Hello friends and family,
Joyfully, I am walking again to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on October 3. As you know, our family's love and appreciation for Dana-Farber runs deep:
When my first son Jesse was six months old in 2008, my husband, Skip, was diagnosed with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of the neck. Skip was 33 at the time. Sadly, Skip's cancer was too advanced for surgical intervention. Skip had the special opportunity to participate in an experimental treatment trial run by Dr. Marshal Posner at Dana-Farber. Within 6 months, Skip was clear of cancer, and is clear of cancer to this day. We have since been blessed with two more beautiful boys, Wyatt and Roy.
In 2015, when Wyatt was 3 years old, he was having excessive bruising, paleness and tiredness. A visit to the pediatrician led to bloodwork, which led to a same-day drive to Boston Children's Hospital. When Wyatt was being weighed at the Emergency Department, I knew in my gut that we were not leaving any time soon. Shortly after being admitted, Wyatt was diagnosed with Leukemia. As Dana-Farber's pediatric cancer arm, BCH wrapped its care around Wyatt and our family. With in-patient and out-patient chemotherapy over a whopping two year period, Wyatt's cancer was in remission. But shortly after chemotherapy ended, Wyatt relapsed.
This time around we were in the hospital, with occasional home breaks, for 6 months - BCH became a second home. Thank goodness for the deep trust we were able to have in DF/BCH's world-class science and outstanding compassionate care. Chemotherapy, stem cell transplant and full body eradiation were the big strokes of Wyatt's treatment plan. Now we needed a donor. The first place to look is at the siblings' blood make-up...
******Bit of (sooo worth it) back-story: My first and second children, Jesse (now 13) and Wyatt (now 9) were conceived through IVF after many other fertility trials and tribulations. My husband I considered ourselves incredibly blessed to have these two incredible boys come into our lives. Two years later, without IVF, planning, or believing that we could have children without IVF, I became pregnant with our third son, Roy. Surprise!!!! Roy was born on September 19th 2014, the year that we moved to Carlisle, MA. *****
Now back to stem cells and siblings' blood make-ups. Anyone want to guess where we found a near 100% blood match for Wyatt? Anyone?
You guessed it - ROY. I don't think I will ever run out of chills for this magical coincidence.
At 3 years old, Roy came to BCH to have his stem cells extracted from his spinal fluid to save his big brother's life. Roy said at the time, "As long as it means that I get my playmate back sooner". Well, he got his playmate back "sooner". Big brother Jesse started the cell transfer by pressing the "start" button to the infusion. Roy's cells were received by Wyatt's body with excellent receptivity and few if any side effects.
When Wyatt came home from the hospital, friends had gathered to light dozens of paper lanterns outside to welcome him. He then started his year of isolation and regrowth of his cellular system (no germs allowed while his system reboots). As you can see, even before COVID, we were masters of isolation and germ control beyond what anyone could imagine: NO digging! (except for on ocean beaches!!??); no visitors inside and rarely outside, no school, no touching nature. What Wyatt hears of course is "NO". In spite of such frustration for a little boy, Wyatt did great. And family and friends were resourceful and incredibly generous during this time to help us all not lose our minds. A family from the local school donated their cottage on the Cape to us for a week vacation. This was one of the best vacations we can remember. And lots of digging in the clean, ocean sand!!!
So here we are, continuing to adapt to normalcy in our own way. Evolved and evolving on a huge scale. Wyatt attended a full school year in person for the first time last year and is a schoolboy pro now for grade 3. Roy is in grade 1 and Jesse is in grade 8. All three of them much older and wiser than they look. I have enjoyed just over a year of volunteering for the Pediatric Patient and Family Advisory Council (PPFAC), although virtually due to COVID restrictions.
When I was a child, my family had a running joke. My grandmother, Kitty Chapman, was a crusty woman from Ireland, and had spent much of her childhood in Boston. When anyone had a sniffle or an ache, she would look down her nose at us all with a knowing, patronizing look and a particular inflection and simply say, "The doctors in Boston...." That's it. Just "the doctors in Boston". This cracked us up, although it was not her intention. Now here we are dear Kitty, with the doctors and medical professionals of Boston. I get it. Say no more.
Today we are grateful, hopeful, and cancer-free. We plan to stay connected with our beloved Dana-Farber and Boston Children's Hospital for life. This year I am grateful for the help of my 13 year old son Jesse for taking on the role of campaign manager. I look forward to building this work for years to come with his support.
**Donations fund cutting-edge science as well as the Institute's patient care. Donations will enhance programs and initiatives for both pediatric and adult patients and families.
Thank you for supporting my Jimmy Fund Walk fundraising efforts.