Decades later, Larry Lucchino still remembers how he felt as a Dana-Farber patient meeting long-term survivors of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While he endured chemotherapy treatments, a stem cell transplant, and 38 days in isolation while being treated for the disease, these encounters gave him hope that he, too, could beat it.
So when Lucchino – now Chairman of the Jimmy Fund and a Dana-Farber trustee – visited with pediatric and adult patients here last week, he delighted in sharing his current health status with the first patient he met: 14-year-old Cameron Miller.
“You have lymphoma? I had the same disease 31 years ago,” Lucchino shared with Miller. “I beat it, and you can, too.”
Lucchino, also Chairman of the Pawtucket Red Sox and President/CEO emeritus of the Boston Red Sox baseball clubs, gave early holiday gifts to Miller and other patients: Douglas Cuddle Toy’s Bella Golden Retrievers. The stuffed puppies were donated by generous supporters who have shopped the collection of Dana-Farber Holiday Cards & Gifts presented by Amica Insurance, and the bandana each Bella puppy wears was designed by Kate Morris, 8, a Jimmy Fund Clinic patient.
In the case of one boy who was undergoing treatment in the clinic on his 10th birthday, Lucchino said “I lost mine too, and it came back,” pointing to his hair.
Several of the adult patients whom Lucchino met in the Yawkey 8 hematologic malignancies unit during his Nov. 30 visit recognized him from his high-profile Red Sox jobs, and were eager to talk baseball. The relationship between the team and the Jimmy Fund goes back more than 60 years, and Lucchino has been intimately involved from both sides.
Joe Pryor boosted himself up in his infusion bed to proudly show Lucchino his “2016 Eastern Division Champions” Red Sox shirt, and shared a favorite memory from his childhood – meeting legendary Red Sox slugger Ted Williams when Williams was fundraising for the Jimmy Fund.
Lucchino’s treatment at Dana-Farber in the mid-1980s took place long before the Yawkey Center, but one of his nurses – Christine Coakley, RN, MPH – was on duty during last week’s visit. Lucchino gave her a hug, along with a good-natured apology for “being such a difficult patient.” Coakley laughed and assured him he was fine.
“One of the important qualifications I feel I bring to my role as Chairman of the Jimmy Fund is that I’m a satisfied consumer,” said Lucchino, praising Coakley and his other Dana-Farber caregivers. “It encouraged me so much when I was being treated to see people who had passed over their mountaintop to survivorship, and it feels great to be able to serve in that role now.”
In addition to the Bella Golden Retriever toys, Dana-Farber’s holiday collection features exclusive Luca + Danni bracelets, original cards designed by local artists and Dana-Farber patients, locally-made candles, ornaments, gift baskets, and toys, and other gifts. One hundred percent of the proceeds from sales goes to the Jimmy Fund in support of research and care here.
Department of Communications, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute