At the age of 34, Elizabeth Dols is no stranger to the word cancer. She was first diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 26, undergoing chemotherapy and had two-thirds of her right lung removed to treat it. In early 2008, after a year of battling the disease, she was finally starting to feel better. Elizabeth decided to treat herself to a vacation when she was hit with more unfortunate news. While away skiing, her doctors called to inform her that her cancer had returned. Elizabeth remained on maintenance chemo treatments for two years and the chemo had worked to suppress her cancer, until 2010 when the cancer relapsed.
Elizabeth learned she was part of the 5-7 per cent of lung cancer patients with the EML4-ALK mutation, which made her eligible for a clinical trial, which she then commercially received once it was approved. The new targeted therapy worked for three years without any sign of the cancer, but unfortunately her battle was far from over as her cancer had metastasized. In January of 2013 doctors removed a brain tumor followed by months of radiation and yet another surgery in June, 2013. Elizabeth has spent over seven years battling cancer at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center.
This October, Elizabeth will participate in the inaugural Ride to Conquer Cancer to give back to the medical community that has worked tirelessly to save her life. She refers to her medical team at the Abramson Cancer Center as her family and she wants to support them, the way they have supported her. “Through the years I have bonded with the doctors and nurses who have supported me through my cancer journey and I am dedicating my ride to them. Take advantage of the services the hospitals offer, talk to someone, get to know your doctors and nurses, as they become family.”
Christine Trumbull recently heard about The Ride to Conquer Cancer and knew that she had to be a part of it. “When I lost my father this past October, I made the life choice to become active and fit, and The Ride seems like the perfect opportunity for me to stay active while I try and fundraise for a cause that’s very close to my heart,” says Christine. She will be riding over 150 miles for her aunt and friend, who are currently battling cancer.
Christine is thrilled to witness the progress of cancer research, and despite a difficult battle, her aunt's life is currently being saved. Christine knows the importance of continued funding and wants to do her part. “I’ve never done something like The Ride and I will admit the commitment has scared me but I’m dedicated and I know I can do it. Sometimes there isn’t much that we can do, but I do believe if we all do our part then we can conquer cancer together!"
Susan Ranck was recently diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor which is so rare, there is not yet a cure. Not too long ago, her cancer was a death sentence but today, Ranck has hope. “I am beyond grateful that funding from research enabled scientists to discover a drug that enabled me to at least control my cancer and now there are options to offset this terrible disease. I am here today thanks to research and breakthrough discoveries,” Ranck says.
Ranck was informed about the Ride to Conquer Cancer and as her way to give back to Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center, and she immediately registered. Originally she was a bit worried by the fundraising goal, however Ranck is one of the top fundraisers, already raising over $5,000 and she does not plan to stop there. “It’s amazing how easy the fundraising as been. I ask and people continue to give and it’s quite inspiring to me! I set a fundraising goal, which I thought might be a challenge but I will continue to raise that goal and fundraise as many critical dollars as I can for this important cause. Unfortunately cancer has touched too many of us. Share the reason you're riding on your personal page, send it with your family and friends and you’ll be amazed how quickly you reach your fundraising goal."
This October Ranck will cycle 150 miles and continues to recruit more people to join her. “I am excited to ride and it’s my hope that with more time and money, the researches at the Abramson Cancer Center will find a cure for my disease and all forms of cancer. I encourage everyone to join me as I know we can all cycle 150 miles and together we will conquer cancer!”
Kim Mumma is riding in The Ride to Conquer Cancer this October, with high hopes that 2014 will be much better than 2013.
Two days after completing a smaller cycling event last May to raise money for local cancer patients, Kim found herself in the hospital with kidney stones. A CT scan to confirm the kidney stones also showed that she had enlarged lymph nodes. Suddenly, two days after cycling for cancer, she was fighting lymphoma. “My brother also fought cancer last year, so it was definitely a terrible year for my family. Fortunately we are both in remission and it’s time to get life back on track.”
After seeing a commercial for The Ride, Kim knew it was an event she wanted to be a part of. Despite fighting MS for the past 20 years and cancer last year, Kim's high spirit is keeping her going and giving her the motivation that she can do this. “It’s time to start the year off right, by being healthy and this is a new direction and goal I can push towards,” says Mumma.
Kim's cancer does not have a cure and although she’s in remission, she is very aware that continued research needs to happen so that she can keep fighting the disease. Originally worried by the fundraising minimum, Kim has already raised over $1,600. “All I’ve done is sent emails to my family and friends from my address book and the response has been fantastic. I’ve shared my personal page and story with them and they have donated to the cause. All you need to do is ask!” Mumma plans to post her personal page on her Facebook soon and think of different avenues throughout the next few months but knows there is no harm in asking people.
“We all have to do the best we can. I don’t know if I’ll be able to cycle every mile but that’s not the point. The point is for me to try and to raise as much money as I can to bring awareness to this very important cause."
My mother was a dedicated nurse who graduated from Thomas Jefferson Univ Nursing School in 1956. She worked at Jefferson, St Chris’ and Abington Hospitals as med/surg and pediatric up until April 2000. She had to leave the job she loved so much as she was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. At 61, Her doctors at Abington felt she would be lucky to make it through til the end of that summer. Never one to take no for an answer and with her background, she did her homework. After 6 months of chemo and radiation and 5 “second” opinions she found Dr. Larry Kaiser and Dr.John Kucharczuk at Penn. When no one else would give her a chance, they performed double lobectomies on her …and she survived. She benefited from the groundbreaking surgery and top doctors in the field.
She went on to see 5 more of her 7 grandchildren born, return to work as VP of Alumni for Jefferson Nursing , care for her hemophiliac brother and countless other family members. People called her a walking miracle.
Thirteen years passed, and this past spring she had trouble swallowing. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 esophageal cancer, a possible result of her previous radiation treatments. She sought counsel from Dr. Kucharczuk once again. Surgery was not an option. Chemo and radiation were the only hope for her. However, traditional radiation would be dangerous. Her only option would be Proton Therapy. And so we once again would put our mother in the trusting hands of the Penn Abramson team. Other institutions did nothing to offer hope and actually told Mom she was in the best hands down at Penn.
We spent many hours, days and months driving down from Blue Bell PA. Had many visits from Penn Home Infusion team. Her treatment was not at all easy. She needed a feeding tube and she experienced horrible radiation burns that took hours of round the clock care. Yet we never questioned whether she could get better treatment anywhere else. All the while we knew we were so very lucky to have Penn in our backyard.
In October after a late night visit to the ER with severe back pain and high fever, she was admitted. A couple of days later we learned that the cancer had spread to her spine. The days in the hospital gave us even more insight into the tremendous professional team that Penn has; from ER, doctors, to the nurses, to security, and even housekeeping. The doctors at Penn continued to investigate ways to fight the cancer. They did not give up hope. When every option was researched and the best option was to move to palliative care, the Penn team continued to offer their expertise and most especially their compassion for her and our family. She came home with the help of the palliative team and about six weeks later with the help of Caring Way and Wissahickon Hospice, Mom peacefully passed away in her own bed surrounded by all of us.
Although the last cancer battle was one that ultimately took her life, I do believe the fact that she chose Penn 13 years ago and now helped us have just that bit more time with her. Granted not everything aspect of her care was perfect, but when in life is it? Chances are we would choose Penn for cancer care over other hospitals any day.
Cancer is a horrible disease. I know it. I lived it. I watched it take my young vibrant mother. Her family lived it with her. Her dear friends as well as mine felt the pain of losing her as well. I have watched it take so many of my family members and I continue to pray for so many of my friends battling today.
In January 2012, Marc went to the doctor's for a checkup when he was diagnosed with nerve damage throughout his lower body. He could no longer play his favorite sports like tennis nor get out on his bike.
In June 2012, Marc fell extremely ill and found himself back in his doctor's office, who urged him to get a bone marrow biopsy, an attempt to further understand his nerve condition. In June 2012, Marc learned the bone marrow biopsy had led to a cancer diagnosis. At only 61-years-old, Marc sadly had Lymphoma.
Now 63, Marc recalls going to the Abramson Cancer Centre for 96-hours of chemotherapy every three weeks from the time of his diagnosis to October 2012. He says throughout his treatment, he would continuously put on water weight as a result of the chemo. To help balance his weight, Marc would ride on an exercise bike, while in hospital, still connected to the chemotherapy.
As it's almost two years since his diagnosis, Marc has been going to Abramson Cancer Centre every three months for routine checkups and doses of medication that helps fight off cancer cells that may act up. He hopes to be finished this treatment in June, a time he is also hoping will mean he has officially become a cancer survivor.
When Marc learned about The Ride to Conquer Cancer, he immediately signed up to participate and has already raised $1,475 for The Abramson Cancer Centre through his 2014 campaign. With him, his wife, Nancy, and two of their closest friends will be participating in the epic event. Marc is so thankful to have had the support of his family and friends throughout this journey and he can't wait to experience The Ride for the first time!”
“I’m supporting this Ride because I have such a close personal connection to cancer. I want to see more money raised to further research on not just Lymphoma, but all types of cancers. The Ride is quite a big challenge. It would mean a great deal to me to accomplish long-distance riding after the health complications that I’ve been through. It would be a great personal victory.”
In 2005, I had it all a beautiful wife, a high profile job on Wall Street, a wonderful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, and three adorable children. But our lives were about to dramatically change.
It was New Year’s Eve, and my wife complained of shortness of breath and started vomiting. At the emergency room, a scan revealed a large mass in her chest cutting off her main artery and crowding her lungs and stomach. Three days later she was diagnosed with PMBL lymphoma, a form of cancer that strikes women of child-bearing age. Six short months later, she had failed all therapies and we were in a desperate fight to delay the inevitable. When she died in early October, she left behind three small children ages 4, 6 and 7 -- and a huge hole in our lives.
Two months after her death I was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma - a mole on my back that had gone neglected while I cared for my wife. I remember telling my dermatologist “I can’t have cancer. My wife just died and I have three small children to care for.”
The standard of surgical care for the mole on my back involved removing an area the size of a salad plate. I returned to work two days later pretending that nothing had happened. Miraculously, I was able to keep up with my high stress job while patching together a way to single parent.
However, melanoma is terribly tenacious. In less than two years it was back. This time in my lymph system and the odds were not in my favor. I must admit that I hesitated to get treatment. There was a high probability the surgery, which would remove 22 lymph nodes from my groin and left leg, would lead to lymphedema, a progressive, degenerative swelling of my leg. I had led a very active life and I had no desire to spend the rest of it disabled. I delayed the decision for almost two months. In the end, I decided to have both the surgery and follow-up chemotherapy in the hope of remaining healthy enough to care for my children. Post-surgery, the physical therapist told me it was unlikely that I would be able to ride a bike again.
But here I am. I received my treatment at the Abramson Cancer Center under the supervision of Dr. Lynn Schuchter. Thankfully, due their excellent care I am NED [No Evidence of Disease].