Cancer Patient Beats Odds, Rides 667 Miles for Huntsman Cancer Institute


On December 26, 2000, Jeff Warren received devastating news: he had stage 4 head and neck cancer, which gave him a 0–25 percent chance to live five years. His physician, radiation oncologist Gordon Watson, MD, could see Jeff struggling with the diagnosis. He wrote his home phone number on his business card and gave it to Jeff, saying, “If there’s anything you need, anytime, call me. I’m here for you.” That moment made an impression on Jeff. He says, “I realized I was working with a physician who felt he and his institution had some skin in the game. It wasn’t just that I was a patient, or a number, or one of the many. To him I was an individual.”

Watson and his colleagues at Huntsman Cancer Institute led Jeff through four months of cutting-edge treatment, which included three surgeries, many sessions of radiation, and several doses of chemotherapy. Although the process was agonizing, Jeff describes the care he received at HCI as unparalleled. He explains, “I’ve had the opportunity as a public speaker to visit cancer-related institutions across the country and I can say with a bit of authority that the Huntsman Cancer Institute is unmatched. Treatment is done, not only with professionalism, but with caring and respect, and with the patient and their family and friends in mind.”

After his treatment had concluded, Jeff needed to do something empowering and began the Ride from Reno: a 667 mile bike ride from Reno, Nevada to the steps of HCI in Salt Lake City, Utah. This fundraising event is dedicated to helping HCI researchers discover better tolerated, less toxic treatments for cancer. “That very first year, it was me on the bike, my wife Janet and my son Josh driving support, and we raised about $7,000,” says Jeff. “This year was the 11th consecutive year. There were nearly 300 of us and we raised a little over $140,000. It was really incredible. There are such kind, generous people in the world today.”

Today, nearly 13 years since his diagnosis, Jeff is cancer free. He and his family are thankful to HCI for helping him beat the odds. “The Huntsman Cancer Institute is a treasure on the hill,” says Jeff. “A gift to Salt Lake City and a gift to all the world from the Huntsman family. When we need it, it’s absolutely the most incredible place to go.”

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