University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Three Women Lead UCSF’s $25 Million Fundraising Initiative to Fight Brain Cancer

By Jason Bardi, Public Affairs | October 26, 2011


Members of the audience listen to a panel discussion featuring clinicians and caregivers talking about caring for a patient suffering from brain cancer at a recent event at UCSF Mission Bay.

As a $25-million fundraising campaign gets underway for the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery, three volunteers playing a key role in that effort reflected recently on how they came to be involved in raising funds for brain cancer treatment and research.

Before becoming volunteers, Randi Murray, Marritje Greene, and Cathy Podell were simply friends.

Greene and Murray had known each other the longest. They met in the late 1980s when they both moved to the Bay area. Their husbands had known each other even longer, since college days. After moving here, they met Cathy Podell. All three would have their lives deeply touched – and at times turned upside down – by cancer.

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Greene lost a brother to leukemia when he was only 21, and her mother succumbed to a different form of cancer at the age of 78. Podell’s husband lost his first wife to brain cancer. Shortly after becoming involved at UCSF as a Foundation board member, Cathy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Last year, one of her closest friends died from brain cancer– a disease some 500 Americans are diagnosed with every day and that kills some 13,000 people in the United States each year.

“Never think that just because you have dealt with a disease once that you are done with it,” said Podell. “You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Murray’s life was also changed by brain cancer. Her husband Gordon Murray was diagnosed with the disease a few years ago and underwent treatment at UCSF. Last summer, his tumors came back, and he died six months later. “It was just such a shock when he was diagnosed,” said Murray. “Nobody was healthier than Gordon.”

Early this year, the three women started meeting with Mitch Berger, MD, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery who was one of the doctors who treated Gordon Murray.

Read more at Jason Bardi, Public Affairs