A child’s battle with cancer inspires a grandfather to hit the open road
Jim Clarahan has two passions: Harley-Davidson motorcycles and his 3-year-old grandson, Dray.
Last summer, he logged 11,232 miles on his bike, spending two months traveling the eastern half of the United States.
All of it was to help his grandson.
As a baby, Dray was diagnosed with lipodystrophy, a rare condition that prevents the body from maintaining healthy fat tissue. Unable to determine the underlying cause, his family sought help from Mayo Clinic.
The team assigned to Dray’s case included endocrinologist Dr. Vinaya Simha, who studied with the world’s leading lipodystrophy expert, Dr. Abhimanyu Garg, Chief of the Division of Nutrition and Metabolic Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
When Dr. Simha saw Dray’s skeletal frame, he immediately thought of Dr. Garg’s research linking lipodystrophy with brain cancer. An MRI revealed a golf ball-sized tumor.
The experience inspired Mr. Clarahan. Last August, he fired up his Harley and departed Peoria, Illinois, on a “Ride 4 Dray” – a 34-state road trip to raise awareness and support for pediatric cancer.
In Dallas, he stopped to thank Dr. Garg for his groundbreaking work and drop off a $30,000 donation.
“A gift like Mr. Clarahan’s helps keep our position as the leading center in the world where all kinds of patients come to learn what can be done for this rare condition,” said Dr. Garg.
Dray completed 60 weeks of chemotherapy in December and, according to his grandfather, his “fun personality is shining through.” So far, the tumor has not responded to treatment. Dray is now participating in a new clinical trial and will receive chemotherapy twice a day for the next two years.
Determined as ever, Mr. Clarahan is planning another ride. Next summer he’s headed to the West Coast.
It’s a chance to redouble his efforts to support pediatric cancer research and Dr. Garg’s lipodystrophy work, he said.
“My commitment to UT Southwestern is stronger than ever.”
Dr. Garg, also a Professor of Internal Medicine, holds the Distinguished Chair in Human Nutrition Research.