has set a fundraising goal of $3,000, but it’s been tough slog given that he’s been focusing on his treatment. He has a gift card raffle coming up where he’ll be giving away about $850 in gift cards for a $20 donation to his Wheelin’ Warriors total. There are couple of businesses who are interested in sponsoring him and he will be volunteering at the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North Free Wheelin’ Gala April 27 at the Hart Community Centre. He also purchased a bike at the Player’s Bench and an anonymous donor helped out with a $1,000 donation towards the cost of the bike.
“The community support has been great,” he said.
Rositano did a little bit of road-biking before signing up for the Wheelin’ Warriors, but was more focused more on mountain-biking and hiking so he’s looking forward to the new challenge. However, most of his free time was taken up coaching football, working with Football Canada, Football BC, and community and high school football.
In fact, he was on the field for the first ever game at Masich Place Stadium when it opened in the 1990.
“That’s a great facility for everybody in the North,” he said of the recently refurbished stadium. “It will open so many doors for sports in the North.”
He went into coaching and coached at Duchess Park from 2009-15 and he also started the football program at DP Todd. He’s on the board of Game Ready Elite, which is a team designed to create opportunity and maximize exposure for athletes while eliminating the financial barriers.
He has also been a competitive bodybuilder.
Rositano exemplifies ‘pushing through adversity’ and come August, he is committed to participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in August.
“I don’t care if I have radiation treatment the week before, I’ll be going to the ride,” he said. “Your body can do more than you think if you just put your mind to it. I’m not over-exerting myself, but I find I can ride my bike and lift weights. At lot of it is mental. If you’re going to let it beat you, it’ll beat you … If you can stay positive through it, that’s what’s going to get you through … It’s a very personal level for me now, more that it was.”