Honoring Quincy’s Greatest Wish

Quincy with parents, Lisa and Roger, and brothers, Keenan (left) and Brody.

After several trips to their pediatrician’s office, Lisa and Roger Lee still didn’t know what was making their 3-year-old daughter, Quincy, sick. The illness struck suddenly in October 2001 and caused Quincy significant pain. 

An emergency room visit finally revealed the problem and a devastating diagnosis: alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a pediatric solid-tumor cancer, stage 4.

The Lees rushed Quincy to pediatric oncologist Kate Matthay, MD, at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco. “Dr. Matthay told us Quincy had a very serious kind of cancer,” says Lisa, who now works as a parent liaison helping other families at the hospital. “At the same time, she reassured us there was hope. That meant so much.”

The Lees sought to honor Quincy’s greatest wish—that “all kids with cancer could be all better.”

Quincy received many rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, and even had a few months in remission before the cancer returned. Matthay then recommended a different chemotherapy, which worked for longer—about a year and a half.

“We were comforted by the knowledge that Quincy was getting the most current therapies and the most expert care,” says Roger.

Sadly, even the best care in the world could not save his daughter, who passed away in 2004.

“I visited Quincy at home in the last few weeks of her life,” Matthay recalls. “Her parents and two older brothers surrounded that little girl with so much love. It was incredible to see.”

Subsequently, the Lees sought to honor Quincy’s greatest wish—that “all kids with cancer could be all better.” When the couple discovered that only 4 percent of federal cancer research funding is dedicated to childhood cancers, they became committed fundraisers. In December 2015, they donated a remarkable $300,000 to create the Quincy Lee Endowed Fellowship Fund in Pediatric Oncology at UCSF to support research. The Lees’ ultimate goal is to raise an additional $700,000 to fund a Chancellor’s Endowed Fellowship.

“We never receive enough funding for training,” says a grateful Matthay, who arrived at UCSF as a fellow herself in 1976 and now holds the Mildred V. Strouss Endowed Chair in Translational Research in Pediatric Oncology. “Fellowships are so important for attracting young scientists excited about improving treatments and finding cures—for Quincy’s type of cancer and for other metastatic children’s cancers.”

To learn more about the Quincy Lee Endowed Fellowship Fund, visit quincylee.org.