Dave's Campaign for Head and Neck Cancer Research
On July 14th, I’ll be joining hundreds of other cyclists as we test our mettle on the Death Ride in the heart of the Sierras. The route earns its intimidating name by taking us over 5 mountain passes in the heart of the Sierras, covering 129 miles and climbing over 15,000 feet of elevation in a single day. I’ve decided to turn the ride into a fundraiser and am rebranding it the “Life Ride” to celebrate the second chance at life that Dr. Sue Yom and her team at UCSF has given me and so many others. My goal of raising $3000 is ambitious, given the short time that I have to reach it. I hope that you will join me in supporting the critical, cutting-edge research and clinical trials at one of our country's top cancer institutions.
Each year, more than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer and in 2014 I found out that I was one of them. I had throat cancer that had started in my tonsils and spread to the lymph system in my neck. I would undergo a tonsillectomy followed by radiation treatment under Dr. Yom’s care and chemotherapy under the care of Dr. Alain Algazi. In today’s world, the standards of care for cancer treatment are changing at blinding speed and the work that Drs. Yom and Algazi and their teams do at UCSF is changing the face of care for head and neck cancer patients. Your donations will support their valuable research and clinical trials, improving outcomes for cancer patients everywhere.
I started road biking about 10 years ago and it was on the bike that I discovered what that I was capable of far more than I ever thought possible. Cycling is what brought my wife Nadine and I together and quickly cemented our connection. When we met, I was training for the Death Ride and she was training for Ironman Canada. We were both pushing ourselves far beyond anything we’d done before. Ultimately, I completed the Death Ride that year and Nadine completed the Ironman - we had reinvented what was possible.
Fast forward two years and in the spring of 2014 I heard those 3 words you never want to hear: “You have cancer.” From the beginning I tried to maintain the perspective that I was incredibly lucky: my cancer was treatable; I had my wife Nadine, my family and my friends around me to get me through; I had good insurance and I live in the Bay Area where one of the top - if not the top - team of researchers and specialists in the world in this type of cancer was at my doorstep at UCSF’s Head and Neck Cancer Clinic. I knew that the treatment that I would receive would be on the cutting edge of science and that the results of my case would contribute to the evolving body of knowledge and data that’s changing the face of the disease.
After recovering from surgery to remove my tonsils, where the cancer had started, I began a 7-week, daily routine of radiation treatment, along with periodic chemotherapy. I was seeing the doctors, nurses, technicians and staff literally every day and they became like family. From day one, Dr. Yom, Dr. Algazi and their team took us under their wing and gave us the confidence that, although the road was going to be rough, we were going to get through this and get our lives back. The nurses and technicians that are in the trenches with you daily become your first line of support and the love and care they gave us every day enabled us to face the grueling routine. Their compassion, humor and care brightened our darkest days. Four years later, we still share hugs when I go in for my check-ups. (All of which have been clean!)
"I received and now I must give.”
My dad credited these words from an early mentor with shaping what his life would become. Now it’s my turn. I’m almost 4 years cancer-free and, as Dr. Yom promised, I have my life back. I, too, have received and now I must give. This time around, while the physical and emotional challenge of the Death Ride is still daunting, I know first hand that it is nothing compared to what cancer patients are facing every day. Nadine and I have been training hard over the past several months, riding over 1500 miles and climbing almost 120,000 feet. Four years ago I couldn’t imagine that I’d be able to attempt this ride again. I feel incredibly lucky and am excited to give back in some small way to the people and organization that gave me this second chance.
I hope that you’ll support me and celebrate life and the blessings of health by contributing to the foundation.
Dave & Nadine
P.S. If your employer offers matching funds and you want to request a match, search your matching funds site for tax ID 94-2829914. It's called University Of California San Francisco Foundation. In the comments for the administrator and for the charity, state that this is for the Head and Neck Cancer Center in honor of David Lafon and it'll get directed to the right place. Thanks in advance for doubling down!