Shopping Cart
Your Cart is Empty
Quantity:
Subtotal
Taxes
Shipping
Total
There was an error with PayPalClick here to try again
CelebrateThank you for your business!You should be receiving an order confirmation from Paypal shortly.Exit Shopping Cart

Cancer Interviews

Sharing the Journey

Episode 7 - Gianna Velarde - Lima, Peru-Stage 3 Lymphoma Survivor - 1st Peruvian woman to ride Dakar Rally on Motorcycle

SHOW NOTES:


Jim Foster: Hello and welcome to the Cancer Interviews podcast. I’m your host, Jim Foster, and on this episode I have the pleasure of introducing a very courageous young woman from Lima, Peru, who not only overcame cancer at a young age, but went on to compete in one of the world’s most difficult and challenging motorcycle races. It’s our hope that you will find her story both informational and inspirational. So please join me in welcoming Gianna Velarde from her home in Lima. Gianna, welcome to Cancer Interviews.


Gianna Velarde: Hi, Jim. Hi, everyone, it is really a joy to share my story. I really hope people will learn something from it. This opportunity is a blessing, and thank you very much.


JF: Well, thank you, Gianna, and before we get into talking about your cancer journey, we would like to get to know more about you, like where you are from, what you were interested in as a child and what your life was like before you were diagnosed with cancer.


GV: I am actually thinking of moving from Lima to Canada to study work. The last two years I have devoted my energy to my business, a motorcycle school for kids, teenagers and adults. My life before cancer was quite different. I was depressed as a teenager. At age 15, that’s a tough age for every human being, and when I was 15, I was diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t very close to my parents, but the diagnosis actually created a strong bond with my parents, a very strong bond.


JF: At what age did you figure something was wrong with your health, and what did you do to learn that it might be cancer?


GV: You may remember about ten years ago, the scare with the H1N1 flu? At the schools in Peru, some kids had to go into quarantine for a month, and all that month, I spent it in bed. I was sweating a lot and had to change my clothes many times a night. I lost a lot of weight and had shortness of breath. It was pretty obvious I was getting ill, and then a large lump appeared in my neck, it was very, very big. I learned about it from a friend. We were playing soccer and my friend pointed it out. It was only then that I realized I had this lump, and then my grandma took me to the hospital and I learned I had cancer.


JF: What type of cancer were you diagnosed with, and how did you respond to the news?


GV: I was diagnosed with lymphoma third stage. At first, I didn’t know what that meant, and the word ‘cancer’ sounded very distant, you know. Then I noticed how people looked at me, with a great deal of pity. That was a very difficult part of my cancer journey.


JF: How did you go about determining the best treatment option?


GV: Ten years ago, cancer treatment was very limited. Now I know people have more options. But for me, treatment included chemotherapy and radiation therapy, 16 rounds of chemo and 32 rounds of radiation. My hair was falling out, but I never shaved it off, I wasn’t that brave. One of the toughest things I had to endure as losing my hair.


JF: I remember from my cancer experience, my hair would come out on my pillow at night. When I woke up there would be all this hair on my pillow.


GV: That happened to me a lot. I would wake up and there would be big pieces of hair on the pillow. When I would look in the mirror, I could see the back of my head and lots of missing hair, like an old person, but here I was, 15 years old. It was pretty hard to endure.


JF: The good news is, it looks like your hair grew back. As for your treatment, where did that place?

GV: I took my cancer treatment at a clinic in Lima, and it took me a year to beat the disease. I had to be hospitalized for the first five chemos, but for the last ones, I was at a clinic. After some of the chemos, I would go to the gym or ride a bicycle.


JF: Well, you’re very fortunate to do that. Did you have family and friends to help with your support?

GV: One of the things I learned was very obvious. It is not just the patient that has the disease itself. It is the whole family, and the people who love us. So there were days when my mother felt overwhelmed, so I recognized the disease wasn’t only my disease. It was a disease for my mother, my father, my whole family, and friends, too. Cancer doesn’t make just one hit; it hits your entire family, all your beloved ones.


JF: That is so true, and for you to recognize that, especially as a young person, that’s very impressive. It does affect everyone around you, even though you are the one going through the treatments. Now, you mentioned your hair loss. What were some of the other side effects, and how did you deal with them?


GV: The first and most important one was my hormonal system. I didn’t produce hormones due to the treatment because I had the cancer under my stomach. This was a fight ever since the doctor discharged me. My weight was as unstable as my moods. One month I would weigh 56 kilograms (123 pounds), and the next, I would weigh 64 kilograms. That’s because my hormones were all out of whack. I had to go on some supplements to help with my hormones. For a girl, a woman, it’s very important to produce hormones, for your bones, your skin, your ability to reproduce, you know, to be strong. That was a very important part of the disease for me, my hormonal system because when you finish your treatment, you want to be like normal, you know, have a normal life. This disease left me with a hormonal system that wasn’t stable.


JF: So the matter of your hormones sounds like an ongoing problem.


GV: Yes, because it is very hard for me to do this. It’s very hard.


JF: Were you able to continue with school or work, and if so, what was that like?


GV: Yes, I was able to go on with my life. I was not tempted to go through life by being a victim of cancer, and that my life would stop because of cancer. I wasn’t going to recognize that, so I wasn’t going to let that happen. My life continued, but respecting every limitation necessary. But I never stopped because of cancer.


JF: That’s wonderful. Were there some goals that you set while you were undergoing treatments?


GV: One of the things that helped me get through this disease was practicing sports, especially the motorcycle. When I put my helmet on, I didn’t think of myself as a girl with cancer. I was a rider trying to overcome every obstacle that nature offers. That feeling overcame every bit of emptiness I felt from cancer.


JF: We talked a bit about your lowest points, losing your hair and your hormonal system being compromised. When did you know, or feel, that you had beaten cancer? What was that feeling like?


GV: I remember the best feeling I had was my final chemo treatment. I was tired of the mood of the clinic, and the food, the food was unbearable, so it was a big moment for me, my last chemo. There was this feeling, like this is not going to happen again. It was really priceless.

JF: But you also underwent radiation treatment.


GV: Yes, I underwent radiation 32 times, and that’s what destroyed my hormone system. It wasn’t the chemo, it was the radiation, and that was after the chemo.


JF: When you finished the radiation, what did your doctor say, and how did you know you had reached the end of your cancer journey at that point?


GV: My doctor always supported my riding my motorcycle, but my mom didn’t know I was riding. It would have been a nightmare for her if she knew I was riding a motorcycle while on chemotherapy. When riding and trying to climb the steepest hills, I would be falling, then having to pick up the bike, and it was very heavy. My doctor told me I shouldn’t stop my life because of cancer. That was a very strong feeling that was implanted in my mind.


JF: Gianna, it sounds like you were very fortunate that your cancer journey had been successful. Once you came to that point, what was your next big challenge?


GV: It was riding in the Dakar motorcycle race. There was a lot to do. I had to raise the necessary funds, get a sponsor, a good bike, practice navigation, plus I was going to school and I had my business. I had to be strong in all those areas of my life, wanting to do them all at the same time, and I wanted to conquer Dakar. It was really difficult when I broke my collarbone two months before Dakar.


JF: For anyone in our audience not familiar with the Dakar rally, can you explain what it is?


GV: Dakar rally is the most difficult race in the world. Not just because the participation is very hard, but you have to gather the money, you have to prepare your body, your mind to be along many hours and make important decisions by yourself. On the bike, you are completely alone. You may need a rest, you may need for the bike to cool down, but at the same time you know that takes up precious time, as you may need to be at a certain point in two hours and have 100 kilometers to go. You need to prepare yourself to do all of these things by yourself because you won’t have anyone there to give you advice. This is why this race is so hard for me.

JF: How many days is the Dakar rally?


GV: It is about 15 days.


JF: For you, what was the lowest moment in the Dakar rally?


GV: The lowest moment was when I couldn’t cross the finish line in the third day because my bike’s engine broke down just six kilometers from the finish line, so that was very hard. I learned that you cannot conquer the world by yourself. You need people in your corner. I know this race is a race of one, but you need to the love of people who want to see you conquer, who want to see you successful. It’s really worth it, it really makes you feel like you are not alone, riding in the desert, because you have people who love you, as a co-pilot.

JF: What was your favorite moment from the Dakar rally experience?


GV: My favorite memory was the first day. I was so scared and intimidated. However, after the race began I realized I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. I put a Peruvian flag on my jacket, so every time I was riding the flag in the desert, Peru was my co-pilot, so the fear actually vanished and I was full with bravery, with courage.


JF: And your Dakar rally was entirely in Peru, correct?


GV: Yes, but I only lasted three days because my engine broke down six kilometers before the finish line on the third day.


JF: Yes, but it sounds like you were victorious in the experience. You had mentioned in an online interview, and I hope I am quoting this correctly that, “The woman who is leaving is different than the woman who comes back.” Can you explain what that means?


GV: I meant that every great event changes you because you have to overcome obstacles, you have new failures, you have so much learning that when you go through this experience, you won’t be the same person. I have conquered many things, but I have also had many failures, and if you don’t fall, if you don’t fail, you don’t learn anything at all.


JF: You also involved in charity work. What do you enjoy most about that?


GV: Actually I have a school where I teach kids and teenagers how to ride a motorcycle. However, I also teach them about my experience, so they have useful knowledge they can apply in their own lives. You don’t achieve your goal on the first try. You need to get up after you fall, to achieve those goals. It’s not going to be easy. That’s what I share with the students in my goal. I also have taught young ladies with cancer how to ride a bike. A girl with cancer, she has cancer, she a disease, but that doesn’t mean she is going to be dead or a victim, she can actually do pretty amazing stuff. You know a motorcycle is known to some as a ‘vehicle of death’. In my country, they say if you buy yourself a motorcycle, you also need to buy yourself a place in the cemetery, people say that.


JF: As a goal setter, what are one or two goals that you have set for yourself for the future?


GV: My goal is to find my own way in this new chapter of my life. I recently closed a very important chapter. I want to be loved for what I am, and not for what other people believe is right. I would also like to ride another Dakar in another two or three years.


JF: Before we finish our visit today, imagine that there is one person out there that has just been diagnosed with cancer. What would like to say to them?


GV: I would say it is okay to feel sorry for yourself, but don’t let these feelings overwhelm you. Every day is the most important race in your life. Every day is a conquest. Remember, you are not a victim of life. Some challenges are only for the ones that are capable of enduring them. You have to prove to yourself that you are capable of beating this disease, even though you don’t feel ready. You cannot always be ready for an unknown challenge, and cancer is an unknown challenge.


JF: Well, it certainly is, and those are very wise words coming from someone who has truly walked the walk. Now, there are ways to people to learn more about you online and through social media and is there is anything else you would like to share with us?


GV: Thanks everybody for listening to me, and to you, Jim, with my English. I hope my story can help in any way. Every person has a story and every story is always valuable. Every person has something to teach us, so it is very important to remember this in every aspect of our lives.


JF: Is there somewhere on social media where people can learn more about you?


GV: You can look for me on Facebook or on Instagram as Gianna.Velarde.


JF: Gianna, thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey and expertise with us today. You truly have an encouraging story about cancer outcome and continued good health.


GV: Thank you, Jim.


JF: And for all of you listening to the podcast, please remember that are not alone. We are all a part of a team, and we wish you the best possible outcome with cancer journey, so until next time, take care and we will see you on down the road.


Jim Foster: Hello and welcome to the Cancer Interviews podcast. I’m your host, Jim Foster, and on this episode I have the pleasure of introducing a very courageous young woman from Lima, Peru, who not only overcame cancer at a young age, but went on to compete in one of the world’s most difficult and challenging motorcycle races. It’s our hope that you will find her story both informational and inspirational. So please join me in welcoming Gianna Velarde from her home in Lima. Gianna, welcome to Cancer Interviews.

Gianna Velarde: Hi, Jim. Hi, everyone, it is really a joy to share my story. I really hope people will learn something from it. This opportunity is a blessing, and thank you very much.


JF: Well, thank you, Gianna, and before we get into talking about your cancer journey, we would like to get to know more about you, like where you are from, what you were interested in as a child and what your life was like before you were diagnosed with cancer.


GV: I am actually thinking of moving from Lima to Canada to study work. The last two years I have devoted my energy to my business, a motorcycle school for kids, teenagers and adults. My life before cancer was quite different. I was depressed as a teenager. At age 15, that’s a tough age for every human being, and when I was 15, I was diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t very close to my parents, but the diagnosis actually created a strong bond with my parents, a very strong bond.


JF: At what age did you figure something was wrong with your health, and what did you do to learn that it might be cancer?


GV: You may remember about ten years ago, the scare with the H1N1 flu? At the schools in Peru, some kids had to go into quarantine for a month, and all that month, I spent it in bed. I was sweating a lot and had to change my clothes many times a night. I lost a lot of weight and had shortness of breath. It was pretty obvious I was getting ill, and then a large lump appeared in my neck, it was very, very big. I learned about it from a friend. We were playing soccer and my friend pointed it out. It was only then that I realized I had this lump, and then my grandma took me to the hospital and I learned I had cancer.


JF: What type of cancer were you diagnosed with, and how did you respond to the news?


GV: I was diagnosed with lymphoma third stage. At first, I didn’t know what that meant, and the word ‘cancer’ sounded very distant, you know. Then I noticed how people looked at me, with a great deal of pity. That was a very difficult part of my cancer journey.


JF: How did you go about determining the best treatment option?


GV: Ten years ago, cancer treatment was very limited. Now I know people have more options. But for me, treatment included chemotherapy and radiation therapy, 16 rounds of chemo and 32 rounds of radiation. My hair was falling out, but I never shaved it off, I wasn’t that brave. One of the toughest things I had to endure as losing my hair.


JF: I remember from my cancer experience, my hair would come out on my pillow at night. When I woke up there would be all this hair on my pillow.


GV: That happened to me a lot. I would wake up and there would be big pieces of hair on the pillow. When I would look in the mirror, I could see the back of my head and lots of missing hair, like an old person, but here I was, 15 years old. It was pretty hard to endure.


JF: The good news is, it looks like your hair grew back. As for your treatment, where did that place?


GV: I took my cancer treatment at a clinic in Lima, and it took me a year to beat the disease. I had to be hospitalized for the first five chemos, but for the last ones, I was at a clinic. After some of the chemos, I would go to the gym or ride a bicycle.


JF: Well, you’re very fortunate to do that. Did you have family and friends to help with your support?


GV: One of the things I learned was very obvious. It is not just the patient that has the disease itself. It is the whole family, and the people who love us. So there were days when my mother felt overwhelmed, so I recognized the disease wasn’t only my disease. It was a disease for my mother, my father, my whole family, and friends, too. Cancer doesn’t make just one hit; it hits your entire family, all your beloved ones.


JF: That is so true, and for you to recognize that, especially as a young person, that’s very impressive. It does affect everyone around you, even though you are the one going through the treatments. Now, you mentioned your hair loss. What were some of the other side effects, and how did you deal with them?


GV: The first and most important one was my hormonal system. I didn’t produce hormones due to the treatment because I had the cancer under my stomach. This was a fight ever since the doctor discharged me. My weight was as unstable as my moods. One month I would weigh 56 kilograms (123 pounds), and the next, I would weigh 64 kilograms. That’s because my hormones were all out of whack. I had to go on some supplements to help with my hormones. For a girl, a woman, it’s very important to produce hormones, for your bones, your skin, your ability to reproduce, you know, to be strong. That was a very important part of the disease for me, my hormonal system because when you finish your treatment, you want to be like normal, you know, have a normal life. This disease left me with a hormonal system that wasn’t stable.


JF: So the matter of your hormones sounds like an ongoing problem.


GV: Yes, because it is very hard for me to do this. It’s very hard.


JF: Were you able to continue with school or work, and if so, what was that like?


GV: Yes, I was able to go on with my life. I was not tempted to go through life by being a victim of cancer, and that my life would stop because of cancer. I wasn’t going to recognize that, so I wasn’t going to let that happen. My life continued, but respecting every limitation necessary. But I never stopped because of cancer.


JF: That’s wonderful. Were there some goals that you set while you were undergoing treatments?


GV: One of the things that helped me get through this disease was practicing sports, especially the motorcycle. When I put my helmet on, I didn’t think of myself as a girl with cancer. I was a rider trying to overcome every obstacle that nature offers. That feeling overcame every bit of emptiness I felt from cancer.


JF: We talked a bit about your lowest points, losing your hair and your hormonal system being compromised. When did you know, or feel, that you had beaten cancer? What was that feeling like?


GV: I remember the best feeling I had was my final chemo treatment. I was tired of the mood of the clinic, and the food, the food was unbearable, so it was a big moment for me, my last chemo. There was this feeling, like this is not going to happen again. It was really priceless.


JF: But you also underwent radiation treatment.


GV: Yes, I underwent radiation 32 times, and that’s what destroyed my hormone system. It wasn’t the chemo, it was the radiation, and that was after the chemo.


JF: When you finished the radiation, what did your doctor say, and how did you know you had reached the end of your cancer journey at that point?


GV: My doctor always supported my riding my motorcycle, but my mom didn’t know I was riding. It would have been a nightmare for her if she knew I was riding a motorcycle while on chemotherapy. When riding and trying to climb the steepest hills, I would be falling, then having to pick up the bike, and it was very heavy. My doctor told me I shouldn’t stop my life because of cancer. That was a very strong feeling that was implanted in my mind.


JF: Gianna, it sounds like you were very fortunate that your cancer journey had been successful. Once you came to that point, what was your next big challenge?


GV: It was riding in the Dakar motorcycle race. There was a lot to do. I had to raise the necessary funds, get a sponsor, a good bike, practice navigation, plus I was going to school and I had my business. I had to be strong in all those areas of my life, wanting to do them all at the same time, and I wanted to conquer Dakar. It was really difficult when I broke my collarbone two months before Dakar.


JF: For anyone in our audience not familiar with the Dakar rally, can you explain what it is?

GV: Dakar rally is the most difficult race in the world. Not just because the participation is very hard, but you have to gather the money, you have to prepare your body, your mind to be along many hours and make important decisions by yourself. On the bike, you are completely alone. You may need a rest, you may need for the bike to cool down, but at the same time you know that takes up precious time, as you may need to be at a certain point in two hours and have 100 kilometers to go. You need to prepare yourself to do all of these things by yourself because you won’t have anyone there to give you advice. This is why this race is so hard for me.


JF: How many days is the Dakar rally?


GV: It is about 15 days.


JF: For you, what was the lowest moment in the Dakar rally?


GV: The lowest moment was when I couldn’t cross the finish line in the third day because my bike’s engine broke down just six kilometers from the finish line, so that was very hard. I learned that you cannot conquer the world by yourself. You need people in your corner. I know this race is a race of one, but you need to the love of people who want to see you conquer, who want to see you successful. It’s really worth it, it really makes you feel like you are not alone, riding in the desert, because you have people who love you, as a co-pilot.


JF: What was your favorite moment from the Dakar rally experience?


GV: My favorite memory was the first day. I was so scared and intimidated. However, after the race began I realized I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. I put a Peruvian flag on my jacket, so every time I was riding the flag in the desert, Peru was my co-pilot, so the fear actually vanished and I was full with bravery, with courage.


JF: And your Dakar rally was entirely in Peru, correct?


GV: Yes, but I only lasted three days because my engine broke down six kilometers before the finish line on the third day.


JF: Yes, but it sounds like you were victorious in the experience. You had mentioned in an online interview, and I hope I am quoting this correctly that, “The woman who is leaving is different than the woman who comes back.” Can you explain what that means?


GV: I meant that every great event changes you because you have to overcome obstacles, you have new failures, you have so much learning that when you go through this experience, you won’t be the same person. I have conquered many things, but I have also had many failures, and if you don’t fall, if you don’t fail, you don’t learn anything at all.


JF: You also involved in charity work. What do you enjoy most about that?


GV: Actually I have a school where I teach kids and teenagers how to ride a motorcycle. However, I also teach them about my experience, so they have useful knowledge they can apply in their own lives. You don’t achieve your goal on the first try. You need to get up after you fall, to achieve those goals. It’s not going to be easy. That’s what I share with the students in my goal. I also have taught young ladies with cancer how to ride a bike. A girl with cancer, she has cancer, she a disease, but that doesn’t mean she is going to be dead or a victim, she can actually do pretty amazing stuff. You know a motorcycle is known to some as a ‘vehicle of death’. In my country, they say if you buy yourself a motorcycle, you also need to buy yourself a place in the cemetery, people say that.


JF: As a goal setter, what are one or two goals that you have set for yourself for the future?


GV: My goal is to find my own way in this new chapter of my life. I recently closed a very important chapter. I want to be loved for what I am, and not for what other people believe is right. I would also like to ride another Dakar in another two or three years.


JF: Before we finish our visit today, imagine that there is one person out there that has just been diagnosed with cancer. What would like to say to them?


GV: I would say it is okay to feel sorry for yourself, but don’t let these feelings overwhelm you. Every day is the most important race in your life. Every day is a conquest. Remember, you are not a victim of life. Some challenges are only for the ones that are capable of enduring them. You have to prove to yourself that you are capable of beating this disease, even though you don’t feel ready. You cannot always be ready for an unknown challenge, and cancer is an unknown challenge.


JF: Well, it certainly is, and those are very wise words coming from someone who has truly walked the walk. Now, there are ways to people to learn more about you online and through social media and is there is anything else you would like to share with us?


GV: Thanks everybody for listening to me, and to you, Jim, with my English. I hope my story can help in any way. Every person has a story and every story is always valuable. Every person has something to teach us, so it is very important to remember this in every aspect of our lives.


JF: Is there somewhere on social media where people can learn more about you?


GV: You can look for me on Facebook or on Instagram as Gianna.Velarde.


JF: Gianna, thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey and expertise with us today. You truly have an encouraging story about cancer outcome and continued good health.


GV: Thank you, Jim.


JF: And for all of you listening to the podcast, please remember that are not alone. We are all a part of a team, and we wish you the best possible outcome with cancer journey, so until next time, take care and we will see you on down the road.


Jim Foster: Hello and welcome to the Cancer Interviews podcast. I’m your host, Jim Foster, and on this episode I have the pleasure of introducing a very courageous young woman from Lima, Peru, who not only overcame cancer at a young age, but went on to compete in one of the world’s most difficult and challenging motorcycle races. It’s our hope that you will find her story both informational and inspirational. So please join me in welcoming Gianna Velarde from her home in Lima. Gianna, welcome to Cancer Interviews.

Gianna Velarde: Hi, Jim. Hi, everyone, it is really a joy to share my story. I really hope people will learn something from it. This opportunity is a blessing, and thank you very much.


JF: Well, thank you, Gianna, and before we get into talking about your cancer journey, we would like to get to know more about you, like where you are from, what you were interested in as a child and what your life was like before you were diagnosed with cancer.


GV: I am actually thinking of moving from Lima to Canada to study work. The last two years I have devoted my energy to my business, a motorcycle school for kids, teenagers and adults. My life before cancer was quite different. I was depressed as a teenager. At age 15, that’s a tough age for every human being, and when I was 15, I was diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t very close to my parents, but the diagnosis actually created a strong bond with my parents, a very strong bond.


JF: At what age did you figure something was wrong with your health, and what did you do to learn that it might be cancer?


GV: You may remember about ten years ago, the scare with the H1N1 flu? At the schools in Peru, some kids had to go into quarantine for a month, and all that month, I spent it in bed. I was sweating a lot and had to change my clothes many times a night. I lost a lot of weight and had shortness of breath. It was pretty obvious I was getting ill, and then a large lump appeared in my neck, it was very, very big. I learned about it from a friend. We were playing soccer and my friend pointed it out. It was only then that I realized I had this lump, and then my grandma took me to the hospital and I learned I had cancer.


JF: What type of cancer were you diagnosed with, and how did you respond to the news?


GV: I was diagnosed with lymphoma third stage. At first, I didn’t know what that meant, and the word ‘cancer’ sounded very distant, you know. Then I noticed how people looked at me, with a great deal of pity. That was a very difficult part of my cancer journey.


JF: How did you go about determining the best treatment option?


GV: Ten years ago, cancer treatment was very limited. Now I know people have more options. But for me, treatment included chemotherapy and radiation therapy, 16 rounds of chemo and 32 rounds of radiation. My hair was falling out, but I never shaved it off, I wasn’t that brave. One of the toughest things I had to endure as losing my hair.


JF: I remember from my cancer experience, my hair would come out on my pillow at night. When I woke up there would be all this hair on my pillow.


GV: That happened to me a lot. I would wake up and there would be big pieces of hair on the pillow. When I would look in the mirror, I could see the back of my head and lots of missing hair, like an old person, but here I was, 15 years old. It was pretty hard to endure.


JF: The good news is, it looks like your hair grew back. As for your treatment, where did that place?

GV: I took my cancer treatment at a clinic in Lima, and it took me a year to beat the disease. I had to be hospitalized for the first five chemos, but for the last ones, I was at a clinic. After some of the chemos, I would go to the gym or ride a bicycle.


JF: Well, you’re very fortunate to do that. Did you have family and friends to help with your support?


GV: One of the things I learned was very obvious. It is not just the patient that has the disease itself. It is the whole family, and the people who love us. So there were days when my mother felt overwhelmed, so I recognized the disease wasn’t only my disease. It was a disease for my mother, my father, my whole family, and friends, too. Cancer doesn’t make just one hit; it hits your entire family, all your beloved ones.


JF: That is so true, and for you to recognize that, especially as a young person, that’s very impressive. It does affect everyone around you, even though you are the one going through the treatments. Now, you mentioned your hair loss. What were some of the other side effects, and how did you deal with them?


GV: The first and most important one was my hormonal system. I didn’t produce hormones due to the treatment because I had the cancer under my stomach. This was a fight ever since the doctor discharged me. My weight was as unstable as my moods. One month I would weigh 56 kilograms (123 pounds), and the next, I would weigh 64 kilograms. That’s because my hormones were all out of whack. I had to go on some supplements to help with my hormones. For a girl, a woman, it’s very important to produce hormones, for your bones, your skin, your ability to reproduce, you know, to be strong. That was a very important part of the disease for me, my hormonal system because when you finish your treatment, you want to be like normal, you know, have a normal life. This disease left me with a hormonal system that wasn’t stable.


JF: So the matter of your hormones sounds like an ongoing problem.


GV: Yes, because it is very hard for me to do this. It’s very hard.


JF: Were you able to continue with school or work, and if so, what was that like?


GV: Yes, I was able to go on with my life. I was not tempted to go through life by being a victim of cancer, and that my life would stop because of cancer. I wasn’t going to recognize that, so I wasn’t going to let that happen. My life continued, but respecting every limitation necessary. But I never stopped because of cancer.


JF: That’s wonderful. Were there some goals that you set while you were undergoing treatments?


GV: One of the things that helped me get through this disease was practicing sports, especially the motorcycle. When I put my helmet on, I didn’t think of myself as a girl with cancer. I was a rider trying to overcome every obstacle that nature offers. That feeling overcame every bit of emptiness I felt from cancer.


JF: We talked a bit about your lowest points, losing your hair and your hormonal system being compromised. When did you know, or feel, that you had beaten cancer? What was that feeling like?


GV: I remember the best feeling I had was my final chemo treatment. I was tired of the mood of the clinic, and the food, the food was unbearable, so it was a big moment for me, my last chemo. There was this feeling, like this is not going to happen again. It was really priceless.


JF: But you also underwent radiation treatment.


GV: Yes, I underwent radiation 32 times, and that’s what destroyed my hormone system. It wasn’t the chemo, it was the radiation, and that was after the chemo.


JF: When you finished the radiation, what did your doctor say, and how did you know you had reached the end of your cancer journey at that point?


GV: My doctor always supported my riding my motorcycle, but my mom didn’t know I was riding. It would have been a nightmare for her if she knew I was riding a motorcycle while on chemotherapy. When riding and trying to climb the steepest hills, I would be falling, then having to pick up the bike, and it was very heavy. My doctor told me I shouldn’t stop my life because of cancer. That was a very strong feeling that was implanted in my mind.


JF: Gianna, it sounds like you were very fortunate that your cancer journey had been successful. Once you came to that point, what was your next big challenge?


GV: It was riding in the Dakar motorcycle race. There was a lot to do. I had to raise the necessary funds, get a sponsor, a good bike, practice navigation, plus I was going to school and I had my business. I had to be strong in all those areas of my life, wanting to do them all at the same time, and I wanted to conquer Dakar. It was really difficult when I broke my collarbone two months before Dakar.


JF: For anyone in our audience not familiar with the Dakar rally, can you explain what it is?


GV: Dakar rally is the most difficult race in the world. Not just because the participation is very hard, but you have to gather the money, you have to prepare your body, your mind to be along many hours and make important decisions by yourself. On the bike, you are completely alone. You may need a rest, you may need for the bike to cool down, but at the same time you know that takes up precious time, as you may need to be at a certain point in two hours and have 100 kilometers to go. You need to prepare yourself to do all of these things by yourself because you won’t have anyone there to give you advice. This is why this race is so hard for me.


JF: How many days is the Dakar rally?


GV: It is about 15 days.


JF: For you, what was the lowest moment in the Dakar rally?


GV: The lowest moment was when I couldn’t cross the finish line in the third day because my bike’s engine broke down just six kilometers from the finish line, so that was very hard. I learned that you cannot conquer the world by yourself. You need people in your corner. I know this race is a race of one, but you need to the love of people who want to see you conquer, who want to see you successful. It’s really worth it, it really makes you feel like you are not alone, riding in the desert, because you have people who love you, as a co-pilot.


JF: What was your favorite moment from the Dakar rally experience?


GV: My favorite memory was the first day. I was so scared and intimidated. However, after the race began I realized I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. I put a Peruvian flag on my jacket, so every time I was riding the flag in the desert, Peru was my co-pilot, so the fear actually vanished and I was full with bravery, with courage.


JF: And your Dakar rally was entirely in Peru, correct?


GV: Yes, but I only lasted three days because my engine broke down six kilometers before the finish line on the third day.


JF: Yes, but it sounds like you were victorious in the experience. You had mentioned in an online interview, and I hope I am quoting this correctly that, “The woman who is leaving is different than the woman who comes back.” Can you explain what that means?


GV: I meant that every great event changes you because you have to overcome obstacles, you have new failures, you have so much learning that when you go through this experience, you won’t be the same person. I have conquered many things, but I have also had many failures, and if you don’t fall, if you don’t fail, you don’t learn anything at all.


JF: You also involved in charity work. What do you enjoy most about that?

GV: Actually I have a school where I teach kids and teenagers how to ride a motorcycle. However, I also teach them about my experience, so they have useful knowledge they can apply in their own lives. You don’t achieve your goal on the first try. You need to get up after you fall, to achieve those goals. It’s not going to be easy. That’s what I share with the students in my goal. I also have taught young ladies with cancer how to ride a bike. A girl with cancer, she has cancer, she a disease, but that doesn’t mean she is going to be dead or a victim, she can actually do pretty amazing stuff. You know a motorcycle is known to some as a ‘vehicle of death’. In my country, they say if you buy yourself a motorcycle, you also need to buy yourself a place in the cemetery, people say that.


JF: As a goal setter, what are one or two goals that you have set for yourself for the future?


GV: My goal is to find my own way in this new chapter of my life. I recently closed a very important chapter. I want to be loved for what I am, and not for what other people believe is right. I would also like to ride another Dakar in another two or three years.


JF: Before we finish our visit today, imagine that there is one person out there that has just been diagnosed with cancer. What would like to say to them?


GV: I would say it is okay to feel sorry for yourself, but don’t let these feelings overwhelm you. Every day is the most important race in your life. Every day is a conquest. Remember, you are not a victim of life. Some challenges are only for the ones that are capable of enduring them. You have to prove to yourself that you are capable of beating this disease, even though you don’t feel ready. You cannot always be ready for an unknown challenge, and cancer is an unknown challenge.


JF: Well, it certainly is, and those are very wise words coming from someone who has truly walked the walk. Now, there are ways to people to learn more about you online and through social media and is there is anything else you would like to share with us?


GV: Thanks everybody for listening to me, and to you, Jim, with my English. I hope my story can help in any way. Every person has a story and every story is always valuable. Every person has something to teach us, so it is very important to remember this in every aspect of our lives.


JF: Is there somewhere on social media where people can learn more about you?


GV: You can look for me on Facebook or on Instagram as Gianna.Velarde.


JF: Gianna, thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey and expertise with us today. You truly have an encouraging story about cancer outcome and continued good health.


GV: Thank you, Jim.


JF: And for all of you listening to the podcast, please remember that are not alone. We are all a part of a team, and we wish you the best possible outcome with cancer journey, so until next time, take care and we will see you on down the road.


Jim Foster: Hello and welcome to the Cancer Interviews podcast. I’m your host, Jim Foster, and on this episode I have the pleasure of introducing a very courageous young woman from Lima, Peru, who not only overcame cancer at a young age, but went on to compete in one of the world’s most difficult and challenging motorcycle races. It’s our hope that you will find her story both informational and inspirational. So please join me in welcoming Gianna Velarde from her home in Lima. Gianna, welcome to Cancer Interviews.

Gianna Velarde: Hi, Jim. Hi, everyone, it is really a joy to share my story. I really hope people will learn something from it. This opportunity is a blessing, and thank you very much.


JF: Well, thank you, Gianna, and before we get into talking about your cancer journey, we would like to get to know more about you, like where you are from, what you were interested in as a child and what your life was like before you were diagnosed with cancer.


GV: I am actually thinking of moving from Lima to Canada to study work. The last two years I have devoted my energy to my business, a motorcycle school for kids, teenagers and adults. My life before cancer was quite different. I was depressed as a teenager. At age 15, that’s a tough age for every human being, and when I was 15, I was diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t very close to my parents, but the diagnosis actually created a strong bond with my parents, a very strong bond.


JF: At what age did you figure something was wrong with your health, and what did you do to learn that it might be cancer?


GV: You may remember about ten years ago, the scare with the H1N1 flu? At the schools in Peru, some kids had to go into quarantine for a month, and all that month, I spent it in bed. I was sweating a lot and had to change my clothes many times a night. I lost a lot of weight and had shortness of breath. It was pretty obvious I was getting ill, and then a large lump appeared in my neck, it was very, very big. I learned about it from a friend. We were playing soccer and my friend pointed it out. It was only then that I realized I had this lump, and then my grandma took me to the hospital and I learned I had cancer.


JF: What type of cancer were you diagnosed with, and how did you respond to the news?


GV: I was diagnosed with lymphoma third stage. At first, I didn’t know what that meant, and the word ‘cancer’ sounded very distant, you know. Then I noticed how people looked at me, with a great deal of pity. That was a very difficult part of my cancer journey.


JF: How did you go about determining the best treatment option?


GV: Ten years ago, cancer treatment was very limited. Now I know people have more options. But for me, treatment included chemotherapy and radiation therapy, 16 rounds of chemo and 32 rounds of radiation. My hair was falling out, but I never shaved it off, I wasn’t that brave. One of the toughest things I had to endure as losing my hair.


JF: I remember from my cancer experience, my hair would come out on my pillow at night. When I woke up there would be all this hair on my pillow.


GV: That happened to me a lot. I would wake up and there would be big pieces of hair on the pillow. When I would look in the mirror, I could see the back of my head and lots of missing hair, like an old person, but here I was, 15 years old. It was pretty hard to endure.


JF: The good news is, it looks like your hair grew back. As for your treatment, where did that place?


GV: I took my cancer treatment at a clinic in Lima, and it took me a year to beat the disease. I had to be hospitalized for the first five chemos, but for the last ones, I was at a clinic. After some of the chemos, I would go to the gym or ride a bicycle.


JF: Well, you’re very fortunate to do that. Did you have family and friends to help with your support?


GV: One of the things I learned was very obvious. It is not just the patient that has the disease itself. It is the whole family, and the people who love us. So there were days when my mother felt overwhelmed, so I recognized the disease wasn’t only my disease. It was a disease for my mother, my father, my whole family, and friends, too. Cancer doesn’t make just one hit; it hits your entire family, all your beloved ones.


JF: That is so true, and for you to recognize that, especially as a young person, that’s very impressive. It does affect everyone around you, even though you are the one going through the treatments. Now, you mentioned your hair loss. What were some of the other side effects, and how did you deal with them?


GV: The first and most important one was my hormonal system. I didn’t produce hormones due to the treatment because I had the cancer under my stomach. This was a fight ever since the doctor discharged me. My weight was as unstable as my moods. One month I would weigh 56 kilograms (123 pounds), and the next, I would weigh 64 kilograms. That’s because my hormones were all out of whack. I had to go on some supplements to help with my hormones. For a girl, a woman, it’s very important to produce hormones, for your bones, your skin, your ability to reproduce, you know, to be strong. That was a very important part of the disease for me, my hormonal system because when you finish your treatment, you want to be like normal, you know, have a normal life. This disease left me with a hormonal system that wasn’t stable.


JF: So the matter of your hormones sounds like an ongoing problem.


GV: Yes, because it is very hard for me to do this. It’s very hard.


JF: Were you able to continue with school or work, and if so, what was that like?


GV: Yes, I was able to go on with my life. I was not tempted to go through life by being a victim of cancer, and that my life would stop because of cancer. I wasn’t going to recognize that, so I wasn’t going to let that happen. My life continued, but respecting every limitation necessary. But I never stopped because of cancer.


JF: That’s wonderful. Were there some goals that you set while you were undergoing treatments?


GV: One of the things that helped me get through this disease was practicing sports, especially the motorcycle. When I put my helmet on, I didn’t think of myself as a girl with cancer. I was a rider trying to overcome every obstacle that nature offers. That feeling overcame every bit of emptiness I felt from cancer.


JF: We talked a bit about your lowest points, losing your hair and your hormonal system being compromised. When did you know, or feel, that you had beaten cancer? What was that feeling like?


GV: I remember the best feeling I had was my final chemo treatment. I was tired of the mood of the clinic, and the food, the food was unbearable, so it was a big moment for me, my last chemo. There was this feeling, like this is not going to happen again. It was really priceless.


JF: But you also underwent radiation treatment.


GV: Yes, I underwent radiation 32 times, and that’s what destroyed my hormone system. It wasn’t the chemo, it was the radiation, and that was after the chemo.


JF: When you finished the radiation, what did your doctor say, and how did you know you had reached the end of your cancer journey at that point?


GV: My doctor always supported my riding my motorcycle, but my mom didn’t know I was riding. It would have been a nightmare for her if she knew I was riding a motorcycle while on chemotherapy. When riding and trying to climb the steepest hills, I would be falling, then having to pick up the bike, and it was very heavy. My doctor told me I shouldn’t stop my life because of cancer. That was a very strong feeling that was implanted in my mind.


JF: Gianna, it sounds like you were very fortunate that your cancer journey had been successful. Once you came to that point, what was your next big challenge?


GV: It was riding in the Dakar motorcycle race. There was a lot to do. I had to raise the necessary funds, get a sponsor, a good bike, practice navigation, plus I was going to school and I had my business. I had to be strong in all those areas of my life, wanting to do them all at the same time, and I wanted to conquer Dakar. It was really difficult when I broke my collarbone two months before Dakar.


JF: For anyone in our audience not familiar with the Dakar rally, can you explain what it is?

GV: Dakar rally is the most difficult race in the world. Not just because the participation is very hard, but you have to gather the money, you have to prepare your body, your mind to be along many hours and make important decisions by yourself. On the bike, you are completely alone. You may need a rest, you may need for the bike to cool down, but at the same time you know that takes up precious time, as you may need to be at a certain point in two hours and have 100 kilometers to go. You need to prepare yourself to do all of these things by yourself because you won’t have anyone there to give you advice. This is why this race is so hard for me.

JF: How many days is the Dakar rally?


GV: It is about 15 days.


JF: For you, what was the lowest moment in the Dakar rally?


GV: The lowest moment was when I couldn’t cross the finish line in the third day because my bike’s engine broke down just six kilometers from the finish line, so that was very hard. I learned that you cannot conquer the world by yourself. You need people in your corner. I know this race is a race of one, but you need to the love of people who want to see you conquer, who want to see you successful. It’s really worth it, it really makes you feel like you are not alone, riding in the desert, because you have people who love you, as a co-pilot.

JF: What was your favorite moment from the Dakar rally experience?


GV: My favorite memory was the first day. I was so scared and intimidated. However, after the race began I realized I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. I put a Peruvian flag on my jacket, so every time I was riding the flag in the desert, Peru was my co-pilot, so the fear actually vanished and I was full with bravery, with courage.


JF: And your Dakar rally was entirely in Peru, correct?


GV: Yes, but I only lasted three days because my engine broke down six kilometers before the finish line on the third day.


JF: Yes, but it sounds like you were victorious in the experience. You had mentioned in an online interview, and I hope I am quoting this correctly that, “The woman who is leaving is different than the woman who comes back.” Can you explain what that means?


GV: I meant that every great event changes you because you have to overcome obstacles, you have new failures, you have so much learning that when you go through this experience, you won’t be the same person. I have conquered many things, but I have also had many failures, and if you don’t fall, if you don’t fail, you don’t learn anything at all.


JF: You also involved in charity work. What do you enjoy most about that?


GV: Actually I have a school where I teach kids and teenagers how to ride a motorcycle. However, I also teach them about my experience, so they have useful knowledge they can apply in their own lives. You don’t achieve your goal on the first try. You need to get up after you fall, to achieve those goals. It’s not going to be easy. That’s what I share with the students in my goal. I also have taught young ladies with cancer how to ride a bike. A girl with cancer, she has cancer, she a disease, but that doesn’t mean she is going to be dead or a victim, she can actually do pretty amazing stuff. You know a motorcycle is known to some as a ‘vehicle of death’. In my country, they say if you buy yourself a motorcycle, you also need to buy yourself a place in the cemetery, people say that.


JF: As a goal setter, what are one or two goals that you have set for yourself for the future?

GV: My goal is to find my own way in this new chapter of my life. I recently closed a very important chapter. I want to be loved for what I am, and not for what other people believe is right. I would also like to ride another Dakar in another two or three years.


JF: Before we finish our visit today, imagine that there is one person out there that has just been diagnosed with cancer. What would like to say to them?


GV: I would say it is okay to feel sorry for yourself, but don’t let these feelings overwhelm you. Every day is the most important race in your life. Every day is a conquest. Remember, you are not a victim of life. Some challenges are only for the ones that are capable of enduring them. You have to prove to yourself that you are capable of beating this disease, even though you don’t feel ready. You cannot always be ready for an unknown challenge, and cancer is an unknown challenge.


JF: Well, it certainly is, and those are very wise words coming from someone who has truly walked the walk. Now, there are ways to people to learn more about you online and through social media and is there is anything else you would like to share with us?


GV: Thanks everybody for listening to me, and to you, Jim, with my English. I hope my story can help in any way. Every person has a story and every story is always valuable. Every person has something to teach us, so it is very important to remember this in every aspect of our lives.


JF: Is there somewhere on social media where people can learn more about you?

GV: You can look for me on Facebook or on Instagram as Gianna.Velarde.


JF: Gianna, thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey and expertise with us today. You truly have an encouraging story about cancer outcome and continued good health.


GV: Thank you, Jim.


JF: And for all of you listening to the podcast, please remember that are not alone. We are all a part of a team, and we wish you the best possible outcome with cancer journey, so until next time, take care and we will see you on down the road.


Jim Foster: Hello and welcome to the Cancer Interviews podcast. I’m your host, Jim Foster, and on this episode I have the pleasure of introducing a very courageous young woman from Lima, Peru, who not only overcame cancer at a young age, but went on to compete in one of the world’s most difficult and challenging motorcycle races. It’s our hope that you will find her story both informational and inspirational. So please join me in welcoming Gianna Velarde from her home in Lima. Gianna, welcome to Cancer Interviews.

Gianna Velarde: Hi, Jim. Hi, everyone, it is really a joy to share my story. I really hope people will learn something from it. This opportunity is a blessing, and thank you very much.


JF: Well, thank you, Gianna, and before we get into talking about your cancer journey, we would like to get to know more about you, like where you are from, what you were interested in as a child and what your life was like before you were diagnosed with cancer.


GV: I am actually thinking of moving from Lima to Canada to study work. The last two years I have devoted my energy to my business, a motorcycle school for kids, teenagers and adults. My life before cancer was quite different. I was depressed as a teenager. At age 15, that’s a tough age for every human being, and when I was 15, I was diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t very close to my parents, but the diagnosis actually created a strong bond with my parents, a very strong bond.


JF: At what age did you figure something was wrong with your health, and what did you do to learn that it might be cancer?


GV: You may remember about ten years ago, the scare with the H1N1 flu? At the schools in Peru, some kids had to go into quarantine for a month, and all that month, I spent it in bed. I was sweating a lot and had to change my clothes many times a night. I lost a lot of weight and had shortness of breath. It was pretty obvious I was getting ill, and then a large lump appeared in my neck, it was very, very big. I learned about it from a friend. We were playing soccer and my friend pointed it out. It was only then that I realized I had this lump, and then my grandma took me to the hospital and I learned I had cancer.


JF: What type of cancer were you diagnosed with, and how did you respond to the news?


GV: I was diagnosed with lymphoma third stage. At first, I didn’t know what that meant, and the word ‘cancer’ sounded very distant, you know. Then I noticed how people looked at me, with a great deal of pity. That was a very difficult part of my cancer journey.


JF: How did you go about determining the best treatment option?


GV: Ten years ago, cancer treatment was very limited. Now I know people have more options. But for me, treatment included chemotherapy and radiation therapy, 16 rounds of chemo and 32 rounds of radiation. My hair was falling out, but I never shaved it off, I wasn’t that brave. One of the toughest things I had to endure as losing my hair.


JF: I remember from my cancer experience, my hair would come out on my pillow at night. When I woke up there would be all this hair on my pillow.


GV: That happened to me a lot. I would wake up and there would be big pieces of hair on the pillow. When I would look in the mirror, I could see the back of my head and lots of missing hair, like an old person, but here I was, 15 years old. It was pretty hard to endure.


JF: The good news is, it looks like your hair grew back. As for your treatment, where did that place?

GV: I took my cancer treatment at a clinic in Lima, and it took me a year to beat the disease. I had to be hospitalized for the first five chemos, but for the last ones, I was at a clinic. After some of the chemos, I would go to the gym or ride a bicycle.


JF: Well, you’re very fortunate to do that. Did you have family and friends to help with your support?

GV: One of the things I learned was very obvious. It is not just the patient that has the disease itself. It is the whole family, and the people who love us. So there were days when my mother felt overwhelmed, so I recognized the disease wasn’t only my disease. It was a disease for my mother, my father, my whole family, and friends, too. Cancer doesn’t make just one hit; it hits your entire family, all your beloved ones.

JF: That is so true, and for you to recognize that, especially as a young person, that’s very impressive. It does affect everyone around you, even though you are the one going through the treatments. Now, you mentioned your hair loss. What were some of the other side effects, and how did you deal with them?


GV: The first and most important one was my hormonal system. I didn’t produce hormones due to the treatment because I had the cancer under my stomach. This was a fight ever since the doctor discharged me. My weight was as unstable as my moods. One month I would weigh 56 kilograms (123 pounds), and the next, I would weigh 64 kilograms. That’s because my hormones were all out of whack. I had to go on some supplements to help with my hormones. For a girl, a woman, it’s very important to produce hormones, for your bones, your skin, your ability to reproduce, you know, to be strong. That was a very important part of the disease for me, my hormonal system because when you finish your treatment, you want to be like normal, you know, have a normal life. This disease left me with a hormonal system that wasn’t stable.


JF: So the matter of your hormones sounds like an ongoing problem.


GV: Yes, because it is very hard for me to do this. It’s very hard.


JF: Were you able to continue with school or work, and if so, what was that like?


GV: Yes, I was able to go on with my life. I was not tempted to go through life by being a victim of cancer, and that my life would stop because of cancer. I wasn’t going to recognize that, so I wasn’t going to let that happen. My life continued, but respecting every limitation necessary. But I never stopped because of cancer.


JF: That’s wonderful. Were there some goals that you set while you were undergoing treatments?


GV: One of the things that helped me get through this disease was practicing sports, especially the motorcycle. When I put my helmet on, I didn’t think of myself as a girl with cancer. I was a rider trying to overcome every obstacle that nature offers. That feeling overcame every bit of emptiness I felt from cancer.


JF: We talked a bit about your lowest points, losing your hair and your hormonal system being compromised. When did you know, or feel, that you had beaten cancer? What was that feeling like?


GV: I remember the best feeling I had was my final chemo treatment. I was tired of the mood of the clinic, and the food, the food was unbearable, so it was a big moment for me, my last chemo. There was this feeling, like this is not going to happen again. It was really priceless.


JF: But you also underwent radiation treatment.


GV: Yes, I underwent radiation 32 times, and that’s what destroyed my hormone system. It wasn’t the chemo, it was the radiation, and that was after the chemo.


JF: When you finished the radiation, what did your doctor say, and how did you know you had reached the end of your cancer journey at that point?


GV: My doctor always supported my riding my motorcycle, but my mom didn’t know I was riding. It would have been a nightmare for her if she knew I was riding a motorcycle while on chemotherapy. When riding and trying to climb the steepest hills, I would be falling, then having to pick up the bike, and it was very heavy. My doctor told me I shouldn’t stop my life because of cancer. That was a very strong feeling that was implanted in my mind.


JF: Gianna, it sounds like you were very fortunate that your cancer journey had been successful. Once you came to that point, what was your next big challenge?


GV: It was riding in the Dakar motorcycle race. There was a lot to do. I had to raise the necessary funds, get a sponsor, a good bike, practice navigation, plus I was going to school and I had my business. I had to be strong in all those areas of my life, wanting to do them all at the same time, and I wanted to conquer Dakar. It was really difficult when I broke my collarbone two months before Dakar.


JF: For anyone in our audience not familiar with the Dakar rally, can you explain what it is?


GV: Dakar rally is the most difficult race in the world. Not just because the participation is very hard, but you have to gather the money, you have to prepare your body, your mind to be along many hours and make important decisions by yourself. On the bike, you are completely alone. You may need a rest, you may need for the bike to cool down, but at the same time you know that takes up precious time, as you may need to be at a certain point in two hours and have 100 kilometers to go. You need to prepare yourself to do all of these things by yourself because you won’t have anyone there to give you advice. This is why this race is so hard for me.

JF: How many days is the Dakar rally?


GV: It is about 15 days.


JF: For you, what was the lowest moment in the Dakar rally?


GV: The lowest moment was when I couldn’t cross the finish line in the third day because my bike’s engine broke down just six kilometers from the finish line, so that was very hard. I learned that you cannot conquer the world by yourself. You need people in your corner. I know this race is a race of one, but you need to the love of people who want to see you conquer, who want to see you successful. It’s really worth it, it really makes you feel like you are not alone, riding in the desert, because you have people who love you, as a co-pilot.

JF: What was your favorite moment from the Dakar rally experience?


GV: My favorite memory was the first day. I was so scared and intimidated. However, after the race began I realized I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. I put a Peruvian flag on my jacket, so every time I was riding the flag in the desert, Peru was my co-pilot, so the fear actually vanished and I was full with bravery, with courage.


JF: And your Dakar rally was entirely in Peru, correct?


GV: Yes, but I only lasted three days because my engine broke down six kilometers before the finish line on the third day.


JF: Yes, but it sounds like you were victorious in the experience. You had mentioned in an online interview, and I hope I am quoting this correctly that, “The woman who is leaving is different than the woman who comes back.” Can you explain what that means?


GV: I meant that every great event changes you because you have to overcome obstacles, you have new failures, you have so much learning that when you go through this experience, you won’t be the same person. I have conquered many things, but I have also had many failures, and if you don’t fall, if you don’t fail, you don’t learn anything at all.


JF: You also involved in charity work. What do you enjoy most about that?


GV: Actually I have a school where I teach kids and teenagers how to ride a motorcycle. However, I also teach them about my experience, so they have useful knowledge they can apply in their own lives. You don’t achieve your goal on the first try. You need to get up after you fall, to achieve those goals. It’s not going to be easy. That’s what I share with the students in my goal. I also have taught young ladies with cancer how to ride a bike. A girl with cancer, she has cancer, she a disease, but that doesn’t mean she is going to be dead or a victim, she can actually do pretty amazing stuff. You know a motorcycle is known to some as a ‘vehicle of death’. In my country, they say if you buy yourself a motorcycle, you also need to buy yourself a place in the cemetery, people say that.


JF: As a goal setter, what are one or two goals that you have set for yourself for the future?


GV: My goal is to find my own way in this new chapter of my life. I recently closed a very important chapter. I want to be loved for what I am, and not for what other people believe is right. I would also like to ride another Dakar in another two or three years.


JF: Before we finish our visit today, imagine that there is one person out there that has just been diagnosed with cancer. What would like to say to them?


GV: I would say it is okay to feel sorry for yourself, but don’t let these feelings overwhelm you. Every day is the most important race in your life. Every day is a conquest. Remember, you are not a victim of life. Some challenges are only for the ones that are capable of enduring them. You have to prove to yourself that you are capable of beating this disease, even though you don’t feel ready. You cannot always be ready for an unknown challenge, and cancer is an unknown challenge.


JF: Well, it certainly is, and those are very wise words coming from someone who has truly walked the walk. Now, there are ways to people to learn more about you online and through social media and is there is anything else you would like to share with us?


GV: Thanks everybody for listening to me, and to you, Jim, with my English. I hope my story can help in any way. Every person has a story and every story is always valuable. Every person has something to teach us, so it is very important to remember this in every aspect of our lives.


JF: Is there somewhere on social media where people can learn more about you?


GV: You can look for me on Facebook or on Instagram as Gianna.Velarde.


JF: Gianna, thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey and expertise with us today. You truly have an encouraging story about cancer outcome and continued good health.


GV: Thank you, Jim.


JF: And for all of you listening to the podcast, please remember that are not alone. We are all a part of a team, and we wish you the best possible outcome with cancer journey, so until next time, take care and we will see you on down the road.


Jim Foster: Hello and welcome to the Cancer Interviews podcast. I’m your host, Jim Foster, and on this episode I have the pleasure of introducing a very courageous young woman from Lima, Peru, who not only overcame cancer at a young age, but went on to compete in one of the world’s most difficult and challenging motorcycle races. It’s our hope that you will find her story both informational and inspirational. So please join me in welcoming Gianna Velarde from her home in Lima. Gianna, welcome to Cancer Interviews.

Gianna Velarde: Hi, Jim. Hi, everyone, it is really a joy to share my story. I really hope people will learn something from it. This opportunity is a blessing, and thank you very much.


JF: Well, thank you, Gianna, and before we get into talking about your cancer journey, we would like to get to know more about you, like where you are from, what you were interested in as a child and what your life was like before you were diagnosed with cancer.


GV: I am actually thinking of moving from Lima to Canada to study work. The last two years I have devoted my energy to my business, a motorcycle school for kids, teenagers and adults. My life before cancer was quite different. I was depressed as a teenager. At age 15, that’s a tough age for every human being, and when I was 15, I was diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t very close to my parents, but the diagnosis actually created a strong bond with my parents, a very strong bond.


JF: At what age did you figure something was wrong with your health, and what did you do to learn that it might be cancer?


GV: You may remember about ten years ago, the scare with the H1N1 flu? At the schools in Peru, some kids had to go into quarantine for a month, and all that month, I spent it in bed. I was sweating a lot and had to change my clothes many times a night. I lost a lot of weight and had shortness of breath. It was pretty obvious I was getting ill, and then a large lump appeared in my neck, it was very, very big. I learned about it from a friend. We were playing soccer and my friend pointed it out. It was only then that I realized I had this lump, and then my grandma took me to the hospital and I learned I had cancer.


JF: What type of cancer were you diagnosed with, and how did you respond to the news?


GV: I was diagnosed with lymphoma third stage. At first, I didn’t know what that meant, and the word ‘cancer’ sounded very distant, you know. Then I noticed how people looked at me, with a great deal of pity. That was a very difficult part of my cancer journey.


JF: How did you go about determining the best treatment option?


GV: Ten years ago, cancer treatment was very limited. Now I know people have more options. But for me, treatment included chemotherapy and radiation therapy, 16 rounds of chemo and 32 rounds of radiation. My hair was falling out, but I never shaved it off, I wasn’t that brave. One of the toughest things I had to endure as losing my hair.


JF: I remember from my cancer experience, my hair would come out on my pillow at night. When I woke up there would be all this hair on my pillow.


GV: That happened to me a lot. I would wake up and there would be big pieces of hair on the pillow. When I would look in the mirror, I could see the back of my head and lots of missing hair, like an old person, but here I was, 15 years old. It was pretty hard to endure.


JF: The good news is, it looks like your hair grew back. As for your treatment, where did that place?


GV: I took my cancer treatment at a clinic in Lima, and it took me a year to beat the disease. I had to be 

hospitalized for the first five chemos, but for the last ones, I was at a clinic. After some of the chemos, I would go to the gym or ride a bicycle.


JF: Well, you’re very fortunate to do that. Did you have family and friends to help with your support?


GV: One of the things I learned was very obvious. It is not just the patient that has the disease itself. It is the 


whole family, and the people who love us. So there were days when my mother felt overwhelmed, so I recognized the disease wasn’t only my disease. It was a disease for my mother, my father, my whole family, and friends, too. Cancer doesn’t make just one hit; it hits your entire family, all your beloved ones.


JF: That is so true, and for you to recognize that, especially as a young person, that’s very impressive. It does affect everyone around you, even though you are the one going through the treatments. Now, you mentioned your hair loss. What were some of the other side effects, and how did you deal with them?


GV: The first and most important one was my hormonal system. I didn’t produce hormones due to the treatment because I had the cancer under my stomach. This was a fight ever since the doctor discharged me. My weight was as unstable as my moods. One month I would weigh 56 kilograms (123 pounds), and the next, I would weigh 64 kilograms. That’s because my hormones were all out of whack. I had to go on some supplements to help with my hormones. For a girl, a woman, it’s very important to produce hormones, for your bones, your skin, your ability to reproduce, you know, to be strong. That was a very important part of the disease for me, my hormonal system because when you finish your treatment, you want to be like normal, you know, have a normal life. This disease left me with a hormonal system that wasn’t stable.


JF: So the matter of your hormones sounds like an ongoing problem.


GV: Yes, because it is very hard for me to do this. It’s very hard.


JF: Were you able to continue with school or work, and if so, what was that like?


GV: Yes, I was able to go on with my life. I was not tempted to go through life by being a victim of cancer, and that my life would stop because of cancer. I wasn’t going to recognize that, so I wasn’t going to let that happen. My life continued, but respecting every limitation necessary. But I never stopped because of cancer.

JF: That’s wonderful. Were there some goals that you set while you were undergoing treatments?


GV: One of the things that helped me get through this disease was practicing sports, especially the motorcycle. When I put my helmet on, I didn’t think of myself as a girl with cancer. I was a rider trying to overcome every obstacle that nature offers. That feeling overcame every bit of emptiness I felt from cancer.


JF: We talked a bit about your lowest points, losing your hair and your hormonal system being compromised. When did you know, or feel, that you had beaten cancer? What was that feeling like?


GV: I remember the best feeling I had was my final chemo treatment. I was tired of the mood of the clinic, and the food, the food was unbearable, so it was a big moment for me, my last chemo. There was this feeling, like this is not going to happen again. It was really priceless.


JF: But you also underwent radiation treatment.


GV: Yes, I underwent radiation 32 times, and that’s what destroyed my hormone system. It wasn’t the chemo, it was the radiation, and that was after the chemo.

JF: When you finished the radiation, what did your doctor say, and how did you know you had reached the end of your cancer journey at that point?

GV: My doctor always supported my riding my motorcycle, but my mom didn’t know I was riding. It would have been a nightmare for her if she knew I was riding a motorcycle while on chemotherapy. When riding and trying to climb the steepest hills, I would be falling, then having to pick up the bike, and it was very heavy. My doctor told me I shouldn’t stop my life because of cancer. That was a very strong feeling that was implanted in my mind.


JF: Gianna, it sounds like you were very fortunate that your cancer journey had been successful. Once you came to that point, what was your next big challenge?

GV: It was riding in the Dakar motorcycle race. There was a lot to do. I had to raise the necessary funds, get a sponsor, a good bike, practice navigation, plus I was going to school and I had my business. I had to be strong in all those areas of my life, wanting to do them all at the same time, and I wanted to conquer Dakar. It was really difficult when I broke my collarbone two months before Dakar.


JF: For anyone in our audience not familiar with the Dakar rally, can you explain what it is?


GV: Dakar rally is the most difficult race in the world. Not just because the participation is very hard, but you have to gather the money, you have to prepare your body, your mind to be along many hours and make important decisions by yourself. On the bike, you are completely alone. You may need a rest, you may need for the bike to cool down, but at the same time you know that takes up precious time, as you may need to be at a certain point in two hours and have 100 kilometers to go. You need to prepare yourself to do all of these things by yourself because you won’t have anyone there to give you advice. This is why this race is so hard for me.

JF: How many days is the Dakar rally?

GV: It is about 15 days.


JF: For you, what was the lowest moment in the Dakar rally?

GV: The lowest moment was when I couldn’t cross the finish line in the third day because my bike’s engine broke down just six kilometers from the finish line, so that was very hard. I learned that you cannot conquer the world by yourself. You need people in your corner. I know this race is a race of one, but you need to the love of people who want to see you conquer, who want to see you successful. It’s really worth it, it really makes you feel like you are not alone, riding in the desert, because you have people who love you, as a co-pilot.

JF: What was your favorite moment from the Dakar rally experience?

GV: My favorite memory was the first day. I was so scared and intimidated. However, after the race began I realized I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. I put a Peruvian flag on my jacket, so every time I was riding the flag in the desert, Peru was my co-pilot, so the fear actually vanished and I was full with bravery, with courage.


JF: And your Dakar rally was entirely in Peru, correct?

GV: Yes, but I only lasted three days because my engine broke down six kilometers before the finish line on the third day.


JF: Yes, but it sounds like you were victorious in the experience. You had mentioned in an online interview, and I hope I am quoting this correctly that, “The woman who is leaving is different than the woman who comes back.” Can you explain what that means?

GV: I meant that every great event changes you because you have to overcome obstacles, you have new failures, you have so much learning that when you go through this experience, you won’t be the same person. I have conquered many things, but I have also had many failures, and if you don’t fall, if you don’t fail, you don’t learn anything at all.

JF: You also involved in charity work. What do you enjoy most about that?

GV: Actually I have a school where I teach kids and teenagers how to ride a motorcycle. However, I also teach them about my experience, so they have useful knowledge they can apply in their own lives. You don’t achieve your goal on the first try. You need to get up after you fall, to achieve those goals. It’s not going to be easy. That’s what I share with the students in my goal. I also have taught young ladies with cancer how to ride a bike. A girl with cancer, she has cancer, she a disease, but that doesn’t mean she is going to be dead or a victim, she can actually do pretty amazing stuff. You know a motorcycle is known to some as a ‘vehicle of death’. In my country, they say if you buy yourself a motorcycle, you also need to buy yourself a place in the cemetery, people say that.


JF: As a goal setter, what are one or two goals that you have set for yourself for the future?

GV: My goal is to find my own way in this new chapter of my life. I recently closed a very important chapter. I want to be loved for what I am, and not for what other people believe is right. I would also like to ride another Dakar in another two or three years.


JF: Before we finish our visit today, imagine that there is one person out there that has just been diagnosed with cancer. What would like to say to them?


GV: I would say it is okay to feel sorry for yourself, but don’t let these feelings overwhelm you. Every day is the most important race in your life. Every day is a conquest. Remember, you are not a victim of life. Some challenges are only for the ones that are capable of enduring them. You have to prove to yourself that you are capable of beating this disease, even though you don’t feel ready. You cannot always be ready for an unknown challenge, and cancer is an unknown challenge.


JF: Well, it certainly is, and those are very wise words coming from someone who has truly walked the walk. Now, there are ways to people to learn more about you online and through social media and is there is anything else you would like to share with us?


GV: Thanks everybody for listening to me, and to you, Jim, with my English. I hope my story can help in any way. Every person has a story and every story is always valuable. Every person has something to teach us, so it is very important to remember this in every aspect of our lives.

JF: Is there somewhere on social media where people can learn more about you?

GV: You can look for me on Facebook or on Instagram as Gianna.Velarde.

JF: Gianna, thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey and expertise with us today. You truly have an encouraging story about cancer outcome and continued good health.

GV: Thank you, Jim.


JF: And for all of you listening to the podcast, please remember that are not alone. We are all a part of a team, and we wish you the best possible outcome with cancer journey, so until next time, take care and we will see you on down the road.


Jim Foster: Hello and welcome to the Cancer Interviews podcast. I’m your host, Jim Foster, and on this episode I have the pleasure of introducing a very courageous young woman from Lima, Peru, who not only overcame cancer at a young age, but went on to compete in one of the world’s most difficult and challenging motorcycle races. It’s our hope that you will find her story both informational and inspirational. So please join me in welcoming Gianna Velarde from her home in Lima. Gianna, welcome to Cancer Interviews.

Gianna Velarde: Hi, Jim. Hi, everyone, it is really a joy to share my story. I really hope people will learn something from it. This opportunity is a blessing, and thank you very much.


JF: Well, thank you, Gianna, and before we get into talking about your cancer journey, we would like to get to know more about you, like where you are from, what you were interested in as a child and what your life was like before you were diagnosed with cancer.


GV: I am actually thinking of moving from Lima to Canada to study work. The last two years I have devoted my energy to my business, a motorcycle school for kids, teenagers and adults. My life before cancer was quite different. I was depressed as a teenager. At age 15, that’s a tough age for every human being, and when I was 15, I was diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t very close to my parents, but the diagnosis actually created a strong bond with my parents, a very strong bond.


JF: At what age did you figure something was wrong with your health, and what did you do to learn that it might be cancer?


GV: You may remember about ten years ago, the scare with the H1N1 flu? At the schools in Peru, some kids had to go into quarantine for a month, and all that month, I spent it in bed. I was sweating a lot and had to change my clothes many times a night. I lost a lot of weight and had shortness of breath. It was pretty obvious I was getting ill, and then a large lump appeared in my neck, it was very, very big. I learned about it from a friend. We were playing soccer and my friend pointed it out. It was only then that I realized I had this lump, and then my grandma took me to the hospital and I learned I had cancer.


JF: What type of cancer were you diagnosed with, and how did you respond to the news?

GV: I was diagnosed with lymphoma third stage. At first, I didn’t know what that meant, and the word ‘cancer’ sounded very distant, you know. Then I noticed how people looked at me, with a great deal of pity. That was a very difficult part of my cancer journey.



JF: How did you go about determining the best treatment option?

GV: Ten years ago, cancer treatment was very limited. Now I know people have more options. But for me, treatment included chemotherapy and radiation therapy, 16 rounds of chemo and 32 rounds of radiation. My hair was falling out, but I never shaved it off, I wasn’t that brave. One of the toughest things I had to endure as losing my hair.

JF: I remember from my cancer experience, my hair would come out on my pillow at night. When I woke up there would be all this hair on my pillow.

GV: That happened to me a lot. I would wake up and there would be big pieces of hair on the pillow. When I would look in the mirror, I could see the back of my head and lots of missing hair, like an old person, but here I was, 15 years old. It was pretty hard to endure.

JF: The good news is, it looks like your hair grew back. As for your treatment, where did that place?

GV: I took my cancer treatment at a clinic in Lima, and it took me a year to beat the disease. I had to be hospitalized for the first five chemos, but for the last ones, I was at a clinic. After some of the chemos, I would go to the gym or ride a bicycle.


JF: Well, you’re very fortunate to do that. Did you have family and friends to help with your support?

GV: One of the things I learned was very obvious. It is not just the patient that has the disease itself. It is the whole family, and the people who love us. So there were days when my mother felt overwhelmed, so I recognized the disease wasn’t only my disease. It was a disease for my mother, my father, my whole family, and friends, too. Cancer doesn’t make just one hit; it hits your entire family, all your beloved ones.

JF: That is so true, and for you to recognize that, especially as a young person, that’s very impressive. It does affect everyone around you, even though you are the one going through the treatments. Now, you mentioned your hair loss. What were some of the other side effects, and how did you deal with them?

GV: The first and most important one was my hormonal system. I didn’t produce hormones due to the treatment because I had the cancer under my stomach. This was a fight ever since the doctor discharged me. My weight was as unstable as my moods. One month I would weigh 56 kilograms (123 pounds), and the next, I would weigh 64 kilograms. That’s because my hormones were all out of whack. I had to go on some supplements to help with my hormones. For a girl, a woman, it’s very important to produce hormones, for your bones, your skin, your ability to reproduce, you know, to be strong. That was a very important part of the disease for me, my hormonal system because when you finish your treatment, you want to be like normal, you know, have a normal life. This disease left me with a hormonal system that wasn’t stable.

JF: So the matter of your hormones sounds like an ongoing problem.


GV: Yes, because it is very hard for me to do this. It’s very hard.

JF: Were you able to continue with school or work, and if so, what was that like?

GV: Yes, I was able to go on with my life. I was not tempted to go through life by being a victim of cancer, and that my life would stop because of cancer. I wasn’t going to recognize that, so I wasn’t going to let that happen. My life continued, but respecting every limitation necessary. But I never stopped because of cancer.

JF: That’s wonderful. Were there some goals that you set while you were undergoing treatments?

GV: One of the things that helped me get through this disease was practicing sports, especially the motorcycle. When I put my helmet on, I didn’t think of myself as a girl with cancer. I was a rider trying to overcome every obstacle that nature offers. That feeling overcame every bit of emptiness I felt from cancer.

JF: We talked a bit about your lowest points, losing your hair and your hormonal system being compromised. When did you know, or feel, that you had beaten cancer? What was that feeling like?

GV: I remember the best feeling I had was my final chemo treatment. I was tired of the mood of the clinic, and the food, the food was unbearable, so it was a big moment for me, my last chemo. There was this feeling, like this is not going to happen again. It was really priceless.

JF: But you also underwent radiation treatment.


GV: Yes, I underwent radiation 32 times, and that’s what destroyed my hormone system. It wasn’t the chemo, it was the radiation, and that was after the chemo.

JF: When you finished the radiation, what did your doctor say, and how did you know you had reached the end of your cancer journey at that point?

GV: My doctor always supported my riding my motorcycle, but my mom didn’t know I was riding. It would have been a nightmare for her if she knew I was riding a motorcycle while on chemotherapy. When riding and trying to climb the steepest hills, I would be falling, then having to pick up the bike, and it was very heavy. My doctor told me I shouldn’t stop my life because of cancer. That was a very strong feeling that was implanted in my mind.


JF: Gianna, it sounds like you were very fortunate that your cancer journey had been successful. Once you came to that point, what was your next big challenge?

GV: It was riding in the Dakar motorcycle race. There was a lot to do. I had to raise the necessary funds, get a sponsor, a good bike, practice navigation, plus I was going to school and I had my business. I had to be strong in all those areas of my life, wanting to do them all at the same time, and I wanted to conquer Dakar. It was really difficult when I broke my collarbone two months before Dakar.

JF: For anyone in our audience not familiar with the Dakar rally, can you explain what it is?

GV: Dakar rally is the most difficult race in the world. Not just because the participation is very hard, but you have to gather the money, you have to prepare your body, your mind to be along many hours and make important decisions by yourself. On the bike, you are completely alone. You may need a rest, you may need for the bike to cool down, but at the same time you know that takes up precious time, as you may need to be at a certain point in two hours and have 100 kilometers to go. You need to prepare yourself to do all of these things by yourself because you won’t have anyone there to give you advice. This is why this race is so hard for me.

JF: How many days is the Dakar rally?

GV: It is about 15 days.


JF: For you, what was the lowest moment in the Dakar rally?

GV: The lowest moment was when I couldn’t cross the finish line in the third day because my bike’s engine broke down just six kilometers from the finish line, so that was very hard. I learned that you cannot conquer the world by yourself. You need people in your corner. I know this race is a race of one, but you need to the love of people who want to see you conquer, who want to see you successful. It’s really worth it, it really makes you feel like you are not alone, riding in the desert, because you have people who love you, as a co-pilot.

JF: What was your favorite moment from the Dakar rally experience?

GV: My favorite memory was the first day. I was so scared and intimidated. However, after the race began I realized I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. I put a Peruvian flag on my jacket, so every time I was riding the flag in the desert, Peru was my co-pilot, so the fear actually vanished and I was full with bravery, with courage.


JF: And your Dakar rally was entirely in Peru, correct?


GV: Yes, but I only lasted three days because my engine broke down six kilometers before the finish line on the third day.


JF: Yes, but it sounds like you were victorious in the experience. You had mentioned in an online interview, and I hope I am quoting this correctly that, “The woman who is leaving is different than the woman who comes back.” Can you explain what that means?


GV: I meant that every great event changes you because you have to overcome obstacles, you have new failures, you have so much learning that when you go through this experience, you won’t be the same person. I have conquered many things, but I have also had many failures, and if you don’t fall, if you don’t fail, you don’t learn anything at all.


JF: You also involved in charity work. What do you enjoy most about that?

GV: Actually I have a school where I teach kids and teenagers how to ride a motorcycle. However, I also teach them about my experience, so they have useful knowledge they can apply in their own lives. You don’t achieve your goal on the first try. You need to get up after you fall, to achieve those goals. It’s not going to be easy. That’s what I share with the students in my goal. I also have taught young ladies with cancer how to ride a bike. A girl with cancer, she has cancer, she a disease, but that doesn’t mean she is going to be dead or a victim, she can actually do pretty amazing stuff. You know a motorcycle is known to some as a ‘vehicle of death’. In my country, they say if you buy yourself a motorcycle, you also need to buy yourself a place in the cemetery, people say that.


JF: As a goal setter, what are one or two goals that you have set for yourself for the future?

GV: My goal is to find my own way in this new chapter of my life. I recently closed a very important chapter. I want to be loved for what I am, and not for what other people believe is right. I would also like to ride another Dakar in another two or three years.


JF: Before we finish our visit today, imagine that there is one person out there that has just been diagnosed with cancer. What would like to say to them?

GV: I would say it is okay to feel sorry for yourself, but don’t let these feelings overwhelm you. Every day is the most important race in your life. Every day is a conquest. Remember, you are not a victim of life. Some challenges are only for the ones that are capable of enduring them. You have to prove to yourself that you are capable of beating this disease, even though you don’t feel ready. You cannot always be ready for an unknown challenge, and cancer is an unknown challenge.


JF: Well, it certainly is, and those are very wise words coming from someone who has truly walked the walk. Now, there are ways to people to learn more about you online and through social media and is there is anything else you would like to share with us?


GV: Thanks everybody for listening to me, and to you, Jim, with my English. I hope my story can help in any way. Every person has a story and every story is always valuable. Every person has something to teach us, so it is very important to remember this in every aspect of our lives.


JF: Is there somewhere on social media where people can learn more about you?


GV: You can look for me on Facebook or on Instagram as Gianna.Velarde.

JF: Gianna, thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey and expertise with us today. You truly have an encouraging story about cancer outcome and continued good health.

GV: Thank you, Jim.


JF: And for all of you listening to the podcast, please remember that are not alone. We are all a part of a team, and we wish you the best possible outcome with cancer journey, so until next time, take care and we will see you on down the road.

0