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Colon Cancer Patient Dives into Philanthropy

Colon cancer patient Tyghe Nielson.

October 15, 2019

Tyghe Nielsen, MD, had just completed a residency in emergency medicine after graduating from the University of Kansas Medical Center. Ever entrepreneurial, he and his wife, Karin, had also purchased a home health agency. They were settled in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and had recently welcomed a son to join their family of 2 young daughters.

Then Tyghe, 32, discovered blood in his stool. A week later — with no family history, no risk factors and no previous symptoms — he was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer that had metastasized to his liver. His fellow physicians estimated his 5-year survival rate was 8%.

Five years later, Tyghe and Karin live closer to family in Kansas City, run a thriving business and try to keep up with Kylar, 14, Breck, 6, and Lincoln, 5.

While he's still aggressively fighting his own cancer, Tyghe is now raising funds to help other people fight the disease.

Foundation makes a big splash

The idea to start a foundation came to Tyghe at an emotional time about 3 years after his diagnosis.

"I was at the funeral of a close friend who had the same type of cancer," he says. "I sat there and thought, 'Why am I alive and she isn't?' I realized I had relied on support from family, friends and doctors. But what I hadn't done was give back. I hadn't done my part to help everyone else."

With so many established running, walking or bicycling events, Tyghe, who swam as an undergrad at the University of Kansas, decided to use the pool as a platform. The Drown Out Cancer Foundation created a fundraising template so swim teams and clubs can help cancer patients in their own communities.

The foundation's gift to the Campaign for Cambridge North Tower was the first to be matched by the Annette Bloch $10 Million Challenge Grant. Immediately, its $50,000 donation doubled to $100,000.

"It was an unbelievable feeling to multiply the money that we had worked so hard to raise," he describes. "We doubled our impact."

From ripples to waves

By supporting Cambridge North Tower, Tyghe and the Drown Out Cancer Foundation will definitely help others — now and far into the future. "How many people want to stay in Kansas City but have to travel? This expansion is going to help people here and throughout the region for years to come," he says.

Always plunging forward, Tyghe wants to become the first cancer patient to swim the English Channel. "My goal is to raise $1 million for this campaign," he says. "Then have it matched for $2 million. Wouldn't that be something?"

Sadly, Tyghe Nielsen passed away Thursday, December 3, 2015. The patients, families, physicians and staff at The University of Kansas Health System are grateful for the contributions made by his not-for-profit organization, the Drown Out Cancer Foundation. The foundation’s generosity will have an enormous impact on cancer patients and their loved ones.

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