Wilmot Cancer Center to Honor Inspiring Brighton Woman

March 23, 2004

Hodgkin’s disease survivor Judy von Bucher will be honored with the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center’s 2004 Inspiration Award at the fifth annual Discovery Ball on Saturday, April 24, at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

“Judy exemplifies all that our Inspiration Award stands for. She moved past her treatment and dedicated years to ensuring better care for others battling cancer through physician education and community awareness,” says Judy Linehan, chair of the Wilmot Cancer Center Board. “Her experience and the grace with which she handled her diagnosis, treatment and now survivorship, is an inspiration to us all.”

Von Bucher will join local and national cancer survivors as recipients of the Wilmot Cancer Center’s top honor for offering hope to cancer patients and survivors.  Previous recipients include former Xerox CEO David Kearns, the late Yankee and McQuaid baseball coach Michael Fennell, author Peter Teeley, retired U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, and figure skater Scott Hamilton.

The honor has special significance to Von Bucher as it coincides with her 14th year of survivorship.

“I completed treatment in Spring of 1990 and I’m so grateful for my health today,” von Bucher says.

Von Bucher was just 33 -- with three children under the age of five, including a four-month-old boy -- when she felt a lump on her neck.  Concerned, she saw her doctor and a biopsy showed Hodgkin’s disease. 

It was a shock. There was no time for cancer.  She was raising her young children, she recalls.

She underwent abdominal surgery followed by aggressive radiation therapy of her entire torso, under the care of Louis "Sandy" Constine, M.D., professor of radiation oncology and pediatrics, and Jacob Rowe, M.D., a hematology oncologist.  The side effects – skin burns, nausea and severe reactions in her lungs and thyroid - were extreme.

Constine fondly recalls the months during which he treated von Bucher. 

“Judy was simply amazing. She had children who were so young and I am not sure that her Hodgkin’s disease was even her highest priority.  She had almost every side effect possible, as if she was determined to experience radiation therapy to its fullest degree so she could empathize with, and counsel, others in the future,” he says with a smile  “And she journeyed through those weeks with a sense of humor, warmth, and perspective.  She definitely exemplified grace under fire.”

During von Bucher’s treatment regimen, her husband, Erik, scheduled a complete physical and doctors found he had melanoma, the most dangerous, and sometimes fatal, skin cancer. 

“We were reeling and in complete disbelief that we both had cancer,” von Bucher remembers.  Luckily, doctors caught the skin cancer early and his treatment was successful.  

That time in von Bucher’s life, dealing with cancer treatment, juggling the children, and being afraid for herself and her family – was the most challenging and terrifying experience she’d ever faced. 

Von Bucher has continuously used her experience to help others battling cancer.  For about eight years, she was a guest speaker to second-year medical students at the University of Rochester, during their study of lymphomas.  She provided students with valuable insights from the patient perspective, about ways for doctors to better communicate with their patients, as well as personal stories about the human side of the disease, and the challenges of treatment side effects.

In addition to helping young doctors, Von Bucher was a founding member of the Community Council for the Cancer Center, which evolved, under her leadership, into the Wilmot Cancer Center Board.  She served as Board Chair from 2000-2002. 

Von Bucher has always believed strongly in the need to raise awareness in the Rochester community of the incredible resource the Wilmot Cancer Center provides.

“There is nothing like being able to stay at home, with the support of family and friends, when you are fighting a life-threatening illness.  To know that we have a world class cancer center with some of the top doctors in the country right here in Rochester, providing state of the art treatment and making new inroads in cancer research - that is what patients and the community need to know,” she says.

Active in other parts of the community as well, von Bucher is a trustee at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Allendale Columbia School. She is also a former chair of the Planned Parenthood of the Rochester/Syracuse Region Board, and has been a Girl Scout leader for more than eight years. She and her husband, Erik, live in Brighton with their children.

The presentation of the Inspiration Award is a highlight of the Discovery Ball, the gala fund-raiser for the Wilmot Cancer Center. Last year, nearly $500,000 was raised to support cancer research and care in Rochester and leaders are expecting to top that figure this year.

This year’s gala is chaired by Bill and Beth Anne Napier of Pittsford.

“This year’s event is going to be very special,” says co-chair Beth Anne Napier.  “Tickets are selling so quickly and there is incredible community support for the Cancer Center’s mission of providing outstanding cancer care and cancer research for Rochester and Upstate New York.”

Tickets are $200 per person.  For tickets or sponsorships, please call Kim Ziegler at (585) 275-5199.

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Leslie White
(585) 273-1119
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