At age 42, Vicki Lynn Piha Ashberg was enjoying motherhood, spending time with her 2-year-old son, Mitchie, while eight weeks pregnant with a second child. When she experienced some early pregnancy bleeding, though, she went in for tests — and doctors discovered a mass on her kidney.
Two weeks later, she not only miscarried, but was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of kidney cancer that will strike about 54,000 Americans this year. Despite treatment, she lost her battle with cancer in February. Now her legacy will live on through cancer research at City of Hope.
|Robert Figlin, center, with Morrie and Marlene Piha, Vicki Lynn Piha Ashberg’s parents. (Photo by Lisi Wolf)|
Members of her Seattle community recently rallied in support of cancer research programs at two fundraising events held in celebration of her life. A June 21 reception and dinner at the Westin Seattle drew 450 people, including KOMO-TV newscaster Elisa Jaffe, the evening’s emcee. The following day, about 200 supporters of all ages took part in a sold-out family bowling day in Kirkland, Wash. More than $560,000 was raised in support of treatment, education and research at City of Hope.
Ashberg’s family understands firsthand the importance of research and new therapies. By the time it was diagnosed, cancer had metastasized to her lungs and would eventually spread to her spine, legs, brain and other kidney. Ashberg and her family researched numerous experts and treatment options across the country until they found Robert A. Figlin, M.D., at UCLA. Figlin eventually accepted a position at City of Hope, where he is now acting director of City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Arthur and Rosalie Kaplan Professor of Medical Oncology. He planned to continue treating Ashberg at City of Hope.
Although she lost her battle with cancer, she benefited from Figlin’s care, which her family members appreciated, noted Jay Ashberg, Vicki Ashberg’s husband. Her family was happy to partner with City of Hope to potentially help others facing cancer.
“We are truly grateful to everyone who participated in these two memorable events, as attendees, volunteers or sponsors,” Morrie Piha, Vicki’s father, said. “On behalf of the Ashberg and Piha families, I am thrilled that we had the opportunity to support Dr. Figlin’s work and the programs at City of Hope in this way.”
Figlin spoke at the dinner about City of Hope’s commitment and contributions to improving treatments and accelerating new cancer research. The Piha and Ashberg families, as well as the Polls — the family of Vicki Ashberg’s sister — were touched by Figlin’s dedication and compassion and continue to support his work at City of Hope.