Grandview Heights resident Santino Cua's Pelotonia ride driven by mom's grit

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
Grandview Heights resident Santino Cua speaks during an Ohio State University College of Medicine memorial service held for those who donate their bodies to science. Cua, a third-year medical student at OSU, dedicated his life to medicine after his mother died of brain cancer in 2014.

Six years ago, Santino Cua's mother died after a battle with brain cancer.

Laura Cua was 59 when she died in June 2014. She suffered from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that no one survives.

"One of the last promises I made to her is that I would dedicate my life to medicine and helping to provide cancer care for patients and their loved ones," Santino Cua said.

Cua is well on his way to fulfilling that mission as a third-year medical student at Ohio State University.

The 27-year-old Grandview Heights resident is a member of the BSR-Spin Doctors Peloton team, composed of students from OSU's College of Medicine.

Cua rode last year in the peloton and was looking forward to completing the 100-mile Columbus-to-Gambier route in the 2020 event.

But because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and a desire to keep participants, volunteers and supporters safe, Pelotonia in May canceled its annual weekend ride and in-person events, which were slated Friday to Sunday, Aug. 7 to 9.

In its place, a reimagined 2020 Pelotonia has been rolling on virtually, with participants setting their own fundraising and activity goals and tracking them through mypelotonia.org to continue the mission of supporting cancer research at Ohio State University’s James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.

This year's format includes a unifying event in the spirit of Pelotonia's traditional opening ceremony: a special broadcast called Legends LIVE! that will be streamed on pelotonia.org/rise, Facebook (facebook.com/pelotonia) and YouTube (youtube.com/ridepelotonia) from 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 7.

"As we've had to pivot away from our traditional mass physical gathering this year, our priority has been to create new opportunities for our community to engage and continue to raise critical funds for cancer research," said Doug Ulman, president and CEO of Pelotonia. "The My Pelotonia platform and upcoming Legends LIVE! broadcast on Friday, Aug. 7, allows anyone anywhere to play an important role in Pelotonia's mission this year."

Cua's revised Pelotonia goal has three components.

A 50-mile Heroes Ride will honor those who have survived cancer, he said.

"As survivors, they offer hope and inspiration for those who are diagnosed with cancer or those who are doing the research work to find a cure or are providing care to patients," Cua said.

He is dedicating a second 50-mile ride, the Legends Ride, to the memory of those who lost their battle to cancer and the loved ones they left behind.

"Our hope is that they didn't fight in vain," Cua said. "Raising money to support the research at the James Center has already led to advancements in treatment and is one way to ensure their loss wasn't in vain."

Cua also is pledging to ride 0.1 mile for every $1 he raises in honor of whomever his donors want to dedicate their donation.

"I plan to find some way to remember their loved ones at some point and in some way during my ride," he said.

His fundraising goal is $2,500, and as of July 30, Cua had raised $1,600 -- which means in addition to the two 50-mile treks, he has at least another 160 miles ahead of him.

OSU medical students will have a break in late August and early September, and that's when Cua plans to complete the additional miles.

Cua participated in last year's Pelotonia, and he said he will miss the energy and inspiration of the event.

"It's such a wonderful communal experience," he said. "You have the dedication of all the riders, some of whom are cancer survivors themselves, with the support you get from all the spectators along the route."

All during last year's ride, and through the rides he will make this year, Cua said, he thinks always of his mother and the courage she displayed in her fight against an unbeatable opponent.

"One of the things she taught me is that you can't control the cards you're dealt, but you can control how you react to them," he said.

His mother kept fighting, which inspired him to make his promise to her, Cua said.

He plans to pursue a career as a neuro-oncologist or neurosurgeon.

He said he hopes that someday, a treatment or cure for glioblastoma will become a reality.

It would be the ultimate fulfillment of a promise to his mom -- and to all brain-cancer patients, Cua said.

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