Derrick Butts, Age 57
On this cool and crisp fall morning, Derrick Butts does what he does most weekdays … packs his bag, readies his bike, and suits up for the brisk trek to East Potomac Park / Hains Point in Southwest DC. After a speed ride around the three-and-half mile loop, he feels the familiar rush of exhilaration. THIS is his “fix.” Fifteen minutes later, he’s arrived at his office in Northwest DC. After a quick shower, he starts his day as the Chief Information and Cybersecurity Officer (CIO / CO) for Truth Initiative, a non-profit organization working to make tobacco use a thing of the past. Derrick calls this 10-mile weekday ritual “two-wheel therapy.”
The Day Job
Derrick’s background is in Information Technology Management and Cybersecurity Preparedness. He’s worked in government, the private sector, and was a business owner for several years. He was hired by Truth Initiative in 2015 as its first CIO / CO. He loves the challenges of new technologies while increasing enterprise efficiencies.
The "C" Word
Less than a year after joining Truth Initiative, Derrick was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was a gut punch for sure, but not a total surprise since his dad, uncle, and grandfather had the same diagnosis. Derrick had always been proactive about his health, but now he had another reason to remain focused on fitness and good nutrition. He was determined to win the battle against cancer. Two weeks after a successful surgery (no follow-up treatment was required) he was back at work full time. Eight weeks later, he was back on his bike every weekday, and on weekends … and fully engaged with life.
Fit after Fifty
Derrick credits his speedy recovery to fitness of mind, body, and soul. In addition to cycling, he has been a Martial Arts Practitioner in seven styles for 48 years. He’s a 4th Degree (Master Instructor) Black Belt in Tang Soo Do and Tai Chi.
Passion & Pursuit
Like many of us, Derrick rode his bike growing up but not much after that. DC is a cycling city, so he brought his brother’s 1970s bike from his mom’s house in Connecticut in 2007 and began riding here and there. In 2009 a friend told him about the Seagull Century and Derrick signed up. He began serious training to prepare. He was hooked! After two years with his brother’s heavy bike, he decided to “level up” and purchased a shiny new toy … the lightest of light road bikes. He joined a cycling group called the Spartans, and they gave him a nickname - Diesel, because of his ability to ride long durations at high speeds, and pull his teammates "like a truck." They’re all good friends now, and together they’ve logged thousands of miles. Fast forward to 2020 and he's continuing to feed his passion at full throttle.
Since he started, Derrick has participated in six Seagull Century rides, seven (150-mile) Bike M.S. rides – his younger brother is living with multiple sclerosis, so the cause has personal meaning for him – and four 70+ mile rides each year. These days he averages 50 miles each week. From the early morning rides to the longer races, it’s safe to say, riding is Derrick’s passion, and his medicine.
A Family Affair
According to Zero.com African American men are at an increased risk for developing prostate cancer over non-minorities. One in six black men will develop prostate cancer and they’re more likely than white men to be diagnosed, and to die from it. Derrick knew that early detection can make a big difference in surviving prostate cancer; he became vigilant when his dad was diagnosed. He had his first prostate exam at age 38; he was diagnosed at age 54. Derrick’s dad Thomas had begun writing a book about his own experience, and thought that including Derrick’s journey, and information about his brother Carl, also a survivor, would help drive home the message of vigilance and early intervention.
Prostate Cancer, A Family Affair was released in Fall 2019. He and his dad are now “on the circuit” to promote and raise awareness.
Passion and purpose.