"I don't think I can finish," Rakesh Marwah, MD, said to himself. Marwah, a Stanford anesthesiologist, was inching his bicycle up the third of five mountain passes in one of the most physically demanding cycling events in the U.S. when the absurdity of his situation dawned on him.
He was a casual cyclist -- not a racer -- and he'd never attempted a grueling race before. An article in Why Giving Matters from Stanford's Medical Center Development explains how he found himself on that mountain:
For months, [he] had been looking for a way to help bring attention to triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive disease. Responsible for a large percentage of cancer deaths because it resists traditional chemotherapy, it gets its name from its lack of three receptors typically used as treatment targets--estrogen, progesterone, and a growth factor called HER2. Beyond being notoriously difficult to treat, triple negative breast cancer -- which makes up 15 percent of all breast cancer -- is more likely to recur than other types.
Then Marwah's sister, Shelley, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
Marwah's suggestion to find physician who specializes in the disease led them to Melinda Telli, MD, an assistant professor of oncology at Stanford and an expert in triple negative breast cancer.
As Telli treated Marwah's sister, he was struck by her ability to deliver difficult information with just the right mix of compassion and professionalism. His gratitude for his sister's expert care inspired Marwah to find a way to do something in appreciation.
That "something" was The Death Ride: a 129-mile race consisting of 15,000 feet of climbing and five mountain passes at over 8,700 feet of elevation in Lake Tahoe.
"I thought, if this ride is actually doable, it would a good avenue for me to build a fundraiser around it," Marwah said in the article. "It would be an opportunity to thank Dr. Telli and raise money for her work, and help promote research and development in triple negative breast cancer."
Marwah pushed through the lung-searing pain of the third mountain pass. He finished the race 14 hours and 13 minutes later raising awareness and more than $10,000 for Telli's work on triple negative breast cancer.
When asked what got him through his low point on the mountaintop, Marwah recited the words of a friend. "You need to pace yourself. Just like your sister had to go through the pain of chemo and all of her treatment, she paced herself and made it through. You can, too."
Previously: Breast screening recommendations -- finalized? and Patients share clinical trial experiences at Stanford
Photo courtesy of Stanford's Medical Center Development