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Vital Signs:
DHMC oncology nurse hits the high road

They have this great spirit and optimism—a real passion for life," says Brian Highhouse, a DHMC oncology nurse for the past 15 years. He's referring to his patients, who, he explains, have inspired him to stay in nursing. "I said, 'Hey! That's for me! I agree. Let's live every day to its fullest.'"

Photo by Tour of Hope
Highhouse (left) is pedaling hard at the head of this practice peloton.

For Highhouse, living every day to its fullest usually involves a bicycle and miles and miles of pavement. In October, Highhouse will join 19 other experienced cyclists in the Tour of Hope—a 3,500-mile cross-country relay, sponsored by the pharmaceutical firm Bristol-Myers Squibb, to promote participation in clinical trials for cancer research. Leading the team will be six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who survived advanced testicular cancer in the mid-1990s.

Along the route from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., the team will stop at various rallying sites, where team members will share their personal experiences with cancer. Armstrong will join the team for the start, the finish, and selected segments along the way. The riders, who range from age 32 to 66 and include cancer survivors and caregivers, will ask people to "make the promise." The promise is a personal pledge, outlined at www.tourofhope.org, to be proactive about cancer screening, to support loved ones with cancer, to help make cancer a national health priority, and to consider, if diagnosed with cancer, participating in a research study.

"Hopefully, studying new treatments is going to speed the process toward better treatments and cures. Without [clinical trials], we're not going to make advances," says Highhouse, who has come to understand the importance of such research on a personal as well as a professional basis. Two years ago, his wife, Paulette Buchholz, a dietitian at DHMC, was diagnosed with lobular carcinoma in situ, meaning that she has a high risk of developing breast cancer. But Buchholz—who is also an avid cyclist— is receiving a new tamoxifen-based treatment, recently tested in a clinical trial, and is doing well. J.D.

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