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After Facing Stage 4 Cancer Diagnosis, It’s More Rides for This Avid Bicyclist

November 12, 2018

At 77, Dr. Ralph Giarnella is an avid bicyclist. He’s traveled just about every back road in Hartford County. He recently finished a fundraising event that required him to ride his bike 100 miles.

“For me, riding on the bike is sort of like free time, liberation,” said Dr. Giarnella. “Sometimes I feel guilty because I feel so good.”

But last year, life for this busy primary care physician took an unexpected turn: cancer.

“I had lost probably two-thirds of all my blood,” he recalled.

Severely anemic, doctors needed to figure out why, and fast. A CT scan of his abdomen revealed a grim diagnosis.

“I had metastatic cancer to all my bones,” said Dr. Giarnella.

The cancer had spread from his prostate. Now faced with Stage 4 diagnosis, Dr. Giarnella was given just weeks to live.

“I was just getting prepared to die.”

Yet his team at the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute along with specialists at the Tallwood Urology and Kidney Institute were not ready to give up. They created a personal treatment plan for Dr. Giarnella that called for aggressive treatment with hormone suppression and chemotherapy.

“Even though it was end-stage, I felt that with my doctors’ help, that maybe I could get through this,” he said.

And he did.

“Gradually, my body got used to it and I got better,” said a grateful Dr. Giarnella.

In fact, Dr. Giarnella now feels good enough to return to his practice – at least part time – at the Hartford HealthCare Health Center in Southington. And he even finished a 100-mile bike race for cancer. No doubt, it was the ride of his life, proving this doctor could conquer just about any road ahead of him.

Learn more about your prostate cancer treatment options here