A Day At Dana-Farber: Patient & Family Programs

This past Saturday, May 7th, I was invited to a Pacesetter Team Day at Dana-Farber. The point of the day was to talk to us about a few different programs that are funded by our donations. I could make this one giant post, but instead I’m going to break it out into four different ones. Today’s recap is going to be about Patient & Family programs.


The timing on this is great, because last night Dana-Farber tweeted out this story about Lisa Scherber, who I was fortunate enough to meet and learn more about at the event. Lisa’s job title is Director of Patient and Family Programs. She’s created events such as the Summer Festival, Winter Festival, and a Red Sox Spring Training trip.

The festivals are parties that cater to everyone…from patients in treatment and their families to survivors to the staff themselves. Gathering everyone together provides a sense of community, helps patients and families realize that their doctors are truly invested in their lives, and gives them hope that maybe one day they, too, will be attending as a survivor. At the Winter Festival, Lisa recruits the new residents to be Santa’s Elves. They dress up in tights and all, and the kids really get a kick out of seeing their doctors in costume.

The Red Sox Spring Training trip is a trip for adolescents. It came about when one teenager told Lisa that it was great to go to the movies and have teenagers’ programs, but that those kids needed more. They needed to do something REALLY fun, and he suggested going to see the Red Sox at Spring Training. Lisa didn’t see how they could do it with the funding that they had at the time. Unfortunately, he passed away before the Spring Training trip became a reality. His doctor told Lisa that they needed to make that happen somehow, for him.

The first trip took 20 teens in active treatment down to Florida (with doctors and nurses!). They met players. They went to a game. Their favorite part of the trip had nothing to do with that, though. Their favorite part was meeting other kids who were going through the same thing. Kids who they could talk to about treatment and all aspects of their lives in a safe environment. Kids who get it. This trip is now done twice per year, and the goal is for those patients to be able to make memories…to make them feel safe and to give them friends they can relate to. It gives these kids a little bit of freedom and helps them find out what makes them happy…it has the potential to change their lives. Lisa told a story about how one patient was confined to a wheelchair, but thanks to the help of his doctors and nurses, was able to swim in the hotel pool during the trip. That one activity brought him such joy, because it was a form of freedom for him, that they made swimming a part of his life after they returned.

Sadly, not all of the kids who attend these trips survive. There are some patients who attend these trips in order to have one last happy memory. As an example, there was a patient who told Lisa how she really really wanted to go on the trip. She wasn’t sure how to make it happen, since the patient couldn’t fly due to a tumor in her lung. Lisa wasn’t about to give up, though, and arranged for her to take the train to Florida with her two doctors, and for her mother to fly down to take the train home with her when the trip was over. She was so happy to be able to attend the trip, which ended up being one of her last memories. She unfortunately was one of those patients in end-of-life care, and passed not too long after.

Additionally, Lisa and her team worked on the Jimmy Fund Clinic expansion to make it more welcoming and comfortable. The previous layout was segregated and depressing. The expansion allowed for an open concept–the waiting room and treatment rooms are more open. The infusion rooms now have recliners. There are activity tables available. Procedure rooms have recovery areas right outside instead of elsewhere in the Clinic. There are 65-70 patients seen daily in the Clinic, with 300 new child cancer patients per year at Dana-Farber. Lisa and her team have their work cut out for them, and this is where we can help.

The funds that we raise make these programs and projects happen. Our donations help Lisa and her team give patients and their families some joy during the treatment process, some hope, and for some, happy memories for them to think back on despite their prognosis. Cancer sucks, but thanks to the generosity of others, Lisa can help make it suck just a little bit less.

Please consider making a donation today by going to my donation page and clicking on the “Give Now” link in the top right corner. If you’re feeling even more ambitious, consider walking with the team. Click on “My Team Page” and then “Join Team” in the top right corner.


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