Do you have what it takes to inspire? If you’ve ever wondered how to make an impact on others, take notes from Dee Clayton. To say she’s an inspiration is an understatement. Dee is an accomplished athlete who has found success as a cyclist both on the road and on the trail. She won the TBRA Tennessee State Mountain Bike Championship, raced the Hell of the South road race last year, and finished a 100 mile bike ride from start to finish in four hours and thirty minutes. That’s fast! Her most recent victory was late last year when she won the Tennessee State Mountain Bike Championship.
Outside the cycling world, Dee is an equally accomplished philanthropist and is extremely passionate about giving back to charity. For years, she has contributed to a variety of charities by participating in fundraising events and by raising money for her favorite charity race, the Susan G. Komen Evansville Race for the Cure. Dee is captain of the team, Maude Squad, which her cousin Maude started when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since Maude succumbed to the disease at a very young age, Dee has led the way as the top individual fundraiser of the event for the last three years.
This year the race has more meaning. Only a few months after her 2010 mountain bike victory, she was diagnosed with Stage IV kidney cancer. Since her diagnosis in December, Dee has undergone numerous radiation and chemotherapy treatments, as well as two extensive surgeries within three days. One surgery was to remove a kidney, while the other was to remove two vertebrae. Doctors replaced her vertebrae by a titanium cage that surrounds her spine. Basically her spine is fused from L1 to T11 with three anchor rods that are over a foot long and held in place by nine two inch long screws. Dee was in a back brace for three months yet still her pelvis and hips are turned forward causing her to be bent over in what she jokes is “a perfect aero position on the bike.” Dee’s humor and positive attitude are infectious. She once commented on the cycling connection she has with her Doctor; he worked on Lance Armstrong’s cancer team from Indiana University.
Throughout Dee’s treatments, surgeries, and rehabilitation, she has remained positive and upbeat in the face of her terminal diagnosis. One of her good friends describes her as a “true inspiration on and off the bike, and the sweetest person I have ever met.” Despite numerous setbacks during her life, including the loss of her father at a young age, several bad bike wrecks last year, and a broken arm on the first vacation since her surgery, she has displayed tremendous courage and strength. While she has accepted her condition, she still wants to make a difference in cancer awareness and fundraising to find a cure. This fall, she is excited to yet again be part of the Tri for a Cure held on September 24th. She says, “I can’t wait to do it again this year…even though they may have to push me in a wheelchair for the 5K! I enjoy helping others so much. This year it means more to me than ever!”
In the last few weeks Dee’s condition has worsened, yet her passion for this cause remains. Although she is unable to personally raise money for the race, her friends and family ask that if you are inspired by her story and enthusiasm for helping her find a cure for cancer, please use the link below and donate to her team and to her specifically. Her family is hopeful that Dee will be well enough to attend the event. She has some “really cool” shirts planned for the team.