Marian Huhman is riding for her son, Derek, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in Oct. 2012
Hearing that your son has cancer is shocking news for any mother. Last Halloween, Marian Huhman’s youngest son, Derek, age 26, phoned her at her home in Illinois to tell her he just found out he had leukemia. He had gone to see his primary care doctor earlier that day because he wasn’t feeling well. His symptoms were extreme fatigue and bruising, which Derek did not realize at the time can be signs of leukemia.
Marian’s response when she heard Derek had cancer? “Let’s get mobilized and confront this,” she says. Marian was on a plane the next day to Seattle. She has taken a leave-of-absence from her teaching job at University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign to be Derek’s caregiver; a job she said has been very rewarding.
When she saw the sign for Obliteride during one of Derek’s visits at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) back in December, she knew she would get involved somehow. Derek was the one to point it out commenting “I want to do Obliteride.” Marian figured her son would be healthy enough to ride and she and David, Derek’s dad, would support him financially.
As it turns out, Derek’s not healthy enough to ride this year, so Marian and Derek’s girlfriend, Briana Lovell, are both riding 25 miles in his honor. They’ve dubbed their effort Ride for the Cure for Derek.
Marian’s also riding for her nephew, Andy, who at 44 years old, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer just over a year ago. Derek and David plan to be at the kick-off party on Friday night and the start line to send off Briana and Marian.
Derek holding a nestling Wrentit
Derek — ‘a generally fabulous human being’
Derek is a wildlife biologist who loves the outdoors and according to his mom, is “a generally fabulous human being.” Derek received his cancer diagnosis the day before he was scheduled to travel back to California to resume bird research as an ornithologist at the Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory. He stayed in Seattle so he could be treated by the experts at University of Washington who partner with world-renowned researchers at Fred Hutch.
After 30 days at UW Medical Center and seven months of intensive chemotherapy treatments at SCCA (the out-patient treatment arm of Fred Hutch), Derek is now preparing to enter maintenance chemotherapy for the next three years, as soon as his platelet levels have recovered.
“As a mother, you think of all of the tragic things that could happen to your children over the years,” Marian says, “but this was completely unexpected.”
Derek lives a clean life, is very grounded and has an affinity for the outdoors. It has been so rewarding to take care of him, Marian says. “I feel it is the most important thing I have done in my life.” Derek is a joy to take care of and very appreciative, always offering a ‘thanks mom,’ she says.
Why We Are Riding
Derek and Briana
“Obliteride is a way of supporting Derek and showing him that people are so behind him,” Marian says. “I hope it helps him continue to fight.”
Briana wrote on her personal Obliteride page
. “We are lucky to live in a world - and a city - where doctors have access to a great deal of medical research and tools to create the best treatment plan they can, and we put our hope in their hands. But there is still so much we don't know about how to treat cancer effectively, and there's a huge amount of room for improvement in reducing the toll treatment takes on cancer patients.”
Marian concurs and believes it’s more important than ever to support cancer research. “We know that less and less federal money is flowing to important research efforts and more private support is needed,” she says.
Marian’s excited about the promise of research to find new and less toxic treatments like immunotherapy
that will someday help patients like Derek.
So far, together Marian and Briana have raised more than $4,700. They’ve posted messages on Derek’s Caring Bridge site and Facebook, and friends and family have responded generously.
“I was a bit nervous at first, but the whole fundraising thing is so easy,” Marian says. “People WANT to do something. Giving to Obliteride is something tangible people can do to help.” Marian feels so uplifted and giddy when she gets another donation. It is such a statement of support, she says.
Briana is an avid bike rider, and Marian feels like she’s generally ready to ride 25 miles on a bike loaned to her by dear friends. She’s been out riding a couple of times. She hopes to get in a few more rides before Obliteride. “Twenty-five miles for someone who’s in relatively good shape isn’t that big of a deal, but I want to be comfortable,” she says.
Join Marian and Briana and the ride to end cancer on Aug. 10. Register today to ride or volunteer for Obliteride
or donate to the Ride for the Cure for Derek.