How do you put a positive spin on finding treatments for rare cancers?
On Sunday, Jennifer Goodman Linn, a 1989 graduate of Livingston High School, inspired thousands of indoor cycling enthusiasts to pedal for donations — $2.2 million in all — that will go directly toward cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
“This event is beyond personal for me,” Linn said at the cycling event at Equinox in New York City. Six years ago, she was diagnosed with MFH sarcoma, a rare soft-tissue cancer. Her treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has included four major surgeries and 30 months of chemotherapy. Yesterday she revealed that the cancer has relapsed and she will begin yet another round of chemotherapy this week.
During her initial course of treatment, Linn said she derived strength from her indoor cycling sessions.
"Cycling enabled me to push myself to the best of my ability every day, and I believe that it saved my life," she said.
With her husband Dave, Linn create Cycle for Survival, an indoor team cycling event, to express gratitude for her care. It began as a grassroots effort and has doubled in size each year. Previous Cycle for Survival events have funded a clinical trial resulting in a new chemotherapy regimen more effective at shrinking certain tumors. Last year, donations were allocated to fund:
• Two clinical trials to test drugs that block certain pathways that keep sarcoma cells alive, with the goal of finding new ways to destroy these cancer cells.
• A research project that focuses on a new way to treat a type of rare cancer by changing the pattern of genes turned on and off.
• A study aimed at gaining new insights into the biology of a specific type of rare tumor.
Yesterday, $2.2 million was donated to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering to continue its work.
“When a person is diagnosed with cancer, the first words out of their mouth should be ‘What’s the plan?’ It’s terrifying not knowing,’ Linn said. “The research gives us hope there will be more options and more cures.”
A total of 400 teams cycled at two NYC Equinox locations on Jan. 31, including more than 20 classmates from Livingston High School and other friends who formed Team JENesis. The cyclists collected donations through team fundraising campaigns conducted via the event's Web site: www.cycleforsurvival.org.
The Livingston-connected friends stood out among the thousands of riders in their orange T-shirts and caps. “We Cycle for a World Without Cancer,” their shirts proudly proclaimed. The group raised more than $21,000.
Team captains Jeanne Joyce Silberman of Livingston and Greer Gelman, a kindergarten teacher at Collins School, said they have been inspired by Linn’s courage, tenacity and strength.
“I cycle with hope to make a difference in the lives of millions of people affected by rare forms of this deadly disease,” Silberman said.
"I started Cycle for Survival as a grassroots effort, and it has blossomed into something very special," explained their friend Linn. "The fact that this event has directly benefited patients motivates me to keep going. We've gained momentum, and we've already changed the way we're fighting rare cancers. I have great hope that this will ultimately lead to more treatment breakthroughs and higher survival rates so that there will be more of us who live to tell our unique tales."