Deleena Rankin was told her chance for survival was slim after her first brain cancer surgery.“The doctors gave my son the number of the local hospice,” the 49-year-old rural San Miguel resident recalled.
But through a fierce will to live and the dedicated research of her family, Rankin persevered and underwent a second surgery at Stanford Hospital.
“And here I am now,” Rankin said of the risky operation that had a 25 percent survival rate.Rankin was selected from eight nominees as the Amgen Tour of California’s local Breakaway from Cancer champion for today’s Stage 5 cycling race in Paso Robles.
The special one-mile walk is designed for cancer survivors and their supporters. Those who walk the Breakaway Mile cross the Tour’s finish line before the professional cyclists dash into downtown about 2:45 p.m.
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In previous years, Breakaway featured a special bike ride. But organizers made it a walk this year so it would be more accessible.
Paso Robles is one of five Tour of California stages to host the walk.
Spectators can cheer Rankin from the sidelines.
Those who know Rankin say she will cherish the support.
“The one thing I have learned about her whole situation is never ever give up no matter what is told to you,” said Paso Robles resident Julie Opheim, who nominated Rankin.
“She is like a kid enjoying every moment in life and is truly an inspiration to me.”
Those sentiments proved true this week as Rankin described all the things worth living for. Her two children and two grandchildren made the top of the list, but also her love for cycling and the outdoors.
“I love pretty much everything about (cycling),” she said. “From the smell of the alfalfa fields to seeing all the animals, blooms and flowers,” she said.
Rankin’s cycling history also includes the Wildflower Triathlon, the Lighthouse Century ride through the North Coast and the Sea Otter Classic ride in Monterey.
It’s been a while since she was able to enjoy such rides.
“I do miss the rides,” she said. “Very much so.”
After her brain cancer diagnosis in November and subsequent surgeries to reduce the softball-sized tumor, it’s been a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, radiation and chemotherapy.
Now in recovery, Rankin continues chemotherapy pills to prevent it from growing.The cancer impacted her occipital lobe, triggering the loss of eyesight in her right eye and the peripheral vision in her left, leaving her legally blind.
She hopes to jump on a tandem bike as she builds her strength, she said, “so the front person can be my eyes.”
Until then, she treasures riding a stationary bike her friends gave her during recovery.
BREAKAWAY MILE STARTS AT 2:30 P.M.
The Amgen Tour of California’s Breakaway Mile is scheduled to begin about 2:30 p.m. today. The walk will start at Fourth and Spring streets and end at the Spring Street finish line between 10th and 11th streets before the professional cyclists dash through downtown. Local Breakaway from Cancer champion Deleena Rankin of rural San Miguel will lead 150 cancer survivors, patients, caregivers and advocates during the walk. For more on Wednesday’s race, see Page S1.
INFORMATION FOR TODAY'S RACE
Paso Robles is the fifth stop in the statewide professional cycling race that began Monday in Nevada City and will end in Thousand Oaks on Sunday. Altogether, the tour will cover more than 750 miles. The first stage in Lake Tahoe on Sunday was canceled because of snowy conditions.
Several road closures are planned in and near downtown Paso Robles today to make way for the cyclists and crowds. Planned closures include:
Spring Street between Eighth and 13th streets beginning at 5 a.m.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., motorists aren’t allowed to park along the race course, which enters Paso Robles from Nacimiento Lake Drive and navigates from 24th Street into the downtown area.
Nacimiento Lake Drive will fully close near Slate Ranch Road beginning about 2 p.m. Traffic won’t be allowed to travel west on Nacimiento Lake Drive from that point until after the cyclists have passed.
Segments of 24th, 13th, Sixth, Vine and Spring streets will be temporarily blocked to allow cyclists to pass from about 2 to 3 p.m.
All road closures are scheduled to end by 7 p.m.
There will be no designated parking areas or shuttles this year. Street parking is available in Paso Robles outside the hard closure area.
Race and festival attendees can ride their bikes to downtown Paso Robles and use the bike valet service located at the horseshoe pits near the intersection of 11th and Park streets. The bike valet is open from noon to 5 p.m.
SCHOOL EARLY RELEASE DAY
All Paso Robles Public Schools students will be released early today — at approximately 12:30 p.m. — to help ease traffic concerns and make it possible for students to participate in the Lifestyle Festival and to watch the race.
LIFESTYLE FESTIVAL AT CITY PARK IN PASO ROBLES
The Lifestyle Festival, hosted by race organizers, will be in Downtown City Park from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today, with big-screen projectors, food booths, health screenings, cancer awareness education, live music, food, entertainment, sweepstakes drawings, bicycle safety seminars, family activities and local and national vendors.
STAGE 5 INFORMATION LINE
Those with concerns about accessing a residence or business can call 227-7243.
Highlights and results from Wednesday’s stage. Page S1