Jennifer’s legacy inspires the spinners

Jennifer’s legacy inspires the spinners

Cycle for Survival’s ‘bike party’ is scheduled next March in Summit

Jennifer Goodman Linn hugs her father, Len Goodman.
Jennifer Goodman Linn hugs her father, Len Goodman.

Cycle for Survival’s fundraiser for rare cancer research will be held in Summit early next year.

The group’s pioneering spirit, Jennifer Goodman, had a lot going for her. Growing up in Livingston, she was very involved in the world around her, including Livingston High School clubs and her synagogue, Temple Emanu-El of West Essex. She graduated from Duke University with honors and earned an MBA at Harvard.

Jennifer met David Linn at Harvard, and the two married in 2003. After graduation, she worked for several large companies, including Ann Taylor and Nickelodeon.

In 2004, Jennifer’s stomach began bothering her. That was unusual for her, her father, Len Goodman, said. She was very health conscious and went to the gym every day. After several tests, doctors found a football-sized tumor in Ms. Goodman Linn’s stomach. When the tumor was removed, they discovered it was cancerous — a rare form  known as sarcoma. Ms. Goodman Linn was 33 years old.

Doctors told her that her chance of survival was very small, but “Jennifer was a very tough-minded individual,” Mr. Goodman said. “She said I have a choice — I can just fold up and let this disease take care of me, or I can take care of the disease. And that’s what she did.”

The Linns were living in Manhattan, and Ms. Goodman Linn began treatment at Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center. She also continued  exercising at her regular gym, Equinox Columbus Circle. The gym’s spin classes were a particular favorite. There were even times when Jennifer had a spin bike in her hospital room, Mr. Goodman said. “When she was in the hospital, sometimes she could spin for five minutes, sometimes she could do half an hour. But that’s who she was.”

Ms. Goodman Linn was grateful to the doctors, nurses, and staff at MSK. “They were keeping her alive,” Mr. Goodman said. And she wanted to raise money for rare cancer research. She approached Equinox Columbus Circle and organized a spin fundraiser in the gym’s cycling studio. “There were 50 bikes, and her dream was to raise $10,000,” he said. “As it turned out, the event raised over $250,000. So Jennifer decided to run the event again the following year.”

Len and Sandy Goodman created Cycle for Survival.

The next year, the organizers doubled the number of bikes and raised more than $650,000. “After that event, Jennifer realized that she and David could no longer run the project themselves,” Mr. Goodman said. “It had become too big an operation, and Jennifer was becoming more ill and having more surgeries.” So the Linns asked MSK to take over, and the medical center agreed. That was in 2007.

Cycle for Survival is now an annual event in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, and Westchester, and in cities around the country including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington.

“It’s a spinning event, but the spinning itself is symbolic,” Sandy Goodman, Ms. Goodman Linn’s mother, said. “Jennifer used to say, ‘You can spin hard or hardly spin at all.’ It’s a party, it’s a celebration of life — it’s not a doom and gloom day.”

Each event consists of many four-hour sessions over one or more days. Participants  commit to raising $1,000 per bike. Sometimes one person will ride the bike for the entire session, but often teams of up to 16 people take turns using the bike. “Sometimes a team will raise their $1,000, sometimes a team will come in with almost  $1 million,” Ms. Goodman said. “Our average is about $5,000 to $6,000.” Facilitators from Equinox gyms lead the events. “There’s music and entertainment as participants ride. Research updates from MSK doctors and inspirational speakers — usually people who are undergoing treatment, or who have undergone treatment, sharing their story — are dotted throughout each session,” she continued.

The events attract people from “all walks of life,” Ms. Goodman said. “Doctors come. Nurses come. People of all colors, all races, all religions, all ages, all educational stages, all economic backgrounds, all come together and bond because everybody has a story. And after a while, year after year, they become friends, they become really solid, glued-together families, who help each other during the year as well.”

“It’s basically a party with bikes,” Mr. Goodman said. “And we have a memorial board where participants can post poems or pictures of people whose lives they are celebrating or in whose memory they are riding.”

“It’s very moving,” Ms. Goodman added. “There’s laughing, there’s crying, and there are passionate people talking about their cancer journeys.”

Most of the events take place at Equinox gyms. This year’s New Jersey event will be at Equinox Summit on March 2 and 3. (See box.) Equinox is a corporate sponsor of Cycle for Survival and “a real partner,” Ms. Goodman said. “The company is fantastic — this could not happen without Equinox.”

Jennifer Goodman Linn was considered to be an energizer bunny.

All money raised supports rare cancer research at MSK. “We’re making tremendous strides in pioneering research and we’re supporting hundreds of clinical trials, benefiting people throughout the world,” Ms. Goodman said. A group of doctors at MSK reviews applications submitted by other MSK doctors who are involved in research and decides where to direct the funds. “The money is disbursed very quickly, generally within six months, which is unusual. And anything learned in the science labs is shared with every cancer hub in the nation.” Since 2007, Cycle for Survival has raised more than $340 million.

Ms. Goodman Linn lived for seven years after her diagnosis. “She was tough,” Mr. Goodman said. “She continued to work. She became a certified spin instructor. And Jen and Dave  traveled — they were big soccer fans and went to soccer events all over
the world.”

“Jen made a dance video on her 40th birthday because she never thought she’d live to be 40,” Ms. Goodman said. “It’s a very inspirational video and it’s played at the events.

“She used to say, ‘the future’s unclear, but day by day I’m going to find my way,’ and she did. She would seize the day.”

Ms. Goodman Linn spoke frequently on behalf of MSK and Cycle for Survival. “Near the end of her life, Jen’s tumors were so advanced, she looked like she was nine months pregnant,” Mr. Goodman said. “And her legs were so large that she couldn’t walk. But she was scheduled to speak and she spoke for
45 minutes.”

Ms. Goodman Linn died in 2011 at the age of 40. In 2012, MSK dedicated the Jennifer Goodman Linn Laboratory of New Drug Development in Sarcoma and Rare Cancers in her memory.

“Jennifer was fun,” Ms. Goodman concluded. “She was a party person and she was about helping and supporting other people. She said that people lose out because they’re not fearless. And she said you have to embrace life. The way she handled her
disease was inspiring.

“We’re very proud of her legacy.”

What: Cycle for Survival fundraiser for rare cancer research

Where: Equinox Summit, 68 River Road, Summit

When: March 2, 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., and March 3, 8 a.m. to noon

For information and registration:

read more: