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Side by Side: The Ride of Her Life

The second annual Pedal the Cause in October, 2011, saw more than 1,300 cyclists raise over $1.3 million for cancer research at the Siteman Cancer Center* and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Perhaps the event’s biggest champion was local news anchor and investigative reporter Leisa Zigman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2010 and is now in remission. Her “Team Leisa” was one of the event’s largest. Zigman’s doctor, Nancy Bartlett, MD, a Siteman medical oncologist, also rode in Pedal the Cause as part of “Bartlett’s Bikers.”

* Proceeds go directly to the Cancer Frontier Fund, an initiative of The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital to support cancer research.

 

Leisa Zigman

KSDK-TV anchor and investigative reporter

 

On Her First Appointment at The Siteman Cancer Center

A volunteer met me at the door to tell me where valet parking and the pharmacy were, and then I thought, “Does this mean I’m going to be here a lot?” That’s when I knew I was in for a pretty long journey. Still, I saw Dr. Bartlett and told her I thought they had made a mistake … and she held my hand and said, “You have cancer.”

 

On Her Treatment

That first day, Dr. Bartlett put me on a protocol of Rituxan and bendamustine that specifically targets cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed. The miracle of the drug and the new treatment allowed me to work through it, and it helped my family keep a relatively normal life. I heard someone say, “I saw Leisa on TV, and her wig looks great.” Not on this treatment. It’s my own hair.

 

On Creating “Team Leisa” for Pedal the Cause

Moving forward, it is and will become, besides my family, a major focal point of my life. I hope that my role as a public figure can be used to raise awareness for a cause I care deeply about helping to find a cure.

 

Nancy Bartlett, MD

Siteman Cancer Center medical oncologist

 

On How Far We’ve Come with Cancer Treatment

To show how things have changed for cancer patients, it wasn’t long ago that most patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma were treated with traditional chemotherapy and suffered its unfortunate side effects of nausea and hair loss.

 

On Leisa’s Unique Therapy

Some patients, like Leisa, can now be treated with a new protocol of Rituxan, a targeted therapy, and bendamustine, a conventional but milder form of chemotherapy. For Leisa, this regimen not only put her cancer in remission, but it allowed her to stay on the air during her fight with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Viewers of her newscasts never knew what she was going through.

 

On the Future of Cancer Treatment

Leisa’s therapy is a great example of the future of cancer treatment. We are developing targeted therapies for many cancers. In the future, our goal is to determine a patient’s treatment course by looking at the genetic makeup of his or her cancer.

View the Pedal the Cause photo gallery.

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