Tuesday, August 5, 2014

To The Very End

After 20,000 cycling miles peddling your support for HIV/AIDS research and services, why would I switch gears to ask for your donation to cancer research? Again?

Greg – A brother from another mother, compadre in my youth, never missed calling on my birthday and every Mother’s Day, refused to allow HIV to defeat him and, when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, was profoundly comforted that his HIV doc and cancer doc worked so closely together on his care plan. Greg had fought years to move his HIV viral load to undetectable levels but lost his life to cancer.

Nick – So hard to watch a kid spend time in hospitals and treatments instead of ball parks and talk about tumors as easily as video games, but Nick is a fighter and soundly put cancer in its place and grew into a young man I admire. Nick volunteered on last year’s Obliteride and cheered on his cycling dad from the sidelines, then decided he needed a bike too. I should not have been surprised when Dad asked me to join the two of them on a New Year’s Day ride this year and Nick kept right up with us over 45 chilly miles. Last month, Nick rode 200 miles in the Seattle to Portland (STP) bicycle classic and will certainly take his turn on Obliteride, but this year’s timing was bad. They’ll be back - Nick and his Dad.

Dr. Yuntao Wu, Ph.D – Professor of Microbiology & Infectious Diseases at George Mason University, whose HIV lab was 4x beneficiary of the NYCDC AIDS Vaccine Rides and the 2012 Stealth Ride, funding used in part to test the effect of various cancer-fighting drugs on shutting down the protein Wu’s lab discovered is responsible for allowing HIV to enter the T-cell and destroy it, leading to AIDS. Dr. Wu and his lab team, who traveled all those many miles right by our side, introduced me to the connection between cancer and HIV/AIDS research.

Dr. Mark MulliganDirector of the Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center and international leader in clinical trials of HIV vaccines in direct partnership with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, based at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Mark Mulligan was the first person on Atlanta’s AIDS Vaccine 200 to ask why the Puget Sound Riders hadn’t created a cycling event for Fred Hutch back home in Seattle. Perhaps by sheer coincidence, or the raves of a few Hope Clinic devotees to Fred Hutch colleagues about their grassroots funding arm, the Obliteride was born…and Puget Sound Riders joined the cause close to home.

Jon Fehrenbach – Co-founder of the Puget Sound Riders, stalwart training ride leader since 2000, lost a brother to HIV/AIDS who was himself a many year veteran of the California AIDS Ride, convinced me to join him on the 10 year anniversary of that event in its reincarnated form – AIDS LifeCycle 2011. On the 5th night of that 7 day San Francisco to LA ride, Jon’s phone rang. His sister Jeanne’s cancer had returned with a vengeance. Jon finished that ride knowing Jeanne was unlikely to live through the year. Jon registered for the first Obliteride faster than he descends a mountain, re-registered promptly again this year and invited me to do the same.

Initially I turned Jon down. I could easily draw up a very long list of reasons not to ask my donors to dig back into their pocketbooks one more time this year, not to spend another weekend training or (in the absence of said training) powering painfully over a 150 mile hilly weekend ride but the more I thought about Greg, Nick and his dad, Dr. Wu and Dr. Mulligan, and countless friends, relatives colleagues and classmates who have paid the ultimate price or have so much to gain from the outcome of this event….well, wouldn’t you?

This weekend I’ll join Jon and a few hundred other brave cyclists and volunteers on the 2nd annual Obliteride for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. If you’ve already given, thank you. If you want to make a donation, please do, again with my gratitude which you’ll have regardless for having read to the very end.

Hope for the journey, to the very end.

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