“Heroes” on Wheels

Posted in GUMC Stories

The Hyundai Hope on Wheels returned once more to Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center on Sept. 19 – this time to award a $250,000 Hope Grant to Kenneth Tercyak, Ph.D. Just a few weeks ago, Hyundai visited the cancer center to present a $75,000 grant to pediatric oncologist Scott Myers, M.D.

“This type of dedication to improving the lives of young people with cancer and their families, and helping them live happier and fuller lives is something we appreciate,” said Georgetown Lombardi Deputy Director Michael Atkins, M.D., who welcomed staff, cancer patients and families to the event held in the lobby at Georgetown Lombardi. “Seeing you all makes me appreciate how much we need you, and you inspire us in our fight to defeat pediatric cancer. Seeing you here makes me understand how much progress we have made and how much we are continuing to make a difference in the lives of young people – but there is still much work to be done.”

“Mine is just a just a small piece of a larger story,” said Tercyak, pointing out that Hyundai has generously supported Georgetown Lombardi by donating over $700,000 in the past nine years.

Tercyak’s Hope Grant supports research is geared to improving the health of childhood cancer survivors as they grow into young adults.

“We want to put better tools into the hands of young survivors that can help them stay healthy and live longer. Our challenge is how to build tools that are evidence-based and take advantage of the Internet and smart phone technology — delivering the right health information to survivors at the right time,” explained Tercyak, associate professor of oncology and pediatrics, and director of behavioral prevention research at Georgetown Lombardi.

“The Hope on wheels program makes this possible – it will allow us to devote time and provides us supportive resources that we otherwise would not have available to accomplish this work,” he said.

Aziza Shad, M.D., director of pediatric oncology, received the Hope Grant last year. The grant supported the launch a cancer nutrition program for children at Georgetown Lombardi.

“Cancer nutrition is sometimes forgotten,” Shad explained. “Through this program we were able to hire a nutritionist who comes to our clinic, does nutrition assessments, does evaluations for patients, gives them advice and also cooks for the patients in our clinic three times a month that all the kids participate in.”

Hyundai’s national youth ambassador C.J. George, 13, understands all too well the experience of young cancer patients across the country who spend months, sometimes years, in the hospital receiving treatment. It was when he was being treated in his hometown of Hollywood, Fla. for acute lymphoblastic lymphoma that he first encountered the Hope on Wheels program and saw the hope it could inspire in patients.

“Hopefully me being here will encourage you to look forward to a future that is cancer free and full of hope,” said the youngster, now in remission.

“I remember everything about that time as being scary and overwhelming. I was hearing words I’d never heard before having all kinds of tests and scans done, and taking medicines that made me feel pretty sick,” he recalled.

Although he now shares his story regularly around the country, George says he is is not comfortable when people he meets call him a hero for having beat his cancer.

“It’s not like I had a choice. I was diagnosed and I had to fight for my life. To me, a hero is someone who fights for someone else’s life. And that is why the doctors, nurses, researchers and programs like Hope on Wheels are my heroes.”

By Karen Mallet, GUMC Communications

(Published Sept. 21, 2012)