Friday, November 26, 2010

With Thanks for Giving

I'm grateful that last post was made before arriving home since I hit the ground running and haven't stopped long enough to unpack my bike so I'm even more grateful for a holiday break to publicly express my gratitude to all who contributed support for the 2010 NYCDC AIDS Research Ride...

Dear Friends,

Surely you’ve done it. Grabbed a camera or phone from purse or pocket and suddenly you’ve snapped a picture of the ground, your foot or dark interior of your bag. When I finally got around to uploading my ride pictures, there it was, that accidental grab shot screaming its message at me.

My brother was an artist. As a kid, Bret was constantly doodling large-eyed, smiling creatures – camel, giraffe, dolphin, fish, turtle; simple drawings, simple scenes, designed to make you smile. This spring, Mom called to say she had turned Bret’s camel into a wall-hanging for my sister, Tammie, currently on civilian duty in Afghanistan. When she suggested making another into a birthday gift to carry on my ride, I knew instantly it had to be the turtle. Too obvious perhaps to suggest my choice had to do with consistently riding at the back of the pack and pressing through long days, hurricane, snowstorm and heat wave to cross the finish line by dinnertime. My eye remains on a bigger prize, slow to achieve but worthy of persistent effort. This year I didn’t pedal any faster but was inspired by a glimpse of this even bigger finish.

At the eastern edge of the Chesapeake Bay on the last night of this year’s NYCDC AIDS Research Ride, Todd Hawley stood in front of 50 cyclists and crew and shared his 2010 turtle story. Todd had been hired by Dr. Wu to manually test hundreds of drugs, one at a time, for the better part of the year. You see, Dr. Wu discovered how HIV tricks a body’s immune system into the fatal move of accepting the virus into its cells. Now these scientists had only to find a way to teach the body’s T-cells to recognize and turn away the deadly virus. Instead of designing a treatment from scratch, Dr. Wu chose to first try testing the wide array of cancer-fighting drugs already much further along in the FDA approval process (nice shortcut!). Cancer research labs have fancy, expensive equipment to make drug-testing fast and easy but these labs aren’t too keen on introducing deadly viruses into their sterile environment so Todd tested each one by hand; slow, tedious work. On this night, after climbing from a tent at 4:30 each of the last 3 mornings to help mark the day’s cycling route, Todd couldn’t hide his excitement in sharing with those who had solicited his funding that one drug had tested with extremely hopeful results. In his Petri dish, after countless failed attempts, a fraction of the normal cancer treatment dose had successfully shut out HIV.

This is the kind of unrelenting, preliminary research not typically funded by the NIH or similar deep-pocket grant agencies. This research was funded by you. The roughly $100,000 generated by this year’s event will take these inspiring results to the next step on Dr. Yuntao Wu’s FDA path to human trial and treatment to end AIDS. A glimpse of the finish line has been revealed. Sometimes it fades from view, around the corner or over the horizon, but knowing it is there and why we so desperately must cross it will keep this turtle plodding along.

Thank you for bringing, and sustaining, hope for the journey.

NYCDC AIDS Research Ride 2010


CaityJay said...

Wow. That is really, really cool. I obviously need to read your blog more often (think I know where I got my writing skills!). <3

Anonymous said...

perwabsok you did it made you made me cry. for being a bad friend and not getting my donation in and 2nd for the picture of the turtle. i still have the denim hat that you made and embroidered all of bret's animals on it. i bet the camel is awesome!
what a fun time we had!!
hope all is well with you and that you had a great thanksgiving. i really do think of you often.
love you much!!

Anonymous said...

opps that first part of the comments was the word verification i was suppose to use. this high tech stuff is too much for me!!!