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October 1, 2004
Volume 42, No. 3

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Spokesperson: UI employee speaks out, cycles for cancer cure
"It was 50 years ago today..." In the time of soda fourntains and polio, Iowa nabbed Willard Boyd
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Spokesperson:
UI employee speaks out, cycles for cancer cure


Photo: Colleen Chapleau poses with her bicycle.
Colleen Chapleau. Photo by Tim Schoon.
 

The “C” word—it’s a phrase people often use when referring to the group of invasive, devastating illnesses that take the lives of more than half a million people in the United States each year.

More than 1.3 million people will be diagnosed with the “C” word this year alone, according to the American Cancer Society.

Make the Promise

Lance Armstrong and the Tour of Hope riders are asking people around the country to make the Promise—a personal commitment to help themselves and others learn more about this life-threatening disease called cancer. By making the Promise, people can honor a loved one who has been touched by cancer and show support for the importance of cancer research.

I promise to support the search for a cure by:

• Knowing my risks, getting screened, and learning about cancer.

• Supporting my family and friends through their health care decisions.

• Advocating that cancer research become a national health care priority.

• And, if faced with the disease, discussing with my cancer care team the options available, including possible participation in a cancer research study.

Sign up at www.tourofhope.com/promise. The team will deliver the thousands of Promises via U.S. Postal Service trucks to Washington, D.C., following their journey.

But this October, a few more positive “C” words will take the spotlight.

Cycling. Compassion. Colleen Chapleau.

Chapleau, associate director for the Iowa Marrow Donor Program and the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, is one of 20 men and women cycling with cancer survivor and six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., Oct. 1-9, in the Bristol-Myers Squibb 2004 Tour of Hope. Tour participants hope to raise awareness about the importance of cancer research studies and clinical drug trials.

Chapleau’s life illustrates the all-too-real point that cancer touches everyone. She is a cancer survivor. So are several of her family members. Her father currently is battling prostate cancer.

And she has dedicated her career for the past 19 years to helping find life-saving bone marrow donations for those in the greatest need.

“I have seen too many people suffer from cancer. As much progress as I’ve seen, frankly it’s just not enough,” Chapleau says, pointing out that studies show 85 percent of people diagnosed with cancer do not know that they could be participating in clinical trials, taking experimental drugs that could save their lives.

Of those who do know about clinical trials, she says, very few actually get involved.

“That has to change. That’s why we’re going to be out on the road, cycling and spreading the message across the country,” she says. “I want to make people aware that every drug we use here at the hospital came from a clinical trial. The cure for cancer may be in a lab right now, but we won’t know if we don’t do clinical trials. They’re so important.

“Too many people are suffering. It’s got to stop.”


Picked to pedal

Chapleau’s connections to the “cancer” family—personal and professional—as well as her interest in cycling were what landed her an elite spot on the Tour of Hope team. Nearly 1,200 people applied; the team is comprised of men and women from 18 different states and all walks of life.

Chapleau’s fascination with cycling started five years ago when she rode her first RAGBRAI. Then she started cycling more regularly, joined Bicyclists of Iowa City (BIC), and took spinning classes at the Field House.

Last year, she participated in Ride the Rockies, a weeklong ride through mountain passes in Colorado. She also rode the last leg of the Tour of Hope in 2003; a heartfelt essay she wrote about how cancer has affected herself and loved ones helped land her on the 2004 relay team.

Words may have gotten her on the team, but a grueling training regimen that started in May has kept her going. She eats a special diet, watching her protein and carbohydrate intake, and rides her bike daily, keeping track of miles traveled, miles per hour, heart rate, and so on.

She also talks daily with her team’s personal trainer from Carmichael Training Systems—Armstrong’s coaches in Colorado Springs.

And she has attended several training camps with her teammates over the summer, racing up mountains and learning how to ride in the dark going 20 miles an hour with her wheel six inches from a teammate’s.

“Suffering together builds strength,” Chapleau says, reminiscing about the real inner strength of her fellow teammates.

They include one woman who has had two bone marrow transplants, a man who survived cancer years ago and is now watching his 5-year-old son battle leukemia, and a firefighter whose wife and mother-in-law both died from breast cancer and who now fights to ensure his 7-year-old daughter never meets the same fate.

An emotional Chapleau says: “These are people who do not give up. Ever.”

Neither does Chapleau. In the weeks leading up to the tour, she rode three hours a day each weekday and 100 miles a day on Saturdays and Sundays.


Gearing up

The training may seem monstrous, but compare it to the actual tour. The tour’s 20 riders are split into four teams of five riders, who will ride relay-style, 24 hours a day for nine days, nearly 3,500 miles cross country.

That is, all 20 riders and Armstrong ride out of Los Angeles together. Then one team continues to ride for about the next five hours, while the rest of the participants are bused ahead to the next transition point, when another team takes over. They’ll all complete the ride with Armstrong in D.C.

Chapleau will end up doing 4- to 5-hour sprints, at 20 miles an hour, every 16 hours. She won’t get more than five hours of sleep at a time during the tour.

Between sprints, teams make personal appearances and give speeches. Chapleau will be talking about the vital cancer research being done at the University.

She also will be spending time on her team bus, eating meals prepared by her team’s personal chef and receiving massages from her team’s personal therapist. So there are a few perks, Chapleau admits with a laugh.


An Iowa inspiration

Chapleau’s friends, local riding buddies, and coworkers have all razzed her a bit about the special attention she’s been getting.

“I have noticed that Colleen’s speed and endurance have improved a lot. She has inspired us in many ways,” says Barry Carter, BIC member and professor of clinical and administrative pharmacy in the College of Pharmacy. “All of us are happy for her but still rather envious of the special training she is receiving and her opportunity to ride with Lance Armstrong. I know of at least one BIC member who will fly out to Washington to ride the last leg with the tour.

“We’re all very proud of her, and proud that she’s representing Iowa City in such a positive way.”

Chapleau’s parents and her children, ages 20, 17, and 14, also will join her in D.C., cheering her on. And they’ll get to meet Armstrong—a reward for putting up with the wacky training schedule and late dinners the past few months, Chapleau jokes.

Throughout it all, she has remained upbeat and positive. Her supervisor, Roger Gingrich, has noticed an increased zing in her already-spirited zest for life.

“I think if Colleen was bubbly and optimistic before, she’s even more volcanic now,” says Gingrich, professor of internal medicine in the Carver College of Medicine and director of the Iowa Marrow Donor Program. “This has given her a way to channel her enthusiasm, an organized way to blow off her enthusiastic energy and take her message beyond bone marrow donation to the wider cancer audience.”

by Amy Schoon

 

 

Published by University Relations Publications. Copyright the University of Iowa 2003. All rights reserved.
   

 

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