A Convergence of Forces

This story is about three inspiring events which my wife, Linda, and I recently participated. I’m calling it A Convergence of Forces. As volunteers for the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation (CCF), we attended a Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) mini-symposium in Tucson, AZ, hosted by the University of Arizona Cancer Center and CCF, a pre-race luncheon for Team CCF runners competing in the Tucson Holualoa Marathon and Half Marathon, a meet-up with Dr. Mitesh Borad, at the Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, as well as an awareness anecdote near the end of our journey.

The symposium was Force #1, which brought together a diverse group of patients, caregivers, providers, and members of the CCF team for a full day of information sharing and connecting. Dr. Rachna Shroff, Chief, Div. of Hematology/Oncology, several of her colleagues from the U of AZ Cancer Center, and guest speakers from other comprehensive cancer centers hosted the program. The program covered various topics highlighting the progress being made in fighting CCA and the many challenges still to be overcome.

At the symposium, we also had the opportunity to meet with patients and caregivers and hear their stories. It’s always impactful whether speaking with a 27-year CCA survivor who brought hope to everyone, the newly diagnosed or recently bereaved. As with the Foundation’s Annual Conference, I’d urge patients and caregivers to attend a future symposium where possible.

The following day, we joined CCF’s Melinda Bachini and several runners participating in the Tucson Marathon and Half Marathon. This inspiring Force #2 included women from MA, NY, TX, and the Tucson area who were honoring the legacy of family members or those under their care today. Everyone had a compelling story, which is an honor to support. Thanks to Team CCF Coordinator Meredith McGuffage for all she does in coordinating the efforts of those involved in these awareness and fundraising initiatives.

Our next stop was a meet-up with Force #3, Dr. Mitesh Borad, at the Mayo Clinic, Phoenix. As Dr. Borad is one of the Chairs for next April’s CCF Annual Conference, I thought it would be great if Linda and I could spend time with him discussing the planning for the conference, his passion for finding a cure for cca, and his leadership in the International Cholangiocarcinoma Research Network (ICRN). Dr. Borad made it clear that everyone around the globe that CCA impacts should participate in the Annual Conference, whether in person or remotely.
I asked Dr. Borad about a statement I heard at the symposium about progress in CCA research over the past few years. To paraphrase, “The stars are aligning for a golden decade in cca research.” At that point, Dr. Borad remarked, “It’s a convergence of forces.” I could see how the various forces are coming together through collaborative global research, awareness/advocacy, fundraising, or education. It all matters!

I must say, there is a back story to my desire to meet with Dr. Borad. So here we go… At this past year’s CCF Annual Conference, Dr. Borad and I briefly discussed the 15,000-mile CCF Journey of Hope that Linda and I did two years ago. He was impressed with all the stops we made along the 48 states journey, including the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. However, he did inquire why we didn’t stop at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. When asked, part of my reply was, “The next time I’m in Arizona, I’ll make sure to come visit you!” Upon our meet-up in the Clinic Lobby, alongside an early Mayo ambulance, I was happy to say I was fulfilling my statement! Incidentally, the horse-drawn ambulance dates back to 1905, when it was considered comparable to Aladdin’s magic carpet! Can you imagine?

Finally, here’s a little anecdote about maintaining awareness of your surroundings. In this case, it concerns CCF Green Awareness, and I don’t mean February’s Light It Green initiative!

Have you ever watched someone try to take your luggage home with them? When making one of the many stops on the shuttle bus route around Dulles Airport’s parking lot, I noticed a man walking down the aisle wearing a jacket with a Johns Hopkins Medicine Center label. I casually wondered to myself, what type of work does he do? I became much more interested in him as he picked up my luggage and started for the exit. I called out, “Sir, that’s my suitcase!” He looked at me oddly, and I had to repeat myself more emphatically. At that point, I saw that another suitcase on the rack had green CCF SWAG materials on the handle, as mine did. I then said, “Cholangiocarcinoma”. He did a double take, and I said, “Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation?”. He sheepishly said yes, looked behind him and saw his suitcase, put my suitcase back, grabbed his, and quickly exited the bus. After looking around and seeing other passengers observing our brief encounter, I said to myself, “Well, that’s one way to raise awareness!”

Funny thing, if the man had gotten off the bus with my suitcase, the first thing he would’ve found when he opened it was spare CCF information kits that could’ve been distributed to Providers!

Dave Fleischer
Hope Ambassador