I am Jimmy: Doug and the Pink Barbarians

Doug Fox was driving back from a client meeting with his coworkers when he received the gut-wrenching call from his wife. He remembers everything going quiet around him. He didn’t want to tell his colleagues—he wasn’t ready yet. “Reality changed the moment my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Everything that I was worried about that day didn’t matter anymore. There was only one thing that mattered: her health.”

Doug and his wife immediately made an appointment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for a second opinion. There, genetic testing was used to develop an individualized treatment plan to tackle her cancer. Instead of chemotherapy or radiation—the standard practice at most medical facilities—Doug’s wife benefitted from a clinical trial that Dana-Farber was taking part in. Still, Doug felt helpless.

“There’s not a lot you can do for a loved one who is going through cancer treatment,” Doug says. “That’s when I decided to sign up for the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk. It gave me an opportunity to fight cancer with her while she was fighting it for real.”

Breast cancer supporters are often adorned in shades of pink; Doug wondered how he could echo their battle cry wearing something that aligned more with his personality. That’s how the Pink Barbarians were born. He recruited a determined and boisterous Jimmy Fund Walk team—a group of burly men dressed in armor, with shields, helmets, and pink flair. They roared and hollered as they marched to raise money for breast cancer research at Dana-Farber. Doug finally felt like he could make a difference for his wife and other breast cancer patients.

Three years after his wife was diagnosed, Doug was at his annual physical when a doctor found a lump in his neck. An ultrasound confirmed that it was a tumor. “I just knew I had to get Dana-Farber’s point of view on this.”

He was driving back from a family vacation in Ocean City, Maryland when Dana-Farber called with the biopsy results. It was thyroid cancer. Again, Doug found himself sitting silently on a long car ride—this time with his wife and kids—paralyzed by the weight of the devastating news. He reassured himself that he was lucky to have access to Dana-Farber. There was hope.

Dana-Farber’s expert oncology team quickly removed and analyzed Doug’s tumor, determining that it was slow-growing. They personalized a treatment plan for his specific type of cancer, which allowed Doug to keep his thyroid, and avoid chemotherapy and radiation. Today, Doug is cancer-free. Perhaps even more important to Doug, so is his wife.  

With both Doug and his wife having successfully completed treatment, Doug knew there was only one thing left to do. He dusted off his armor and gathered up the old gang. It was time for the Pink Barbarians to march again. That year, they walked the full 26.2 miles of the Jimmy Fund Walk, from Hopkinton, Mass., to Copley Square in Boston.

“People have fun doing it—it’s for an amazing cause,” says Doug “And we make a lot of racket on the Walk!”

They’ve since added women to their growing roster of barbarians, walking and raising funds for all types of cancer.

“At a Jimmy Fund event, everyone is there because their life has been impacted by cancer in one way or another. Could be a family member. Could be a friend. But we are all there for one purpose, and one purpose only. And that is to raise money to drive cutting-edge research and care, so cancer has less of an impact on all of our lives.”

With Doug and his wife’s cancer journey in the rearview mirror, does this mean Doug will be hanging up his pink helmet any time soon? Not a chance, according to the Pink Barbarian. He was recently featured in the Jimmy Fund’s “We’re All Jimmy” ad campaign, in full barbarian attire.  “Cancer is the enemy, and we’re here to smash cancer.”