Community rallies around ‘Voice of OBRA’ as Luciano Bailey recovers from lung surgery, cancer diagnosis

Luciano Bailey, seen here at a race in 2017, is recovering from lung surgery. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“Sometimes someone is such a big part of a community that they become a symbol of that community.”

You might not know Luciano Bailey, but if you’ve been to a race in this region in the past two decades you probably know what he sounds like. Luciano is considered by many as the “Voice of OBRA,” the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, a nonprofit that sanctions competitive cycling statewide.

That’s why when news hit the community last week that he was in the hospital and needed help, the response was huge. One person who donated to a GoFundMe campaign set up by longtime friends River City Bicycles owner Dave Guettler and veteran racer Dani Dance, said in a comment, “The Pacific Northwest cycling community simply wouldn’t be vibrant as it is without Luciano. He is the voice of OBRA. Nothing has ever felt as good as when he calls out your name while racing… Luciano is half the reason I look forward to going to races. Those moments of his recognition make those long drives well worth it every time.”

And Guettler wrote, “Sometimes someone is such a big part of a community that they become a symbol of that community.”

Luciano, 62, isn’t just a guy behind the mic at the finish line. He’s a real solid dude who is kind and treats people right. He also loves bike racing down to his core. These are some of the reasons why his GoFundMe has raised nearly $47,000 from over 570 people since March 5th.

“In spite of everything that he has faced and is facing, he’s in incredibly good spirits which I think is kind of just how he shows up in the world.”
— Erica Bailey, Luciano’s sister

As the community has rallied support, no details or updates have been released about what exactly happened to him. Thankfully I was able to connect with his sister Erica Bailey to learn more. The news is mixed: Luciano has lung cancer and is recovering from invasive surgery and much is still unknown about his long-term prognosis.

You can learn more about what’s going on in the Q & A below based on a conversation I had with Erica Tuesday afternoon…

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At a mountain bike race in 2016.

How is Luciano doing today?

“He was in the hospital for 10 days and was discharged Thursday [3/10]. Right now he’s recovering from surgery and he’s doing okay. I mean, in spite of everything that he has faced and is facing, he’s in incredibly good spirits which I think is kind of just how he shows up in the world. I’m just really impressed with how centered he is. It’s been a tough go, and me being his sister, I’ve been kind of worried about what this all would look like on a number of levels, and so I’ve been grateful that he’s in a good headspace throughout some pretty scary stuff.”

What exactly happened?

“It all started in early January. He was having a lot of shortness of breath and feeling like his lungs couldn’t expand and he thought maybe he was just sick, but eventually made his way to the emergency room. He had pleural effusion — his lung cavity filled with fluid. He ended up with a short hospital stay and they did a thoracentesis, or like a lung tap, and they drew out three liters of fluid. But they weren’t able to identify the cause. There were a number of things that they were looking for, but didn’t find any evidence of or any way to really rule things out. And so for the next two months, he had three more of the thoracentesis. We saw a number of specialists; a pulmonologist, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and he had all kinds of lab tests, scans and such. And they still weren’t able to determine what was happening. And so, after meeting with the surgeon, the plan was rather than continuing to tap him if the fluid kept returning, he wanted to do what’s called a VAT, a video assisted thoracic surgery where they stick in a scope and look around and see if they could could fix things to prevent the lung from filling with fluid.

And so, the plan was to do that if the discomfort returned or persisted. And it did. He was just continually having pain and discomfort. So he had this surgery scheduled for the first [of March] and when they went in they immediately saw that they weren’t gonna be able to do the procedure that way. There was no room for the instrument because he actually had to have an open thoracotomy. And things were more complicated than they had hoped. The surgery was pretty invasive, much more complicated than then we had planned on.

And there was some tissue that they sent off for pathology. And so once Luciano posted on Facebook that was like, I think post-op day two, when he was having a number of complications, including the swelling that he had, which was basically when the free air in his lung cavity had nowhere to go, so it just trapped itself under the tissue. So yeah, that was kind of a scary time, but we knew that we would be waiting a few days for the pathology. All along, we were told that the likely cause of pleural effusion was infection, or cancer. And so we’ve been kind of carrying this, and waiting to hear the scary word; but then every time they would do something, they didn’t find any evidence.

Then Monday we found out that he does in fact have stage four lung cancer.”

What does the immediate future look like?

“We don’t really know what the road ahead looks like. I haven’t met with the oncologist yet and we’re waiting for those labs to come back. We’ve got some complications to sort out with switching insurance, but yeah, we’re kind of in a holding pattern right now knowing that we have the best news we can have [in that it’s not spreading]. And he is physically right now doing okay and still recovering from surgery and in a good headspace.

He is definitely going to be receiving cancer treatment, whatever that might be, whether it’s chemo or radiation or both, but we don’t know any of that yet.”

How did you feel when you learned about the GoFundMe?

You can still donate to this campaign here.

“Well, interestingly enough, when we were talking with some family members about what we might be facing, the conversation around a GoFundMe came up because you know, he hasn’t really been able to work the last few months [Luciano does a variety of jobs and is sort of a “jack of all trades” Erica said] and we weren’t sure what the future was going to look like and I found out about the fundraiser the day that it started. We were completely astounded because it was like, one minute we found out about it, and then it just kept growing and growing and growing and growing.

And so in the midst of that really dark period, this was sort of, you know, a light to really see. I’ve been here in Portland now for 16 years and so I’ve definitely seen — back in the day we used to go to more of the races and my kid used to do the kids race up at Alpenrose and all that — how beloved he is by the community; but it was just such a tangible outpouring of love and support and it completely just floored all of us.

I mean, we’re just so not only grateful, but just really astounded at how kindly people were showing up for him. And I really do think that it was a part of his healing. It really kind of helped uplift him and kind of kept him in that good space. And he said he was really just humbled by the fact that people love him three times as much as he had asked them on the dollar amount [the fundraising goal was $10,000 and the first time he saw it the total raised was over $30,000. It is currently about $47,000].

It’s just, it’s incredible, and so very needed.

We don’t know what the road ahead is, but most of the work that Luciano has done is pretty physical, so it’s likely not going to be something he’s going to be able to do regularly. We don’t don’t know what the picture looks like at all. So in terms of what care he’s going to need, what the medical expenses are going to be, the living expenses, all of that. And so, it’s a huge load off of our whole family not to have to worry about that. We would have been challenged to try and make that happen. So it really gives him the opportunity to focus on healing and dealing with the road ahead.

Thank you Erica and regards to you and the entire Bailey family.

And Luciano… Hang in there man! We are all thinking about you and are here to help in whatever ways we can.

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johnny
johnny
3 months ago

Thanks JM & BikePortland for posting the story. Luciano has been a friend to a lot of bike racers in Oregon and a person well worth supporting.