Gary Jobson

America's Ambassador of Sailing Goes From Cancer Advocate to Cancer Survivor


Gary Jobson, world-class sailor, America's Cup winner and cancer survivor

World-class sailor and America's Cup winner Gary Jobson has led ambitious expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica, won practically every sailing award there is, and been inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame. He was among the NBC commentators during the sailing events in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

But for the Annapolis-based author, the biggest challenge of his life had nothing to do with wind and water.

"I was on a speaking tour in April of 2003, and developed an annoying cough that I couldn't seem to shake, along with blotches on my skin. I was feeling unusually fatigued and started having night sweats. I pressed on with the tour, seeing four different doctors in the U.S. and New Zealand. Finally, during a presentation in Cleveland one day, I just crumpled. That's when I knew it was time to go home and find out what was happening to me."

One test led to another, until he had the final diagnosis: Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The news came as a total shock.

"I found it quite ironic, since I had been heading up a charity regatta for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since 1994. The Leukemia Cup had always just been a way to do some good for a worthwhile cause and get the sailing community involved. I had no personal connection to blood cancer and never dreamed that, 10 years later, I'd be one of those benefiting from the funds we had been raising all those years," he says.

Two rounds of chemotherapy failed to get his condition under control, and it became clear that more aggressive treatment would be necessary. He would need a peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT) to launch a full-scale attack on the cancer that was ravaging his system. For this he sought out Aaron Rapoport, M.D., a specialist in the Hematologic Malignancies Program at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center and professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"I had my transplant in 2003 under Dr. Rapoport’s excellent care,” he says. "It was a very difficult process, and I had some complications along the way due to the very aggressive nature of the treatments I was undergoing. It took two years to get my disease into remission, but I survived. I can’t say enough about the nurses and other staff who took care of me while I was at the cancer center," he says.

Four and a half years after his transplant, Jobson is cancer-free and back to his rigorous schedule of sailboat racing, broadcasting, and lending his support to a wide variety of worthwhile causes. The cancer experience has given him a new perspective on what is truly important, and what to let go. “I don't let myself get stressed out about little things anymore," he says. He is very mindful when it comes to his health, and has regular follow-up visits with Dr. Rapoport.

Being on the receiving end of the some of the innovative therapies that his fundraising efforts have made possible over the years is a humbling experience. "During my two years of treatment, I had an opportunity to learn about Dr. Rapoport's research activities. What intrigued me was his focus on using the body's own immune system to fight cancer," Jobson says.

The experience has inspired him to look for additional ways to help. His latest effort is leading a major fundraising campaign to support Dr. Rapoport's work. "Recent advances in research helped me battle lymphoma. I'd like to do whatever I can to see this important work continue so that others can have the same positive outcome that I did," Jobson says.

For information on making a gift to support Dr. Rapoport's cancer research, please contact Susan O'Connell at the UMMS Foundation at 410-328-7719.

For more information on the Hematologic Malignancies Program or any of the programs and services of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, please call 1-800-888-8823.