My wife Jane and I went out for pizza after a movie on our second date. We had a bike ride planned for the next day. She called to cancel it in the morning. Her belly had blown up like a balloon after she got home.
"I never eat after 5 p.m. or this happens," she told me. "Or worse."
It was 1987 and she'd been dealing with her NET cancer for seven years. It gave her gas and diarrhea on a regular basis. Her doctors told her it was irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, stress. They never saw the cancer that was destroying her life.
Two years later, we got married. She had mood swings, developed chronic insomnia, low blood pressure, a rash on her face that wouldn't go away, suffered early onset menopause, hot flashes... All of these were symptoms of her NET cancer.
No doctor connected the dots. Even if they had, there was virtually nothing they could have done to help her.
In 2010, the valves in her heart began to fail and she found a lump on her liver. Her doctor said she had heart disease and, probably, some form of liver cancer.
Then we got the biopsy results: "I've never heard of this form of cancer before," her doctor told us that morning. We soon learned the cancer had caused the heart disease.
There was no cure but Jane was determined to beat her cancer. She did everything she could. Unfortunately, we didn't know enough to make that happen. She died four months after her biopsy.
Her doctor at Dana-Farber is one of the world leaders in NET cancer research. When we find a cure, she will be one of those responsible for finding it. Jane's spirit will be part of the reason that happens.
And so I walk the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk each fall. This will be my tenth time on the course--and my eighth at the full distance. I'll keep walking until either NET cancer is dead--or I am.