Health and Medicine People and Community

Riding in the DCC, powered by gratitude

The Dolphins Challenge Cancer is Lisa Siegel’s favorite day of the year, an opportunity to honor her parents, both long-time University employees, and to exercise her passion for giving back.
Lisa Siegel during Dolphins Challenge Cancer/Photo credit: FIXED FOCUS CREATIVE GROUP LLC.

Lisa Siegel finishes a recent DCC ride. Photo: Courtesy of Fixed Focus Creative Group

When Lisa Siegel is on a long bike ride, which is often these days as she prepares for the Dolphins Challenge Cancer in February, and the fatigue sinks in—legs throbbing, breath short, a last bit of energy drained—she glances at the light on her handle bars. 

The light was a gift from her mother not long after Siegel’s father had passed away. 

“This light will always be your guiding light and help lift you up,” Juyne had told her. “And I want you to know that while your dad and I might not be physically here, this light is a sign that we’re always with you and always a part of you.” 

Juyne, a longtime University of Miami employee, died in October 2021 just 17 days after being diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian peritoneal cancer. Lisa promised her mother before she died that she would never miss a DCC as long as she could ride, and on Feb. 24 next year she will be participating in her 14th consecutive race. 

“The light reminds me and helps me imagine them. I feel so rejuvenated that it pushes me to go farther, and I feel so grateful,” said Siegel, a grant accountant in the University of Miami Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship. 

For Siegel, who grew up in Miami cheering on the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Hurricanes along with the rest of her family, the DCC is her favorite day of the year. 

“Rooting for the teams is in our blood. So, for me there’s no better partnership than this one between the University and the Dolphins—and that’s a passion that drives me,” she said. “To have so many people coming together with one common goal, raising money for the incredible doctors at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center,    it’s just incredible.” 

Giving back and helping others was a bedrock principle that her father Marvin and mother Juyne instilled in Siegel and her brother Scott and sister Aimee. After earning an undergraduate and law school degree from the University, Marvin served for years as the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine assistant vice president for medical and financial affairs, overseeing the United Way campaign, and her mother Juyne worked for many years in the University’s Department of Human Resources. Both parents volunteered often in the community, Siegel said. 

“Every evening for dinner, we’d sit together to talk about our day and giving back was the ultimate. We were brought up to give back, to volunteer and help others,” Siegel said.

One lesson that stands out among many favorite memories is when she was a 7-year-old Brownie in the troop where her mother was the leader. 

“We were all sitting outside in the backyard and my mom asked the troop, ‘I want you to do me a favor and commit to doing one good deed a week’,” she recounted. “That stuck with me, and I’ve kept it up over the years. Though, even then, I thought, ‘I can do better than one just good deed a week.’” 

And she has. Both in her life in general and in her role as an unofficial—albeit super zealous ambassador of the DCC—Siegel has amped up her “good deed” cadence. 

“People come to me all the time to tell me their stories about their bout with cancer, someone they lost, or their own daily struggles with the disease,” Siegel said. “I just want to help them any way I can, even if it’s just listening—it just drives me to do more and I feel like I can always do more, like I can’t take my foot off the gas.” 

Siegel is fueled in part by her own grief and loss caused by the disease. In addition to her mother, she lost her grandfather and her father's uncles to colon cancer. An aunt is a breast cancer survivor. 

Siegel is amazed at how the DCC has grown over the years.

“It’s crazy to think that the DCC started with just a few hundred participants and now there are seven thousand,” she said. “Though the other day I was talking with people in my building who didn’t know anything about it—and that means I’m not doing my job.” 

Her “job” is to spread the word about the fundraiser. To attract attention, she wears one of her many DCC jerseys nearly every day. 

“It’s a conversation piece, and people come up to me all the time and say, ‘I love your jersey, where did you get it?’ Then I can tell them and have the QR code right on the phone, show it to them, and ‘boom,’ they can sign up,” Siegel said. 

As she prepares for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and for the next DCC, more than anything Siegel wants to express her appreciation. 

“I’m so grateful to everybody and to those people supporting me year after year,” she said. “And for all the amazing doctors and staff at Sylvester, I feel blessed to be able to help them.

“I’m just one little person. And I tell everyone, ‘I’m nothing without you. I couldn’t do it without your support.’ That’s why I always repeat the DCC slogan: One team, one fight,” Siegel said.