My cousin Mandi had never been to Boston before, and it’s likely that she’d never chosen to vacation there.
She grew up in Richmond, Virginia, married her high school sweetheart, and was very content there raising her two children. Traveling the world (or even the eastern seaboard) was never a priority for her and she felt comfortable at her home in the country.
So, when I got the call to meet them in Boston two years ago, I was rather surprised. Without hesitation, I rearranged my schedule (with just two days notice) to meet them in Boston for the week.
I wish I could say the trip was a spur of the moment decision for leisure, but it was a trip of last resort. With her cancer progressing, the doctors in Richmond told her there was little they could do for her anymore, but as a mother (1-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son) that answer wasn’t acceptable to her.
Mandi was a fighter long before she found out she had cancer, and she viewed her illness as just another roadblock she’d have to get around to live the life she’d always dreamed of. As a woman with faith in God, she knew that she and her children would be taken care of regardless of the outcome, and continued to battle.
When it was suggested that Mandi goes to Boston to meet with specialists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, she scheduled the appointment and took the Amtrak from Richmond to Boston with her husband and young children, since she was not allowed to fly.
I had a great time at the New England Aquarium, chasing the penguins with her daughter, Cameron. We went on a duck boat tour, and I kept blowing my duck caller to make her son Eddie laugh, much to the chagrin of others on the boat. I took them on their first cab ride to see Fenway Park, and I’m pretty sure the lobster rolls we ate were their first.
Later in the week, Mandi went to meet with doctors at Dana-Farber.
I wish I had better news about the outcome of the meeting at Dana-Farber, but after a couple of days of testing, the doctors told her there was nothing they could do. The news was defeating, but the experience and care from the doctors and nurses at Dana-Farber was exceptional. They realize the sensitivity of the news they were delivering and treated her with respect and care. For that, I’m grateful.
After more treatment in Richmond and treatments in Philadelphia, my cousin returned home and continued to pray and she continued to live her life the best way she knew how—raising her two young children, teaching them all of the lessons they’d need in the future in a short time.
When she died on March 1st of this year, I was shocked. She had been doing better in the weeks preceding her death, but I was relieved that her struggle was finally over. I was fortunate this week to make the trip to Richmond to see her husband and children, who are now 3 and 6.
These children are pieces of their mother. They are just as innocent, with the same blue eyes, blonde hair, and giant smiles. They are faithful and polite, and full of life and energy, just as I remember their mother. While they are adjusting to life without her, it’s a shame when any child has to grow up without a parent.
The moral of the story? Cancer sucks.
I’ve lost my grandfather, my aunt, and my cousin to cancer in the last six years. Both of my parents are cancer survivors. I’ve watched friends, family, and coworkers struggle with the illness and it never gets easier…but we can’t give up hope on making a difference in the lives of those who are affected by this illness.
The Jimmy Fund, since its founding in 1948, has supported the fight against cancer in children and adults at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, helping to raise the chances of survival for cancer patients around the world.
The Red Sox partnered with the Jimmy Fund ten years ago and have done a telethon each year to raise money for Dana-Farber, and the stories of the children and adults who have undergone treatment there are extraordinary—and many are thriving because of donations from ordinary people who want to make a difference.
Today’s the last day of the telethon, so if you can find a bit to spare, I would personally appreciate you considering a donation. If you can’t donate now, they accept donations any time. I’ll continue to make a donation every year in honor of my cousin…because even though it was too late for her to receive treatments, I know the dollars that I donate could change the lives of others, and there’s no memorial in Mandi’s honor better than that.