Patient Care

University of Rochester Doctor to Cycle across the U.S. for ALS

Aug. 12, 2014
‘Cycling for Sally’ fundraiser will support patient services
LaVigne with her mother, Sally Hanan Oliver

Catherine (Carly) M. LaVigne, M.D., M.Ed., director of UR Medicine’s Headache Center, and an associate professor of Neurology, will bike from Astoria, Oregon, to Portland, Maine to raise funds for and awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
How to follow, how to give
Starting Sunday, Aug. 24, and extending through Tuesday, Oct. 7, on her “Cycling for Sally” journey, LaVigne will average 90 to 100 miles of biking a day, with the exception of four rest days breaking up the 45-day stretch. LaVigne, who has been training for the expedition for a year, is cycling in honor of her mother, Sally Hanan Oliver, who died of the disease at the age of 42. To chronicle her preparation for the tour and then the trip itself, LaVigne has begun a “Cycling for Sally” blog. Follow her progress at LaVigne aims to update the blog daily with new content, ranging from photos (pictures reach back to her mother’s childhood and through her illness, and will include shots from the bike trail) to ruminations and poems.
In her inaugural blog post, LaVigne says, “I am 42 years old, the age my mother was when she died after five years of living with ALS […]. Suffice to say, it is a symbolic year and this trip is the perfect way to honor her fierce spirit and will to live despite the ravages of ALS.”
All funds raised will go toward patient care services at UR Medicine’s ALS Clinic. The clinic offers the host of coordinated services—such as physical, respiratory, and speech therapy, and other support programs—essential to patients and families facing ALS. Symptoms of the disease are numerous and compounded as the disease progresses, affecting everything from walking, to swallowing, to breathing. The focus of care is to preserve independence and communication, allowing patients to live a quality life as long as possible.
Those interested in giving can make a secure donation online, or call (585) 273-2499 or, if calling from outside the U.S., 1-800-333-4428. Cycling for Sally donations are one-time events; contact information will not be used for future requests.
In under a month, the effort has raised more than $8,000.
About ALS
ALS is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative and ultimately fatal disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The disease primarily impacts a population of cells called motor neurons, which are critical to muscle control. As these cells die, individuals begin to lose voluntary muscle control, eventually leading to paralysis in the later stages of the disease. There is currently no effective treatment to slow or stop the progression of ALS.
First described in 1869 by neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, ALS attracted national and international attention in 1939, when Lou Gehrig abruptly retired from baseball after being diagnosed with ALS.
At any given time, as many as 30,000 Americans are living with the disease.
To contact UR’s ALS Clinic, please call (585) 275-2559. To schedule an appointment or to speak with a neurologist there, please call (585) 275-1200.
Catherine M. LaVigne, M.D., M.Ed.