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32-Day Trip to Memorialize Her Daughter and Raise Awareness

Guest Article: Kimberly Crowe

In December 2016, 60-year-old Gil Schaenzle 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)–that 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. 

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 August 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. 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 an encouragement to all NET patients courageously fighting such an insidious disease.

In early June, Gil and Fred Schaenzle (Gil’s husband and Anna Rose’s dad, who will be chief mechanic, van driver, and his wife’s biggest supporter) will set out from their home in Evergreen, Colorado on a 1,200-mile trip, bound for Cincinnati, Ohio, 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, Ste. A, PMB 1015, Evergreeen, 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, healthcare 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,” explains Mia S. Tepper, MBA, Executive Director of the Healing NET Foundation. “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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