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Brooklyn cyclist pedals hard to defeat scourge of cancer

Park Slope resident Lisa Indovino had always been an athlete ever since her Venice, Florida childhood, when her father tossed her softball pitches and taught her how to ride a bike.

So Indovino, 31, was intrigued when she heard about the Five Boro Bike Tour, the 42−mile ride through New York City that takes place this May 3. But when she tried to sign up, she discovered there were no openings for individual riders.

But all was not lost, because this year, the race welcomed teams of riders that raised money for charity. There was a charitable cause close to Indovino’s heart: Nearly a year ago, her father, Peter, was diagnosed with lymphoma, the most common form of blood cancer and the third most common cancer among children.

Along with 90 other cyclists, Indovino will ride with Team LRF, raising money for the Lymphoma Research Foundation. Though she was originally skeptical about being able to raise $800 in pledges needed to join the team, she blew past that with $1,333 as of press time.

Since his diagnosis last May, Peter Indovino, 71, who grew up in Park Slope but moved to Florida decades ago, has seen his cancer retreat into remission. But he is not technically cured, so the work of LRF is of immediate importance to the Indovinos and the families of all who have the disease. (According to the National Cancer Institute, 26.6 males and 18.9 females out of every 100,000 in the United States are at some point diagnosed with lymphoma.)

The Indovinos have not forgotten their harrowing experience last year when Peter, who had been the picture of health into his 70s, began acting withdrawn and disoriented. A visit to the emergency room, MRI, biopsy, and diagnosis followed.

“It was honestly the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my whole life,” recalled Indovino, who attributed her father’s behavior to swelling in his brain resulting from the tumor pressing into it.

Actually, the lymphoma diagnosis came as somewhat of a relief. Originally, the family thought it could have been glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain tumor. Such a diagnosis would have given him three to six months to live.

“Obviously, lymphoma isn’t something you want, but it was kind of the lesser of two evils because it’s treatable,” Indovino said.

Peter responded relatively well to radiation and chemotherapy. By January, just in time to celebrate his 50th anniversary with his wife, Mary, the cancer was declared in remission.

Indovino says that Peter has lost a little short−term memory, but is otherwise fine. She was thankful he didn’t suffer any seriously debilitating cognitive effects.

“Even when it was really bad, he never lost knowing who we were,” she said.

She is proud to be riding 42 miles for the man who taught her how to ride a bike, and for all lymphoma sufferers and survivors.

“It’s a great tribute to him. Everything he went though, it was not an easy road,” she said.

“Even though he’s better, he’s still not cured. Knock on wood this doesn’t come back, but there’s a decent chance it will. So it’s really important to help support the cause.”

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