Paying it forward

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 12.08.58 PMDuring the holiday season, instead of giving gifts to each other, Dick and Cathey Finlon work together to create a list of contributions they plan to make during the next year.

“It’s something we have done for a long time,” says Cathey. “It’s just something that feels good for us.”

Last year the Finlons added a new organization to their list: the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

“We found an opportunity to give back to the people that saved my life and that is very meaningful to us,” says Dick.
Dick and Cathey both grew up in the rural college town of State College, Pennsylvania where there are more Penn State students than towns- people. Although they knew of each other from school, they did not of cially meet until they both moved to Colorado. As they say, the rest is history and the couple has been married for 38 years.

“We both love to be outdoors, hiking, skiing, playing golf, fishing, you name it,” says Dick. “Colorado is the perfect place for us, so we made it our home.”

The couple is well known in Denver for their philanthropy and extensive involvement with the community. Dick was the nancial of cer of a print- ing company and is an avid amateur astronomer. Cathey built her career as an advertising agency owner and entrepreneur. She is very involved in local organizations, having served on numerous leadership boards, including those of Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver Scholarship Foundation, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Public Schools Foundation, History Colorado, Junior Achievement, University of Denver Daniels College of Business, Colorado Outward Bound School and American Association of Advertising Agencies. She is also a former President of the Denver Art Museum.

The Finlon’s lives were turned upside down in December 2012 when Dick was diagnosed with late stage prostate cancer.

“The original diagnosis was pretty dire,” explains Dick.

“We were both absolutely devastated. We thought our lives had a straight path,” says Cathey, who served on Children’s Hospital Colorado board of trustees at the time. “I was familiar with the Cancer Center so I called Children’s to see if they could help us navigate and find someone to treat Dick. We were very scared and luckily, Dick was seen by the Cancer Center within days.”

Dick and Cathey both agree that they were treated with care and compassion they had never experienced before at a medical center.

“I remember we were crying and Jill (a staff nurse) held on to us and said ‘Don’t worry we will always be here for you,’” says Cathey through tears. “It was exactly what we needed at the time.”

The prostate cancer team immediately went to work. Michael Glode, MD, CU Cancer Center member, was Dick’s attending physician. Dr. Glode wanted to tighten the original diagnosis and sent the Finlons to UCLA for a new PET scan that revealed more details about where the cancer had spread.

“When we got the scans back we were told that the cancer had not spread throughout my body as was originally thought and could be treated as a local disease,” explains Dick. “I started in radiation and was cancer free by April 2013. It was astonishing to go from thinking I was going to die to being in remission within a couple months.”

The Finlons were amazed and inspired by the care they received at the CU Cancer Center.

“There is so much collaboration between departments and a true team spirit with all of the doctors we came into contact with,” says Cathey. “We were able to attend support lectures, talk to a nutritionist, and meet with the oncology experts all in the same building. I felt like our problem was being handled by an entire team, not just one person.”

“After our experience we felt a great debt to the Cancer Center and everyone who had helped us during my treatment,” says Dick. “We collaborated with Dr. Glode to see how we could pay it forward in the prostate cancer clinic. That is how we decided on the fellowship program.”

The Finlons chose to honor Glode by naming a fellowship fund after him.

“I am deeply honored by the generosity of the Finlons establishing the Finlon-Glode Endowed Fellowship Fund in Prostate Cancer Research,” explains Glode. “The future of medicine, and all of the breakthroughs in cancer research in particular, ultimately begin with postdoctoral training. In the case of clinical fellowships, these are the physician- scientists who will make the discoveries that ultimately conquer cancer.”

“What is important to us about this gift is that we are supporting people, not only the research,” says Dick. “Without people to do the research there cannot be advances in the medical field. We both feel that investing in up-and-coming doctors is so important for the future.”

Thomas Flaig, MD, knows firsthand the importance of having an outstanding fellowship program. At the beginning of his career Flaig was Glode’s fellow and is now Dick’s oncologist.

“Dr. Flaig truly embodies exactly what we are supporting,” says Cathey. “The transition from Dr. Glode to him was smooth and professional, something we both are very grateful for.”

A decade ago Flaig decided to pursue a career in prostate cancer under Glode.

“Dr. Glode both encouraged me and also had the ability to support my pursuit of prostate cancer research. With the Finlon Fellowship now in place, we will have the ability to encourage current medical oncology fellows to focus on prostate cancer research,” says Flaig.

“This gift is the rst to come from my own personal impact,” says Dick. “We got a helping hand and are able to give back. It feels gratifying for me because of the motivation behind it.”

About the author: Taylor Abarca

Taylor Abarca (Bakemeyer) is the Social Media Web Specialist at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Contact her at Taylor.Bakemeyer [at] ucdenver.edu.

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