A few weekends ago, I attended the Extra Mile Brunch as a 3-Star Pacesetter, meaning that last year I raised over $5000 for the Jimmy Fund. I couldn’t have done it without all of the support of my friends, family, and random people I’ve never even met in person. One of the main reasons I’m so thankful is because it allows me to attend events like these where I hear from the beneficiaries of the donations I receive, which include DFCI staff, patients and families.
Sadly, they’re not always happy stories. This year I heard from Janet Schwartz, who walks on Team Todd in memory of her son, and his oncologist, Dr. Loren Walensky. The funds from Team Todd have gone directly to Dr. Walensky’s research, and some pretty big advances have been made. He’s been researching the use of stable peptides to develop cancer treatments. These drugs are designed to target and destroy the cancer-causing interactions that develop in our cells (he brought slides, I took pictures). There are currently two drugs that are in trials right now thanks to the research funded by these donations.
Unfortunately, this discovery wasn’t made early enough to save Todd’s life, and Dr. Walensky is still emotional about that fact. It’s been sixteen years since Todd passed. He would have been 34 this year. As with many DFCI patients and their doctors, a real bond had formed, and Dr. Walensky is using the team’s donations to honor Todd’s request to find a cure. He told us that Todd was a great kid–an upbeat teenager with a lot of hope–and was dedicated to making life better for the other kids in the Jimmy Fund clinic. He knew that many of them were unaware of what was happening to them, so during Todd’s time at Dana-Farber, he set out to make sure that those kids were always happy and laughing, and in the meantime accomplished a couple of other pretty cool things:
1. Have you ever seen those Jimmy Fund/Red Sox license plates? Todd, alongside Johnny Pesky, spoke at the State House to get the design approved.
2. Todd was the driving force behind a program that takes adolescent end-of-life patients to Spring Training to see the Red Sox. I wrote about that program here before I even knew who Todd was.
I don’t get through an Extra Mile Brunch without being brought to tears. It’s a powerful reminder that while not all patients win their battles, there’s still hope. There are still people who are willing to go the extra mile (pun absolutely intended, sorry, I needed to laugh at myself since I’m tearing up again just writing this) to help make cancer a treatable, conquerable disease. Last year, there were over 9400 walkers who raised $8,763,491 in the name of cancer research and patient care. Pacesetters alone raised $4.8 million. So thank you, thank you, thank you to anyone who has donated to me, or anyone else raising money for Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund.
This year, I’m hoping to raise $2500, with a stretch goal of another $5k. Please consider making a donation (or joining our team!) at http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/2017/leede.