A Bethesda woman who eight years ago was diagnosed with a non-Hodgkins form of lymphoma has helped raise $172,000 for research of the disease. She’s hoping to raise more in an annual bike ride set for September in rural Montgomery County.
Lisa Taverna, 63, was 54 when she learned she had an incurable form of follicular lymphoma. She quickly learned research into alternative treatment methods would be key, so she’s been a participant, team leader and volunteer coordinator for the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s Lymphoma Research Ride since she helped organize the first one in 2007.
“I was very optimistic when I was first diagnosed because they were starting to breakthrough with some of these newer, less harsh treatments,” Taverna said. “Early on, I just wanted to do something. But then I realized the money wasn’t really all going toward research. Pretty quickly, I figured out that research was the key.”
Initially, Taverna was treated with a drug that attaches to the diseased lymph nodes. Five years ago, she was treated with radio-immune therapy, which delivers radiation administered by an injection right to her tumors.
She’s been able to live relatively comfortably with the disease. The ride, on Sept. 22 in Dickerson, is one of her ways of fighting her cancer and remaining optimistic. The event has about 250 riders a year and has raised $2.5 million over its first six years.
Last year, Taverna rode in the race just a month after undergoing chemotherapy. She also said the event has attracted a consistent crowd from Bethesda, where she’ll see bikers wearing shirts from past rides.
“It has attracted all kinds of people that are affected by this disease,” Taverna said. “I’ve been in Montgomery Couty for 40 years, so I had a network of people. And the network has grown. Unfortunately, I’ve had this for a long time and I when somebody else gets lymphoma, there’s just a natural connection.”
The fundraising goal for this year’s ride is $550,000. For more information on how to register, sponsor a participant or make a general donation to the event, visit the website.