Benefactors: Donation helping build expansion
"The expansion not only will foster leading-edge care, but creates a hope-producing environment that uplifts the spirit."
That’s part of the reason she and her husband, Leland Rees, are major donors to the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center expansion, where a room will be named for Kathryn Rees’ parents. The other is they believe that some of the finest cancer research and cancer care in the nation is going on at UC Davis.
"It really has emerged as a regional and national center of health-care excellence," Kathryn Rees says.
Rees knows well the challenges of cancer, but also appreciates its unexpected gifts. For one thing, her parents’ love for each other deepened during their illnesses.
"(My parents) would sit on the sofa – not a hair or an eyebrow between them – cooing together like two lovebirds in their twenties." Her mother, Pauline (Polly) Templeman, had esophageal cancer, and her father, Robert "Bob" Templeman, had bladder cancer and a metastatic cancer of the ureter.
Cancer center director and urologist Ralph de Vere White discovered the ureter tumor after other physicians failed to find it. His discovery provided her father 13 additional years.
"I was led to believe he would have been lucky to have had six months," says Rees.
She also credits oncologist Frederick Meyers, now executive associate dean of the School of Medicine, who pioneered "simultaneous care," which combines medical treatment, clinical trials and palliative care. Bob Templeman received chemotherapy through a clinical trial, along with comfort care during his final months.
It was one of her father’s nurses who recognized her mother’s troubling symptoms, which led to her esophageal cancer diagnosis. Polly Templeman, too, received palliative care until her death at home, just six weeks within that of her husband of 55 years.
Five years later, Rees credited the cancer center with saving her own life. In 2005, a trip to the UC Davis Medical Center emergency department, resulted in the discovery of a malignant kidney tumor, and led to surgery.
"Because it was caught early, the tumor had not put legs down through the membrane of the kidney – it was still sitting on top," says Rees. She required no radiation or chemotherapy after the surgery.
A lobbyist with a strong healthcare background, Rees has served on UC Davis Health System’s Leadership Council for many years and in many capacities, including as a past chair. She is excited about the cancer center’s expansion for its healing atmosphere, inclusion of pediatric services and its broadened opportunities for cancer research.
"When my parents were ill, the cancer center at that time seemed to have already outgrown its space and was bursting at the seams," she says. "The expansion not only will foster leading-edge care, but create a hope-producing environment that uplifts the spirit."
Another passion of the Reeses is the social media space YourSphere.com, a professionally monitored site that allows young people to safely interact online. The site offers "spheres" that support kids’ interests and aspirations, more than 400 games, avatars, scholarships and even philanthropy, while helping young people learn to engage in civil online discourse.
Leland Rees is the company’s chairman and CEO, and Kathryn Rees is helping him and company president Mary Kay Hoal develop "spheres" for pediatric and young adult cancer patients, where they can safely communicate and navigate a catastrophic illness. The site will support treatment compliance, mentorship and resources for the entire family affected by a loved one diagnosed with cancer. With Hoal, the Reeses, are working with cancer center faculty and advisory groups to launch the site.
"This site will allow youth to interact and support one another as they make this journey and also be part of the larger site interaction, where other kids don’t even know they are kids with cancer," Rees says.
Rees says she and her husband’s work on behalf of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and cancer patients is a cause that’s easy to believe in. "It’s a nationally preeminent institution that truly enriches the fabric of our community," she says.