Ten years ago, her face seemed to be everywhere. Amber DaRosa was a 6-year-old with a big smile and beautiful bald head. A 2004 photo of the young patient posing with Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was spread across banners, billboards, and ads – a powerful symbol of the Red Sox/Jimmy Fund relationship.
Fast forward a decade, and DaRosa has a full head of hair that she draped down over one shoulder at her recent Sweet 16 party. She’s a high school sophomore and a dancer. The acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) she battled at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is in remission.
She still, however, has a soft spot for Big Papi. “Every time David Ortiz does something great, my friends will all be like, ‘That’s your boy,’” DaRosa says with a laugh. “I don’t remember much about taking that picture, but people kept seeing it in different places for years. It’s a fun part of my life.”
DaRosa prefers to focus on the “fun” parts of her ALL treatment, like a surprise in the Jimmy Fund Clinic on her fifth birthday. “My nurse Katie and doctor Elly Falzarano brought in a birthday cake for me, and gave me a Polly Pockets doll,” she remembers. “They were so nice. I couldn’t wait to come into the clinic for my appointments and to look for Katie and Lisa.”
That’s nurse Katie O’Shea Munroe, RN, CPON; and Director of Patient and Family Programs for Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Lisa Scherber, both of whom loved seeing the photos of a grown-up Amber in her Sweet 16 dress.
“It’s very satisfying and uplifting to see how far Amber has come, and instills the feeling of hope,” says Munroe. “Seeing her going through natural milestones like this is awesome, and I want to share pictures like this with some of my current patients – because when you’re in treatment, it’s hard to look that far ahead.”
Among the older photos, the iconic August 2004 image at Fenway served as a good luck charm for all involved. Amber finished her ALL treatment a month later, and Ortiz led the Red Sox to their first World Series championship in 86 years the month after that.
These days, Amber only needs to visit Dana-Farber once a year for checkups at the Perini Family Survivors’ Center, but thoughts of Dana-Farber are never far from her mind. Two of her closest friends are fellow survivors she met during treatment, and her dream is to return to the Institute someday as a nurse.
Senior Publications Editor-Writer, Department of Communications