Connecting the Lobo Cancer Challenge community
All of our Ambassadors have demonstrated commitment and leadership in bringing their friends, family and community together in the fight against cancer. They have a passion for helping others. Now, as a Lobo Cancer Challenge Ambassador, they can take their support for fellow New Mexicans in their cancer journey to another level; building relationships on behalf of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, providing encouragement, and educating others on the importance of cancer research.
“Health and fitness became a part of my life at a very young age. My parents have always been active and my dad was a runner. I stay active first and foremost now because God has blessed me — and I will honor Him by helping and encouraging others in what has become a passion for me. I am a mom and I also want to be an example of good health and habits for my kids.
“I picked up running at around 13 years old, running with my dad in the mornings before school. To date I have run, I believe, 11 full marathons (26.2 miles) and several half marathons. I was often encouraged to try cycling, but it wasn’t until I was hired at the UNM Cancer Center and volunteered with the Lobo Cancer Challenge that I was brave enough to try it. In just one year, I fell in love with cycling, met some amazing people, and now I've ridden a 50-miler and a 62-miler!
“Several people in my life have battled or lost the battle to cancer. I honor them. They are the brave ones. I find great pleasure in riding to raise money in their honor. When I reach the tough parts of the bike route, in perspective, it is just a bike ride. It is nothing compared to the chemo or treatments that our patients endure — their tough parts of the course.”
Alma is honored to share the road and hear the stories of her fellow riders in the Lobo Cancer Challenge:
“The Lobo Cancer Challenge is more than a bike event and fundraiser. Cancer touches us all in one form or another. To share the road with survivors, survivors’ families and friends, to hear the stories of why they participate — this is why I chose to be active in this great event.
“Participating in the Lobo Cancer Challenge allows people a chance to share their story. Maybe for some it brings peace and healing to honor a loved one. For me, to be available for the community and tell others why I love to be on staff at the UNM Cancer Center and why this event means so much to me, makes being an Ambassador effortless.
“I am encouraged by others achieving their goals and honored to be selected as an Ambassador for the Lobo Cancer Challenge.”
Dr. Matthew Fero
Together with his wife, Jutta, Dr. Matthew Fero moved to New Mexico in 2015 to start and direct The University of New Mexico’s Stem Cell Transplant Program and to establish a new cancer and bone marrow and blood stem cell research laboratory. The Fero Laboratory uses preclinical models to identify novel therapeutic targets for hematological malignancies, and to test the therapeutic efficacy of novel agents.
Before Dr. Fero’s arrival, patients requiring a bone marrow transplant to treat their cancer needed to travel out of state. Now, thanks to the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, they can receive this treatment in Albuquerque.
In addition to treating leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and offering stem cell transplantation, Dr. Fero is the Director of the Stem Cell Therapy Program and leader of the Hematology Clinical Working Group. Clinical trials offer the most recent developments in cancer treatments to patients.
On many fronts, Dr. Fero is instrumental in bringing innovative treatments for blood cancers to New Mexico. As a Team Captain in the Lobo Cancer Challenge, he calls his team the “Heme Team” to honor those facing hematological (blood-related) cancers.
The Heme Team was the Top Fundraising Team in 2018 and has been among the Top Three Fundraising Teams every year. Dr. Fero’s family and friends have come from as far away as California to join the Heme Team, and to ride their bicycles 100 miles in the Lobo Cancer Challenge in support of the UNM Cancer Center’s lifesaving cancer research.
Dr. Fero is the first to sign up for the Lobo Cancer Challenge every year, and the first physician from the Cancer Center to set up a team, earning Bib No. 1. Dr. Fero invites everyone to join the Heme Team, even if they choose to support other areas of cancer research and patient services.
“The Lobo Cancer Challenge helps us to fight cancer together,” he says.
Dr. Fero’s dedication to fighting blood cancers on behalf of the people of New Mexico is extraordinary.
“I am participating as an Ambassador in the 2020 Lobo Cancer Challenge for two primary reasons. First, I would like to honor my brother, Dr. Robert Paz, who spent the last year of his life as a patient at the UNM Cancer Center fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). He was a highly accomplished and beloved professor of Electrical Engineering at New Mexico State University. I had the privilege of hosting Robert in my home while he underwent treatment. It was the most memorable time that I had ever spent with him.
“Secondly, I am participating to express my gratitude for the treatment Robert received at the UNM Cancer Center. Thanks to their treatments, he was able to spend an additional 18 months of quality time with his family and friends in dignity.
“Whatever small measure of support I can provide to this event does not compare to the amazing work provided on behalf of my brother by those at the UNM Cancer Center.”
“I became involved with the Lobo Cancer Challenge through my amazing mom (Marilee Petranovich) who was a patient of, and a huge advocate for, the UNM Cancer Center. She unfortunately passed away in September, but I am honored to take her place this year as a Lobo Cancer Challenge Ambassador.
“My mom had an incredible 57 years of life and cancer was such an incredibly small part of who she was and what her life was about. The UNM Cancer Center always saw her for the amazing human being she was, and not the diagnosis that brought her through the doors.”
Kaitlin rides so that cancer will be an even smaller part of the lives of those who come next:
“The Lobo Cancer Challenge is important to me: as a physician, because it supports medical research and treatments for a challenging disease; as a proud New Mexican, because it shows the strength of our community; and as a daughter, because while I miss my mom immensely, I know she would want us to keep riding so that cancer will be an even smaller part of the lives of those patients who come next.
“We know she will be riding right alongside us in spirit!”
Deanna Rhodes has been a staff member with The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center since 2017, and started at UNM in 2011. Currently, she is a Certified Tumor Registrar in the Quality Programs department. The New Mexico Tumor Registry (NMTR) was established in 1966. NMTR provides high quality data to support research and cancer control activities for the region.
“I ride for my family and friends who have been affected by cancer and for those who don’t have someone to fight for them.
“I ride so we can move cancer research forward, so no matter what the diagnosis may be, we can get a better handle on it and prevent suffering in the future.”
Avast! The Captain of the Pirates of the Cure-ibbean is standing right behind you!
The Pirate team at the start of the 2019 Lobo Cancer Challenge 25 mile bike ride
Together with her other two sons and Polly’s best friend, Josh founded Polly’s Run in 2009 to honor his mother after her passing. Polly inspired countless students and athletes through her teaching and coaching, and the annual Polly’s Run event rallies hundreds of friends, family members, and survivors to increase awareness and raise funds for the research to help end pancreatic cancer.
Bringing together people with a passion for fighting cancer:
“The Lobo Cancer Challenge is an incredibly special event for me. As the director of Polly's Run and the Polly Rogers Endowment for Pancreatic Cancer, it is a wonderful opportunity to fundraise and continue to raise awareness for the disease. The event has become a lifelong passion for me and I can't wait to do it again this year and the next!
“It’s also just a whole lot of fun that brings together people who all have a passion for fighting cancer.”
Kyle Stepp has participated as a bike-riding fundraiser in every Lobo Cancer Challenge since the first. Kyle rides for the kids! Donations to Kyle go to support the Children’s Cancer Research Fund at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. It’s a natural fit, as he loves to be outside in New Mexico, and he draws on his own experience with cancer to encourage others.
Among his many efforts in support of those dealing with cancer, Kyle is a board member for Camp Enchantment, which is held every summer in the Manzano Mountains. It provides fun, friendship, and community for pediatric cancer patients and survivors ages 7-17 in a safe and beautiful natural setting.
One of Kyle's areas of focus for Camp Enchantment’s Board of Directors is to build community partnerships. Three years ago, Kyle partnered with Marble Brewery to create the “Love Beer, Hate Cancer” fundraiser for Camp Enchantment, which has led to thousands of dollars raised and hundreds of influencers supporting their mission.
In an interview with iHeart Radio, Kyle explained that he spent three and a half years being treated at UNM Children’s Hospital for Stage IV Bone Cancer, which was diagnosed in his freshman year of high school. Doctors declared Kyle cured of the disease at age 17.
“Through that journey, I found my purpose,” Kyle said. “I healed by being able to visit the other kids. My inspiration came from my friends during our battle together, because I believe that no child should ever fight alone, and I felt healing through helping others.”
Kyle was selected to be the commencement speaker at his graduation from The University of New Mexico in 2016.
“Turn your tragedy into your triumph. Those are the words I try to live by,” he said in his address.
“Use your adversity to help others make this world a better place.”
“Every statistic says I shouldn't be here. I know that I'm here for a reason and a purpose and I don't want to waste a single moment.”
Kyle found his passion in the midst of the hardest time of his life and is dedicated to making sure no child ever fights cancer alone. He has been a National Ambassador for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Sunshine Kids Foundation, and others. Kyle currently serves as the Manager for Dance Marathon Acquisition at Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. He oversees the growth and expansion of the national movement called Miracle Network Dance Marathon, uniting over 250,000 students on 400 high school and college campuses, and raising over 40 million dollars in 2019!
“I have participated in the Lobo Cancer Challenge for the last two years. The cause, the event, the organizers, the route, the volunteers, and all of the other participants — This is what keeps me coming back! My family has been fundraising for cancer research for the past few years, and I continue to run/bike to make a difference.”
The Lobo Cancer Challenge is a day of inspiration and hope:
“To get to ride in honor of those fighting cancer, in memory of those who fought cancer, and with those currently fighting cancer...
“I am extremely honored to be a Lobo Cancer Challenge Ambassador for the 2020 event.”
“I am a mom of two boys who push me every day to be better. I was born and raised in Taos. I love being outside, whether it's in the mountains or just out on the patio of a brewery.
“The Lobo Cancer Challenge is important to me because I see first hand how much it helps not only our patients, but their families also.”
Andrea works in the UNM Comprehensive Cancer’s Center Radiation Oncology department, and she is passionate about doing anything to help her patients. Andrea is raising money for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, because she has seen too many kiddos go through this fight, and she wants them to know they are not alone!
“I also feel very passionate about this challenge because I have lost so many people close to my heart to this horrible disease, so I do this for them!”
Andrea is captain of the Tumornators Team, Lobo Cancer Challenge 2019