Cancer has been a part of LeighAnn Baize’s life since she was 13. That’s when her dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. After a four-year fight, he passed away during her senior year of high school.
“For my entire adult life, I’ve passed milestones that no one should have to with a giant father-sized hole in my life,” said Baize. “All the biggest moments in my life were a little bittersweet without my Dad to share in them.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time Baize would see cancer enter her life. In late 2010, her mom was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.
“The day she found out, I stopped in to see my mom, and as I walked in the kitchen, she said, ‘I’ve got cancer, would you like a bowl of soup?’ said Baize. “Pragmatism and courage ran through her veins in equal parts.”
Her mom would pass away on Christmas Day 2011, just about a year after her diagnosis. Then, in June of 2019, Baize’s brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 tonsil cancer. He is cancer-free, but still faces an enormous battle because of the difficulty of the treatment.
Due to her family history, Baize had always been vigilant about cancer screenings, but during the pandemic, she considered skipping her annual mammogram. But when a neighbor was diagnosed with breast cancer, it motivated her to get checked.
“When the universe screams at you, it’s best to pay attention,” said Baize.
It’s a good thing she did. Baize was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2020. Fortunately, she is now cancer-free thanks to a double mastectomy.
Having gone through all of this, Baize wanted to give back. As a graduate of the University of Kentucky, she is a huge basketball fan, and always admired Coach Valvano and the work of the V Foundation. Initially, she planned to ride to honor her parents’ memory and support her brother. After her diagnosis, she’s now also riding for herself.
“Cancer is the ultimate wild card. You lose so much the moment the biopsy comes back positive,” said Baize. “But cycling is where I am in control. I have all the power. I decide the distance, tempo, gear and soundtrack. To accomplish my goal of completing the century ride is a symbol, for me, of full reclamation of my life.”