Blackberry Farm

Our Friend of the Farm

Tom Lennox

Tom Lennox


A Day to Remember

Oct. 24, 2008 was supposed to be a great day for Tom Lennox, Pelotonia’s executive director.

It was the day the Pelotonia office opened; literally the first day of the rest of Tom’s life, with an exciting new career and mission on the horizon.

But early that morning, as Tom was getting dressed and ready for work, a call came in from one of his doctors: the results of his CAT scan were in – and weren’t good.

“They told me my cancer had returned … that I had lesions on my liver,” said Tom, who had been diagnosed with colon cancer in June 2007. He’d undergone radiation and chemo treatments, surgery to remove 15 inches of his colon and then more chemo. When all of this was over, he was told the cancer was gone, but to come back every year for a CAT scan.

The timing of the news that October morning seemed particularly cruel and ironic – but cancer is evil that way, and likes nothing more than to destroy lives.

Tom’s prognosis wasn’t good: mega doses of chemo and then surgery if he responded well to the chemo.

“We told the kids,” said Tom, pausing to collect himself. He’s normally never at a loss for words, but all of a sudden – talking about that terrible day – he struggled to control his emotions and find the right words. “That was tough, very, very hard. They don’t deserve this … nobody deserves this … but we told them because you have to tell them.”

Tom and his wife, Jane, have three children, Charlotte, 12, Liza, 10, and Thomas, 8.

“I kept thinking about Jane and the kids and what their lives would be like without me,” Tom said.

Four long and difficult days later, Tom had a PET scan, a more detailed scan in which radioactive dye is injected into the body, which in turn lights up whenever it comes in contact with cancer cells. The purpose was to show Tom’s doctors where in his body the cancer had spread – and help them determine their course of treatment.

“We were driving home (after the PET scan) and my doctor called and said it was negative; I didn’t have cancer,” Tom said. His doctors still aren’t sure, but think the lesions may have been caused by the chemo treatments.

And yes, there was a relief and a sense of optimism after the good news, but it didn’t mean Tom’s worries were over.
“Everyone who’s had cancer thinks about it every day of their lives,” he said.

Working on Pelotonia has helped Tom, who is 43, get through some of this uncertainty and anxiety. He’s also become a triathlete and will compete in the Gulf Coast Triathlon (1.2 miles swim; 56 miles on the bike; 13.1 mile run) on May 8. Working out, Tom said, helps him physically, but even more so mentally. “Any day I work out before I come into the office, it’s invariably a better day.”

Back in 2007, when he was initially diagnosed with cancer, Tom was the VP of corporate communication for Abercrombie & Fitch – and already thinking about a career change.

“I had this thought that I wanted to do something else, that I didn’t want to be sitting at this desk for the next 25 years,” he said.

Tom and his family love New Albany, where they live, and Columbus, and didn’t want to move, which limited his career options.

And then a friend called and told him about this new idea for a fund-raising bike ride that would benefit The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

Tom was interested, but not exactly foaming at the mouth.

“It created some interest, but it was by no means a no-brainer,” he said.

And then he started talking with Mike Caligiuri, head of The James, and Cindy Hilsheimer, the founder of SC Search Consultants and a member of the Foundation Board at The James.

“And the more we talked, the more interested I became,” Tom said. He was eventually offered the job – and accepted.
“Hiring Tom was a no brainer, it was like, done, next problem,” Mike said.

And the next problem was, starting from scratch: Put together in little more than a year a first-class ride that would attract more than 2,000 riders and raise at least $4 million. And create an overwhelmingly positive experience for the riders and a community of cyclists determined to beat cancer.

Is that all?

Click here to find out more information about riding or donating to Pelotonia!

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