OXFORD, Me. -- As Ricky Rolfe pulls into technical inspection at Oxford Plains Speedway, it appears to be business as usual. The 46 year-old from nearby Albany Township is a multi-time champion at the track and is among the all-time winners, surely winning a 12-lap qualifying heat is no big deal.
But on Sunday, it was a big deal. Rolfe begins his first round of chemotherapy for colon cancer at 7:00 on Monday morning.
“I’m fine, I’m feeling real good,” Rolfe says, although it took him a couple extra moments to climb out of his car.
“About the first of March I had symptoms that something was wrong. I went to the doctor’s and they decided to do a colonoscopy and discovered I had a tumor in my colon,” Rolfe explains.
Within five days of the visit, Rolfe was on the operating table as doctors removed one-third of his colon. His road to recovery is just beginning, though.
“They discovered a little bit of cancer in other places,” Rolfe says, although he quickly adds “but nothing major.”
Three weeks after his surgery, Rolfe was with his doctor again to get a port inserted in his chest to assist in administering chemotherapy treatments. Ever the racer, Rolfe brought his HANS head-and-neck restraint system with him, instructing the doctor to place the port away from where the HANS shoulder supports fit.
Rolfe’s heat victory came against the American-Canadian Tour, a series he contested full-time for the first time last year. He finished a respectable tenth in driver points and expected to improve upon that this summer. Instead, he’ll stay closer to home in 2010, with the goal of winning the Oxford Plains Speedway championship – even as he undergoes his treatments.
“This is home,” he smiled. “Even a bad day here is good. I just like it here. I’m going to miss Tour racing, but with the chemo I’m probably going to be pretty fatigued. So we’re not going to concentrate on the Tour this year, we’re gonna concentrate here. You know, local races are twenty-minute races at the most, but if I feel good and I’m healthy we might go to [ACT races at] Lee and do the Beech Ridge race, stuff like that.
“Just to make it [to the track] every week is going to be big-time, and if I win the championship this year with everything that’s going on… This same thing happened to my father a month before me. Same operation, same everything, he’s going through it, too, except he opted not to take chemo.”
The distraction of Rolfe’s cancer might be enough to sideline most drivers, in addition to the added stress of his father’s health. But Rolfe says he’ll keep pressing on.
“I’m young enough where I want to keep racing for a while. I want to be like Joey Laquerre and race when I’m sixty-something.”