I am walking because I am all too familiar with the devastation cancer can bring.
I am a breast cancer survivor, my husband, Rick, is a prostate cancer survivor and my daughter, Amy, is a leukemia survivor.
My son, Matt, was Amy’s stem cell donor. My brother Chuck died of pancreatic cancer while my mother is a lymphoma survivor.
My family didn’t have a history of cancer before my breast cancer diagnosis. Even with no family history, I was always afraid of the “C” word, afraid if I said the word cancer, I would get it. When I was growing up, cancer was almost considered a death sentence. Now the survival rate is much improved and there is more hope for cancer patients to become survivors.
I am grateful to be living in Massachusetts where I believe the best doctors are located.
Having the best doctors gave us hope during our diagnosis and cancer treatments. When I was diagnosed at age 44, my kids were 14, Matt and 12, Amy. I wanted them to be okay, so they were my motivation to go through my treatments with strength, determination and courage. I would say the same was true when my husband Rick was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years later.
When my daughter Amy was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 19, we went to Dana-Farber.
Dana Farber gave us hope for a cure. Amy would need a stem-cell transplant and my son Matt was a perfect match for Amy, definitely a prayer answered. Amy had so much strength during her treatments, she was an inspiration to everyone.
My mother underwent treatments for Lymphoma in early 2016. She was treated successfully and is healthy, happy and doing well today.
My brother Chuck was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late December 2016. We were heart broken when we found out and sadly, Chuck passed away in January 2017, at the age of 59.
When someone is going through cancer, everyone is affected. People’s roles change quickly, and bonds made during this time can be lifelong. Family and friends were worried and always waiting for updates.
I believe that you find the strength to get through it because of the kindness of those around you.
Most people are good. I have faith in God which helped me keep going. My church, Rollstone Church in Fitchburg, gave me support throughout all these difficult times.
I have always walked for exercise and I use that time to reflect and search for the “awe” moments.
I try to walk twice a day all year round, even in the winter. I participated in my first breast cancer walk in 2003 for a physical challenge but I was diagnosed with breast cancer a week after that walk. When I was first diagnosed, someone told me that I was now part of the cancer club. I didn’t know exactly what that meant at the time, but I do now. My job is to help others who are going through cancer or their loved ones who need to talk to someone who has gone through cancer.
I continue to participate in cancer walks because these events are life-altering experiences for all who participate and especially the survivors.
I feel like I can give others hope. The Jimmy Fund Walk is a world where people are kind, everyone has a personal story, people push past their physical limitations and are determined to conquer a physical challenge because they believe they can make a difference in the fight against cancer.
My family is doing well and we are the proud grandparents of a miracle baby, Lucas, born to my daughter Amy this spring.
We are thankful for all the support we received from our family, friends, doctors and nurses from Dana-Farber and Brigham & Women’s Hospital. Thanks to the researchers and the patients willing to be part of the clinical trials.
Because of Amy’s experience, she became a Pediatric ICU nurse at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester to have the same tremendous impact on patients that she received herself.
Remember, you are in charge of your own life. You may not have control over everything that happens in your life, but you do have choices on how you handle what life gives you. Live each day. Take good care of yourself. Exercise, eat healthy, get enough rest, and don’t smoke. Do things in moderation, laugh often, think positively, have faith in God and pray. Be thankful for your blessings and be kind to yourself and others.
The Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, presented by Hyundai, is the nation’s highest fundraising single-day walk. The Jimmy Fund Walk has raised more than $135 million in its 30-year history. Every dollar raised helps patients at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
If you think you have a health problem, see a doctor, but don't just accept what the doctor says. Listen to your body, talk with others, and do research. Insist on treatment; don't accept a "wait and see" answer. Early detection and taking good care of yourself does make a difference.
Funds raised from the walk will support all forms of adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at the nation’s premier cancer center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Cancer touches everyone and cancer does not discriminate. Because of the generous donations in the past, many survive their cancer diagnosis. We need to continue with research and clinical trials to help more cancer patients win their battle. Thank you for supporting my participation in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. Together, we can make a difference!
My daughter Amy was diagnosed in 2010 with leukemia, after her sophomore year in college. She spent two separate month-long hospital stays at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital during that summer. She had chemotherapy to get her into remission in the first month and a very important stem cell transplant from her brother Matt in the second month stay. Amy missed her junior year at college but graduated with her class on time by taking on-line classes. Amy realized she wanted to become a nurse after seeing the tremendous impact nurses have on the patients’ care in the hospital. Amy went back to school and is now an RN at UMass Pediatric ICU in Worcester.
Amy gave birth to Lucas on April 12, 2019. This miracle was eight years in the making. During Amy’s treatments, the doctors knew that the radiation Amy endured during the stem cell transplant would make it unlikely that she would be able to conceive. At age 19, Amy knew she wanted to have kids in the future so Dana-Farber doctors recommended they harvest her eggs prior to the transplant. The doctors also told Amy that there is a higher success rate if fertilized embryos were frozen but that required a donor. It was difficult to ask Josh, her boyfriend of almost 3 years, to donate but he agreed. Amy and Josh were married almost 3 years ago. As time went on and as Amy recovered, the doctors thought it would be worthwhile to try IVF. The date that Amy received the stem cells from Matt is considered her “new birthday” because it created new life for Amy. Eight years later on her new birthday, Amy received the embryo, which was an awesome moment for all of us! Lucas is a miracle baby born out of true love.
After Lucas was born, he spent some time at the Brigham & Women’s Neonatal ICU. One of Amy’s nurses when she had leukemia had transferred to the NICU a few months earlier. Denise was surprised when one of her former patients requested her to be their son’s nurse. This story was featured on the Sunday Today Show with Willie Geist on Mother’s Day. It can be viewed on the Sunday Today website or YouTube (search for Amy Belli – New Mom Surprises Her Former Cancer Nurse with Baby Boy).
I walk for family and friends affected by cancer. My immediate family includes three cancer survivors; me, breast cancer, my husband Rick, prostate cancer, and Amy, leukemia. My mom Carolyn survived cancer but my brother Chuck and Rick's Aunt Joan did not. We have family and friends who are fighting cancer and others who lost the battle.