At CURE Childhood Cancer, one of the richest rewards is to watch a child beat the disease and move forward with his life. Such is the story with Tee Bridges, once a patient, now a survivor living a full life and serving the organization which served him more than 30 years ago.
As a teenager, Tee was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1981. His treatment protocol called for six weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy followed by bi-monthly chemotherapy treatments for two years. He was fortunate enough to go into remission after the initial six weeks of treatment and never relapsed. In 1983, his treatment ended and he has been cancer free ever since. “I am one of the lucky survivors,” Tee says.
Because of Tee’s personal journey with childhood cancer, he considered entering the medical field. During the summer of 1986, Tee volunteered in the pediatric cancer research lab at Emory, working beside Dr. Harry Findley, a long-time CURE-supported scientist. Dr. Findley performed research in cancer biology and drug development, with a specific focus on childhood leukemia and neuroblastoma. His research was funded by CURE for more than 30 years up until he retired in 2008. Dr. Findley explains, “CURE played a major role in filling in gaps in our funding so we could keep our research going. Overall, CURE has had a very significant effect in promoting research and new treatments for childhood cancer, both at Emory and nationally through the sharing of research findings and data from clinical-trials.”
Tee worked in Dr. Findley’s lab at a very exciting time, when important discoveries were being made. Dr. Findley recalls, “We were testing retinoic acid (RA) as a possible inhibitor of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells, which we grew in the lab. Based on promising laboratory results with some types of AML, we later began a Pediatric Oncology Group-sponsored clinical trial of RA for relapsed AML. On the basis of this laboratory research and trial, RA was identified as an effective adjuvant therapy (i.e. addition to standard chemotherapy) for a particular type of AML known as acute promyelocytic leukemia.”
“Tee,” says Dr. Findley, “became very good at growing cells and assisting in setting-up cultures for testing. We were sorry to see him leave at the end of the summer! He was clearly motivated by a desire to help find new ways to treat leukemia.”
While Tee was a promising student in the lab, he ultimately decided not to enter the medical field. In the late 1980’s, Tee moved away from Atlanta to work in a family business. When asked about his memories of Dr. Findley, Tee says, “He is one of the many people with whom I was able to develop a friendship as a patient at Emory. Harry is one of those people who always has a kind word; I have never heard him speak ill of anyone. He is obviously an intelligent, respected and dedicated man.”
While Tee remained a CURE donor and attended reunions and other events, it wasn’t until 2008, when Tee and his family moved back to Atlanta, that he became more actively involved with CURE. Tee says, “I remember the volunteers who made the clinic a fun place. A kid remembers the adults who cared and made a scary day a little less scary.” Tee agreed to join CURE’s Board of directors in 2011 “because it is an opportunity to give back to an organization that has given so much to a deserving group of people.”