A Positive Spin On Battling Rare Cancers
By J. L. Shively
When the late Jennifer Goodman Linn was first diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer back in 2004, her reaction was not what her mother would have expected. Always a strong individual, Linn was immediately ready to form a battle plan of how to fight back against this difficult prognosis.
Linn was raised in Livingston and attended kindergarten through twelfth grade in the district; she is even a member of the Livingston HS Hall of Fame, inducted in 2010.
At age 33, Linn was as active as ever, but suddenly was overcome with feelings of exhaustion. It was on her one year wedding anniversary that she received the diagnosis for a rare type of cancer, Sarcoma, with an estimated survival time of hardly more than a year, and at best, five years.
“There were not options,” Sandy Goodman, Linn’s mother explains, there was no treatment for this type of cancer. Goodman explains that Linn had six different surgeries and went through chemotherapy trying to fight her cancer.
Even with treatment, the outcome did not look good. Linn came to understand that her battle was not one she could win, but that did not mean she had to give up the fight entirely.
“She vowed that since doctors were so dedicated,” Goodman says, “that she would find a way to give back.”
Linn found a way that she could give back in the way she knew best and in a way that could be continued even after she was gone. To start, Linn became a motivational speaker but then opted to create an event for ongoing fundraising.
At the time, Linn was living in NYC and was able to eventually convince her local gym, Equinox, to allow her to hold a spinning event to raise money for the research of rare cancers.
Goodman explains that this first day of cycling was “a real mom and pop event” since Linn and her supporters had to organize everything on their own. The event, however, had a massive turnout and helped to raise $250,000.
From that initial success, Linn realized the potential this type of event had and co-founded the group Cycle for Survival, with her husband, Dave Linn, almost ten years ago in 2007.
With Linn’s background in marketing and advertising and Dave’s financial expertise, the two made an optimum team for running this new charity.
According to Goodman, by Linn’s third year after her diagnosis she became too ill to continue to run Cycle for Survival. She approached the hospital which had been treating her, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY, to see if they could take over the events.
Although Cycle for Survival reached a donating demographic they had been unable to connect with before, Memorial Sloan Kettering decided to first oversee the success for a year. Within three months, however, they were on board.
Before Cycle for Survival was handed over to Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2009, Linn and her husband had three requirements. Goodman explains that the first requirement was that 100 percent of the money raised through these event would be donated to the lab for continued research.
The second requirement was that any research uncovered at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s labs must be shared with all other cancer researchers. Lastly, there must be absolute transparency in how the money is used for research and it must be used within six months after the event where it was raised.
The community of Livingston continues to be involved. Many residents attended the recent Summit event on Feb. 6. The event was a day spinning, remembering and listening to motivational speakers; the Summit event raised $1.3 million.
This event, like the others which are now held all across the country, included music, dancing and face painting. Goodman describes the event saying that they “provide hope and treatment to so many people” and those who come to the events are “survivors from every race and religion” as well as all others who support this ongoing battle.
This year, Livingston High School’s cheerleaders came out to support Cycle for Survival. Also, according to Livingston Public School’s website, Harrison School’s fifth grade provided student artwork which was displayed throughout the gym.
Goodman explains that it was part of Linn and Dave’s vision to “give people a community of support,” and with Cycle for Survival that is exactly the legacy that has been left behind. Goodman remarks that her and her husband’s continued involvement with Linn’s work is the best way they can “memorialize and honor [their] daughter.”
“Nobody beats cancer until we all beat it,” Goodman states, “Today there is hope. Tomorrow it will be a reality.”
Linn’s fight ended seven years after she was diagnosed when she died at the age of 40 on July 20, 2011, according to her obituary. But her fundraiser and motivation to help others beat cancer, lives on.
Since its founding almost ten years ago, Cycle for Survival has raised $92 million which has been donated to Memorial Sloan Kettering. For more information about Cycle for Survival or to join the battle visit https://www.cycleforsurvival.org.