This article originally appeared on the Dana-Farber Insight blog.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh gave the keynote address at Dana-Farber’s Living Proof: Celebrating Survivorship event on June 5, 2014. He shared his experience as a child being treated for Burkitt’s lymphoma at Dana-Farber and Boston Children’s Hospital. Below are some excerpts and a video of his speech:
I was diagnosed with cancer at age 7. I went through treatment for almost four years.
At 7-years old, I didn’t really know what was going on and how serious it was — and it was pretty serious. For many years I missed a lot of school. I missed most of my second and third grades.
When I finally went into remission, I realized all the support I had from the community and people around me.
When I had cancer, one of the hardest things for me was losing all my hair. I had red hair at the time, really red hair, and it was hard to get a match [for a wig]. The guy on the top floor of my house came down one day and clipped off a piece of my hair and he came back with an identical wig for the color of my hair.
I received great care at Dana-Farber and it’s something that has given me incredible strength inside as a person. I had my chemotherapy [at the Jimmy Fund Clinic] and I had my radiation at what is now Brigham and Women’s Hospital. And there was a nurse there who used to give me the IV and she’d get it right the first time, every time.
One reason I ran for mayor of Boston was the challenges I faced in my life. Understanding that strength that I had inside me — not giving up and following my dreams.
Cancer patients find themselves living in two worlds: their home community and their medical community. The key to a positive experience is when these two communities interact, clearly and passionately.
Cancer is a very long journey. It’s one that involves whole families and neighborhoods and communities and faith-based organizations.
It’s incredible watching this institution grow — and watching the technology and the science – and how far it’s come since I was treated here in 1974.
I’m proud to be the mayor of Boston because I want to make sure that this institution grows and this institution keeps up the fight. We hear a lot about making sure that we end cancer and we find a cure, and this institution is working on finding cures every single day.
Sometimes it’s just simply a smile, a hug, or a handshake that make someone’s day. I want to thank the staff, the doctors, the nurses, the janitors, and the front desk people– all of you — for the great work that you do, and for being here and for supporting so many families.
I’m proud to be a cancer survivor. I’m honored that people — especially kids — going through cancer can look to my story for hope.
Through ongoing education, care and support, we are preparing cancer survivors for the road ahead. Learn about our extensive services for survivors of pediatric cancer.