U-M Cancer Center, former football player recruit new teammate to help kick deadly blood cancer

Tecumseh, Mich.-based Uniloy helps raise funds for multiple myeloma research at U-M

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-added 01/27/11

Ann Arbor - Growing up as the son of a former University of Michigan basketball player-turned-coach, Dave Skala knows what it takes to be a Michigan man.

U-M Cancer Center, former football player recruit new teammate to help kick deadly blood cancer
Philip Brabbs (left) with Dave Skala

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He sees those special qualities -- from unwavering loyalty to overflowing enthusiasm -- in 30-year-old Philip Brabbs, a former place-kicker on the U-M football team who was diagnosed with the blood cancer multiple myeloma in 2008.

And it's one reason, Skala says, why his company is teaming up with Brabbs and the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center to tackle this deadly cancer.

Uniloy, a Tecumseh, Mich.-based machine manufacturing company, is donating $5,000 to Brabbs' Cancer Kickergoing to a new website organization as part of a companywide initiative encouraging employees to stay healthy. Each dollar Uniloy donated represents one mile walked by an employee.

All Cancer Kicker proceeds will go to the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, furthering its multiple myeloma research.

Skala is no stranger to the medical side of U-M himself. In 2004, he had a noncancerous tumor removed by U-M surgeons.

"What struck me about Phil was that when he got his diagnosis, his immediate concern was for his kids. I had that same reaction when doctors told me there was something wrong with my head. That shared emotion drew me to him and his cause," says Skala, Uniloy's North American vice president and general manager.

Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer in the United States. This year, more than 20,000 people will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma nationwide and about 10,650 people will die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institutegoing to a new website.

The U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center offers multidisciplinary treatment of multiple myeloma, combining the expertise of multiple specialists in the care of every patient. In addition, U-M was recognized for the second consecutive year as the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation's Center of the Year, in recognition of the extensive clinical research efforts.

Uniloy's fund-raising campaign launched in the summer of 2010 after Skala first heard Brabbs' story. Brabbs visited Uniloy in November to discuss his experiences and thank its leaders for their generous monetary support.

Brabbs may be best known for his game-winning kick in the 2002 Washington game after missing two first half field goal attempts.

Now, he's become a spokesman through his blog, "Multiple Myeloma for Dummiesgoing to a new website," and his Cancer Kicker organization as he continues treatment with Andrzej Jakubowiak, M.D., Ph.D.going to a new website, director of the multiple myeloma program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"It's one of those things where you don't sign up to do this, you just kind of become it," Brabbs says. "Once my wife, Cassie, and I decided we were going to dominate multiple myeloma, we started to document our journey. It quickly became a message of determination and hope, which is a source of inspiration for many people."

Treatment for multiple myeloma has improved in recent years, with patients now living three times longer than they did a decade ago.

Jakubowiak is involved in multiple studies looking at new drug combinations in the hope of discovering a better treatment, most recently leading a clinical trial that shows a three-drug combination may be an effective therapy for newly diagnosed patients.

It's groundbreaking research like this that Brabbs hopes to fund through his organization, which began in the spring during his most aggressive series of treatment.

Although this year is more about raising awareness, Brabbs says they're close to reaching their $34,000 goal - a target set in honor of the No. 34 football jersey Brabbs wore.

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Written by: Heather Guenther: 734-764-2220

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