A Patient Overcomes Challenges while Finding Ways to Give Back

Jamie joined Team BMC at the Rodman Ride for Kids raising funds for BMCs pediatric programs.
Jamie Riehle welcomed the chance to combine his love of cycling
with BMC fundraising. In September, he joined Team BMC during the
Rodman Ride for Kids, one of the country's top athletic fundraisers, to
help raise money for the hospital's pediatric programs.


Jamie Riehle scales mountains. An avid cyclist, he recently won a time trial up a mountain in Arizona and placed tenth overall in a series of nine races up some of New England’s steepest peaks. Although summiting Mt. Washington on his road bike was an extreme physical challenge, it was not his most formidable. Six years ago, Jamie was diagnosed with cancer.


In 2004, Jamie arrived at Boston University School of Dental Medicine searching for answers. For several years, he had endured a tongue problem that couldn’t seem to resolve itself despite his dentist’s treatments. A biopsy revealed cancer, and days afterward he was face-to-face with Gregory Grillone, M.D., F.A.C.S., vice chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at Boston Medical Center. Tests indicated Jamie’s cancer was advanced, and Dr. Grillone decided on an aggressive approach to treatment: tongue surgery and removal of lymph nodes from his neck and then an eight-week course of radiation.


“During my treatments, I found that Boston Medical Center was a different hospital than other places I have been. Even though it is an extremely busy place, everybody took time with each patient. Everyone I saw was upbeat, helpful and personable. I didn’t feel like a statistic on a chart,” said Jamie.


Through contacts he made at the hospital during his initial treatment, Jamie began volunteering during BMC’s free cancer screening days. The first event opened his eyes to the different types of patients served by BMC. He saw people without addresses, without primary care physicians, without insurance coming in for cancer screening. The experience touched him and motivated him to seek out more ways to become involved.


In 2006, with the help of Linda Frattura, the educational outreach coordinator of the BMC’s Cancer Clinical Trials Program, and Dr. Grillone, Jamie started BMC's Head and Neck Cancer Support Group. The goal of the support group is to help address the difficult and socially-isolating challenges confronting survivors of head and neck cancer: voice problems, difficulty eating, and facial disfigurement to name a few. The group meets monthly, and thanks to ongoing efforts by Robert David, coordinator of BMC’s Cancer Support Program, the group has been adding one or two new members each session.


“We are all over the place in terms of where we come from, our race, our age, our religion, but we are a family, we share a bond,” said Jamie.


He also welcomed the chance to combine his love of cycling with BMC fundraising. In September, he joined Team BMC during the Rodman Ride for Kids, one of the country’s top athletic fundraisers, to help raise money for the hospital’s pediatric programs. He was one of 37 cyclists that helped to raise more than $80,000 for the hospital.


Racing season is over for the year, and Jamie is focusing his energy on building the head and neck cancer support group this winter. He also hopes to continue to collaborate in more fundraising events with BMC’s Office of Development, such as a Spin-a-Thon to support BMC’s cancer care services.


“BMC gave me an extension or two on life and volunteering for the hospital has become an important chance for me to give back,” he said.


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