Patient remembers the life of the nurse that brought her comfort

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a place that took my breath away before I could even understand the full impact this Institution has made. I first visited the DFCI campus while I was in college. I had the opportunity to meet with a few people at Dana-Farber to learn more about the important work that contributes to Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund’s mission to cure cancer. While exploring the campus, I found myself in the lobby of the Dana Building in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area. As I sat across from the Zebra Fish display, I was compelled to walk over and tap on the fish to read the many Dana-Farber patient stories, written by their loved ones.  A wave came over me and I thought to myself “wow, this place is SO important for SO many.”  It was after that trip that I told myself, “that’s it, this is where I am going to work after college.”

Fast forward a year and I was starting my new job at Dana-Farber as a Jimmy Fund staff member on the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk team.  On my first day, I made a point to walk over to the Zebra Fish display to remind myself why I made this leap from Western New York to Boston for this important work. What I didn’t know then was that just two months later, I would face my own cancer diagnosis.

I was enjoying every aspect of my new life in Boston until one day I woke up with a very visible lump in my neck. My life turned into a continuous series of blood work, ultrasounds, biopsies, and surgeries. Eventually I underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Freshly out of college and 6 hours from my hometown, I felt very overwhelmed.  I thought to myself ‘I was supposed to come here to help cancer patients, not become a patient’.

While in treatment, I met a very important person at Dana-Farber, my occupational health nurse, Carol Capone, who became my source of comfort. Carol helped ground me and always made sure that I took care of myself. I told Carol and my care team that I wanted to keep working through treatment, and she helped me manage my sick days, obtain medical parking, and eventually figure out short-term disability so that I could focus on my health.

Four months into my treatment, I was too overwhelmed with side effects and ultimately decided I needed to take a break from working. Carol was extremely supportive and helped me navigate this decision.  While I was out of work, Carol even checked in on me from time to time, which was a welcomed reminder that I was still very much a member of the Dana-Farber workforce.

When I successfully finished treatment and was back to work, I was interviewed to talk about the Jimmy Fund Walk.  Carol saw my interview on TV and reached out to say how happy she was to see me looking healthy and strong, and right back at my desk. It meant so much to be to continuously feel Carol’s support, especially during my transition back to work. Her support helped make me feel like I was right back where I needed to be: helping to raise money to eradicate this disease that changed my life.

As a part of my job on the Jimmy Fund Walk team, I work with Team Captains and walkers to help them reach their fundraising goals. When registration for the Jimmy Fund Walk opened in early 2019, I had seen a team register under the name of ‘Team Carol Capone’.  Immediately my heart sank.  The Team Captain was Carol’s daughter, Kristen.  Her registration indicated that she was walking for her mom. I quickly and sadly learned that Carol unexpectedly passed away that past October, less than two weeks after I had last heard from her. My heart hurt for her family that she always talked about with a smile on her face.  I reached out to her daughter, Kristen, the Team Captain, hoping she would agree to meet with me. I let her know I wanted to share with her the impact her mom had on me during my time as a patient at Dana-Farber.  We set up a time to meet and catch up.

Kristen reminded me so much of her mom – I recognized her as soon as she was walked through door. I made sure she knew how important her mom’s work was to patients every day.  Kristen told me stories and said how much the Jimmy Fund meant to her mom, especially the Jimmy Fund Walk.  Kristen has fond memories of completing the Jimmy Fund Walk with her mom. 

Kristen and her brother, Chuck, started the team in 2019 to honor and remember their mom. During that first year alone, Team Carol Capone raised $22,915.  Kristen plans to continue walking as a way to honor her mom’s loving legacy and keep her spirit alive. 

“It has become something very meaningful to us—a big part of our lives,” she shared. “For me, it is important to ‘walk the walk’ every day, just as my Mom did.”

If you would like to join Stephanie, Kristen, and Team Carol Capone in their efforts to support research and care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, please consider registering for the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk. Our steps add up in the fight against cancer.

Stephanie Dolliver