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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

'What I’m Doing on My Summer Vacation’ (#5 in a Series) – Beti Thompson, PhD



This is the fifth in a series of profiles of oncologists discussing how they unwind during the summer months -- check out the entire series here -- From traveling to music festivals and hidden oases to growing organic gardens and cycling to raise research funds, the profiles show the rich and diverse interests and unique experiences cancer experts have beyond their clinic and lab doors.  Share your own summer vacation stories and photos with us on Twitter!  Use #OTSummerVaca and we'll retweet.


Beti Thompson, PhD


Bo Jungmayer/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center


Last year, cancer researcher Beti Thompson hopped back on a bike for the first time in 25 years.


"The last big bike trip I had done was in 1989, a long while ago. I literally did not touch my bike for years," says Thompson, PhD, Associate Director of Minority Health and Health Disparities at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.


 The 70-year-old cancer researcher says Obliteride was her motivation. It's an annual bicycle fundraising event sponsored by her employer with the mission to obliterate cancer forever. Riders of all ability can participate and choose from a variety of courses that range in distances and difficulty level.


She had heard about Obliteride and its aim to defeat cancer. "I had a son who died of colon cancer at a young age and I wondered if I could still ride my bike. I knew that at age 69 to get back on a bike and ride for 29 miles would be a challenge, but at least I had the good sense to know I couldn't do this without training. I started training in late April 2014 for the August 2014 ride."


Thompson says the first time back on her bike was "pure agony," but she just kept at it. She'd step away from her lab for a bicycle break between 1 and 2 pm each day to train.


"I'd go ride around the lake and I did this two or three times a week. Before, I was pretty sedentary, so this was quit an adventure for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I got to the point where I could ride further and faster. I got to the point where it went from agony to being able to do it in about 45 minutes."


Thompson says Obliteride 2014 turned out to be the hottest day of the year, steamier than normal for Seattle.


"They changed the course and made it a little less hilly. It was 29 miles, but I did it. We actually raised a substantial amount of money, close to $50,000, for our team. I was part of a team called ‘Closing the Gap’”--the idea being the gap in health disparities in cancer, her research area, she explains.


After the success of the first ride, Thompson says she thought to herself, “I did it when I was 69, bet I could do it at 70.'"


This summer's ride is this coming weekend, August 9th. A grandmother of four and very family-focused, Thompson says this year's ride will be even more special because she has recruited her daughter and son-in-law and their 8-year-old son (who'll be riding a tandem bike with his mother) to ride Obliteride with her.  


"I feel a lot stronger and I have a lot more energy and endurance," Thompson says about taking up cycling again. "And it just makes me feel so good. That combination of biking and spending time with my grandkids--it keeps me balanced with my work life."