In a few months it will have been 25 years since my older brother Will was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Word reached me as the sun had set on a cold late-December New England day, the start of just about the longest night of the year, appropriately enough. Will’s razor wit, blunt-force sense of humor, and seemingly innate drive to find the best real-world way to make a point or to come to a conclusion on some difficult question made him as well suited as anyone to the unenviable tasks he would face in the coming weeks. Breaking the news to relatives and friends in a way that didn’t leave them feeling sorry for him. Being a full participant in figuring out what course of medical treatment seemed to make the most sense. Keeping steady, as much for the rest of us as for himself, as the gravity of the situation came into focus.
The selflessness Will showed in those early days was not a one-off. As he was undergoing treatment he volunteered with young cancer patients at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and he started doing the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, walking the 26-mile route of the Boston Marathon to raise money to support Dana-Farber’s cancer research and treatment. The team Will started grew, and has continued on in the years since his death. We’ll be doing it again this year, on September 22nd. We’ve now raised more than $600,000 for brain tumor research that takes place in the lab of Dr. Patrick Wen, a cancer specialist at Dana-Farber who treated Will throughout his illness.
In the years since Will received his diagnosis treatments have improved, including as a result of the efforts of Dr. Wen and his colleagues at Dana-Farber. But far too often, having a brain tumor still means being thrown into a world of life-altering conversations and least-bad options. Will it be another quarter-century until those are firmly in the past? The more brain tumor research we can support, the closer we will get to that point.
Thank you very much.