Doug Alsdorf: Funding Research for a Cure

Doug Alsdorf 3

While no husband or son should have to experience the loss of a wife or mother, Doug Alsdorf and his son Garrett are committed to ensuring that no one else has to experience the tragedy they endured.

Eleven years ago, Doug and his wife Laura, who met at The Ohio State University, relocated back to central Ohio from Los Angeles to live closer to family again. Doug passed up a prestigious position at UCLA to begin teaching geophysics at Ohio State while Laura left her dream job with Mattel to focus on starting a family. But within a few months of beginning their new life in the Midwest, Laura was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Initially, the couple considered moving back to Los Angeles for care, as Doug would accept only the “best treatment, period,” for his wife, and he believed that he would find it there. But after researching many options, Doug and Laura decided to seek treatment at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

Laura began a six-year battle against cancer with the support of the OSUCCC – James and her family. A loving mother and wife, she was more concerned with her family’s well-being than she was with her own. Doug remembers her telling him: “This cancer is unfair to you and unfair to Garrett.” But he never heard Laura complain about how unfair it was to her.

Doug and Laura were impressed by the quality of care and expertise at the OSUCCC – James. However, after four years of successful treatment, Laura was diagnosed with metastatic disease; the cancer had spread to her lungs. The couple traveled to Houston for a second opinion. Doug recalls a physician there telling him, “I wish we had the clinical trials that The James has.” In the end, Doug, Laura and Garrett stayed in Columbus. “We didn’t move because The James is that good,” Doug says.

Laura continued treatment through the spring of 2011, when she and Doug learned that the cancer had spread to her liver. She died soon afterward. Doug and Garrett recall that, during her final days of treatment, Laura was “incredibly courageous” and “selfless.”

Garrett, who is now in middle school, loves to play video games, perform in plays and hike outdoors with his father. He remembers his mom as someone who was caring, brave and “never really worried about herself.”

Shortly after Laura’s death, her husband and her brother Don established a fund in her memory. The motivation for their giving stems from their passion for funding research and from their gratitude for the compassionate care that Laura received from the staff at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center. “The nurses were outstanding and memorable. One nurse, in particular, asked if she could paint Laura’s nails as Laura was too weak to do them herself. That is just one example of the remarkable level of care shown to patients at The James,” Doug says.

“The experience of giving back became a cathartic release,” he adds. “It allowed me to heal. I didn’t know I would feel that way.”

Money raised through this fund benefits the research of Sameek Rowchowdhury, MD, PhD, at the OSUCCC – James, who uses it for genetic typing of cancer cells in developing treatments specific to each patient’s genetic makeup.

In the past five years, Laura’s fund has reached $117,000 thanks to the incredible generosity of friends and family. Doug hopes to someday see her fund surpass $1 million and plans to publish a book in her honor. What started as a collection of therapeutic blog postings has turned into a memoir about “life, love, death and dating.” All proceeds from the book would be donated to the fund in Laura’s name.

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