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Debora De Napoli

Four years ago, Debora lost her mother, who was also her best friend, to ovarian cancer. Debora’s mother had high-grade serous carcinoma, the most common form of ovarian cancer, and is associated with the genetically inherited BRCA gene. Debora’s mother was not the only family member diagnosed with ovarian cancer; her cousin Mary was also diagnosed around the same time. Knowing that their family had an increased chance of developing the disease, Debora and her three older sisters all went to get genetic testing. They also began having discussions around the possibility of another family member having to go through what their mother had.

Debora woke up one morning with the realization that she wanted to do something to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. She wanted to challenge herself beyond anything she had ever done before and in the process raise awareness of ovarian cancer. Mountain biking had always been Debora’s way of dealing with life challenges and a way to clear her head. Debora decided this challenge would be a two-week mountain biking trip across the Rocky Mountains, from mountain top to mountain top. When she started telling her friends and family about her idea of biking across the Rockies, most people told her it was impossible. People continuously brought up concerns such as the fact that it is too dangerous—what if she injured herself, or encountered a bear? The more people that told Debora she wouldn’t be able to do it, the more determined she was to prove them all wrong.

Debora knew that of all the challenges she could face throughout her trip, they didn’t begin to compare to the challenges her mother faced once she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After watching her mother fight through her illness and after losing the most important person her life, Debora realized that, “no mountain is bigger than life”. Once she had this motto in her head, she knew that she was going to bike across the Rockies, no matter what challenges she faced. Debora wanted her message to reach not only her family and friends, but a larger audience as well. To do this, she decided to make a documentary film about her biking journey inspired by her mother’s battle with ovarian cancer. Debora gathered a team together comprised of a training team (Trek Dirt Series & Endless Biking’s Enduro XC ),filmmaker (Pure Souls), website designer, and a tour operator (Sacred Rides) who helped plan her journey. As word spread, she knew she couldn’t turn back. The idea she had woken up with of doing something to make a difference was rapidly becoming a reality.

Many family and friends attended Debora’s send-off fundraiser, raising money for ovarian cancer research. During Debora’s trip she summited 11 peaks, starting in Fernie BC and ending in Kananaskis AB. She was alone for majority of her daily ride and often had her guides and other teammates join her at the beginning and end of each trail for support. For the last few days and the final peak, Jumping Pound, she was joined by her cameraman, biking alongside her. Throughout Debora’s journey she faced all of the challenges that people had told her she would, but she found ways to overcome each and every one. The day before her final summit, Debora stopped in Banff, the last place her family celebrated Christmas before her mother became extremely ill. Throughout her ride she was so focused on pushing through and not giving up that it wasn’t until she arrived in Banff that the memory of her mother grounded her and reminded her of the purpose behind this trip. Debora’s journey began the day she decided to make a difference, it continued through all of the training and struggles throughout the bike ride, and finally came back to the purpose of her journey, her mother’s memory and inspiration. Her journey had come full circle.

Debora stood at her last summit, full of emotion, gratitude and pride. She felt her mother’s presence and knew how very proud she was of Debora’s incredible accomplishment. Debora eyes filled with tears as she biked away from this summit, she was so grateful and felt blessed to have experienced this journey. “I felt my mom was with me, it was really amazing,” she shares.

Debora hopes that her documentary will reach many women and help create ovarian cancer awareness as well as raise funds towards finding a way to manage this horrible disease. Debora reflects on how strong her mother was when the doctors told her there was nothing more they could do for her and that she would die from this cancer. Debora thinks of mountain biking as a mogul in comparison to the challenges her mother had to face. She truly believes that no mountain is bigger than life.

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Partners:

VGH/UBC Vancouver Coastal Health BC Cancer Foundation BC Cancer Agency UBC Faculty of Medicine