Karen Peterson and her son, Eric, both received treatment for cancer at UCSF. While one was near the beginning of life, and the other near the end, their family found the care equally as dedicated. Now, almost three years after her death, Karen's family continues to support
UCSF so such committed patient care—and research for cures—can thrive.
When three-year-old Eric was diagnosed with leukemia, Karen and her husband, Jeff, were referred to UCSF by Byron Smith, his pediatric oncologist at John Muir Medical Center. Smith then worked closely with UCSF pediatric cancer specialist Kevin Shannon. "They took amazing care of my son," says Peterson, "and made life as easy as possible for us." Eric's situation was tricky, however, because he was being treated elsewhere for diabetes.
Then one day UCSF pediatric endocrinologist Steve Gitelman walked into Eric's room. After consulting with Eric's medical team, Gitelman explained that he wanted to synchronize Eric's leukemia and diabetes care. "He was totally reassuring, totally caring," remembers Peterson. "We were relieved to know he was on our team." Eric progressed so well that Gitelman designated Karen as an "honorary endocrinologist" for her devotion to her son.
Unfortunately, Karen herself was diagnosed with cancer in 2001. Childhood exposure to asbestos
caused her rare form of lung cancer: mesothelioma. Specialists coast-to-coast told the Petersons there was nothing more that could be done. Then they came to UCSF. While clearly her disease was fatal, her doctors, medical oncologist Thierry Jahan and thoracic surgeon David Jablons, worked hard to improve the quality of her life. Surgery allowed Karen to breathe normally and share one last, invaluable year with her family.
To honor his wife's spirit and fight mesothelioma, pediatric leukemia, diabetes, and another disease afflicting their family, ALS, Peterson founded the Jeffrey and Karen Peterson Family Foundation. Eric and his twin, Kort, now energetic 11-year-olds and star Little League pitchers, serve as junior board members. The Foundation also supports patient care and has donated more than $1.3 million to UCSF. "At UCSF they put the same passion into helping patients as they do research," says Peterson. "And for that we are so grateful."
The Foundation's latest gifts include $150,000 to the Thoracic Oncology Program Fund, $100,000 to the Pediatric Diabetes General Fund, $100,000 to the Peterson Family Pediatric Leukemia Research Fund, and $25,000 to support the ALS Clinic.
To support any of these programs, contact Alison Gray at 415/514-1646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.