With the Boston Marathon® quickly approaching, the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) team is getting ready for the big day. Teammates are busy personalizing their race singlets with their own names, plus the names of those they are running to honor. Hearing the crowd cheer the names of honorees can melt away fatigue and renew determination almost magically.
Many of the names you’ll see on the DFMC singlets on April 20 are those of the DFMC Patient Partners. The Patient Partner Program pairs children currently or previously treated at Dana-Farber’s world-renowned Jimmy Fund Clinic with DFMC teammates. This unique program gives runners the opportunity to better understand the effects cancer has on patients and their families, bringing even more meaning to their efforts for this very important cause.
The Patient Partner Program activities season begins at the start of each year with the annual Meet Your Match Party. This year’s event took place January 31, and boasted a colorful Mardi Gras theme that kept spirits up despite snowy conditions.
Amanda Nurse and her patient partner Sicilia have been paired together since 2010. Sicilia was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2007, shortly after her second birthday. Now 9 years old and in remission, Sicilia continues to inspire Amanda, and their partnership has grown tremendously through the years. They were the featured speakers at the event, and each shared why they continue to participate in the Patient Partner program.
“When I first met Sicilia, I could not believe that this little girl had spent nearly half of her life at the time in a hospital, receiving chemotherapies, steroids, antibiotics, and various other medications. She was a bundle of energy, joy and laughter,” shared Amanda. “I have gotten to watch her grow into a mature, healthy, and active 9-year-old. I’ve gotten to share in her birthday parties, and talked over the phone throughout the years. Sicilia and her family have attended each and every DFMC Patient Partner event, pasta party, and Boston Marathon, cheering me on from Mile 25. We support each other, and I will continue to be her runner for as long as she will continue to be my Patient Partner.”
Sicilia also shared her favorites parts of the being involved with the Patient Partner program.
“My favorite part of being on the DFMC Patient Partner team is going to all the parties, meeting all the other Dana-Farber patients, and, most importantly, spending time with my marathon runner, Amanda. This is my fifth year supporting Amanda’s run and we have shared many special moments together,” said Sicilia. “I hope that someday I can run the marathon with Amanda as a cancer survivor!”
Many of the Patient Partner/runner pairs met for the first time at the event. Kerrie Winsor was thrilled to meet her Patient Partner Allison and her family. “I had been looking forward to this party for weeks, and it was even more special than I would have ever imagined,” shared Kerrie.
Since the Meet Your Match event, the Patient Partner partnerships have continued to blossom through other fun events, and the resolve to help these young patients by raising critical funds to fuel cancer research has grown stronger.
On April 20, the Patient Partners and their families and friends will gather at Mile 25 to cheer on all of the runners that pass by, reserving extra loud cheers for their DFMC runners and the rest of the DFMC team. Their names will be written in bold colors and adorned with glitter on the fronts and backs of the DFMC race singlets. They’ll tote signs proudly displaying their runner’s name for all to see. From the start of the season, all the way through to the finish line, the Patient Partners have provided extra motivation to tackle the 26.2 mile journey. It’s because of these incredible people that the DFMC team has extra pep in their step when running toward the ultimate finish line: a world without cancer.
Thank you, Patient Partners! The DFMC team loves you all!
P.S. Make a gift to support the DFMC team! Your gift will fund important basic cancer research, and set the pace in the fight against cancer. Make your gift today!