In June 2010, the Hastings family found themselves feeling helpless upon learning their sister Suzie was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. The news came as a huge shock to all, especially given Suzie was never a smoker.
One day, while visiting Suzie during her treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, her husband, Shawn, and sister Cathy stopped by the cafeteria for a bite to eat and noticed a flyer for the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk presented by Hyundai, which was raising money for Dana-Farber research and care. The Walk felt like the perfect answer to the family’s helplessness, allowing them to raise money to support Suzie’s care and also raise awareness about lung cancer’s impact on nonsmokers.
The next year, Casey Street Gang was born. The Walk team, made up of friends and family, was named for the street the eight Hastings siblings grew up on in Norwood, Mass.
Sadly, Suzie passed away in 2014, but the family credits the fabulous care she received at Dana-Farber for giving them more time with their beloved sister.
Even after Suzie’s passing, Casey Street Gang, including her sons, Matthew and Ryan, has continued to participate in the annual Jimmy Fund Walk. The Walk, which travels along the Boston Marathon® course every fall, represented an opportunity to remember their sister and show their support and gratitude for Dana-Farber.
In March 2020, as the world faced the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hastings family faced their own personal battle as their brother Jack was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Jack, who splits his time between Florida and Massachusetts, was in Florida at the time and was unable to travel back to Massachusetts to be treated at Dana-Farber. He was referred to a hospital in Florida, where it became clear that his prognosis would not be good without a stem cell transplant. Luckily, tests showed that Cathy would be a perfect match.
“Learning I was a match was one of the most incredible moments in my life,” says Cathy. “The thought of donating my stem cells to cure Jack’s cancer was overwhelming—it was an honor to be a part of the transplant process.”
For the next six months, Jack underwent rounds of chemotherapy, prolonged hospitalizations, and multiple procedures as he prepared for the stem cell transplant. Because of the ongoing pandemic, Jack was not allowed to be accompanied to appointments by any family members. And because he was immunocompromised, Jack was at a major risk of contracting COVID himself. As a result, he had to stay inside and was unable to see any children or grandchildren.
Cathy traveled from Rochester, N.Y., to Florida, where she quarantined for two weeks before starting the process of preparing for the transplant. She took a four-month leave of absence from work to undergo the transplant and help her sister-in-law care for her brother.
While waiting for the transplant in Florida, Cathy couldn’t miss the event she loved, the Jimmy Fund Walk. Because of COVID-19, the 2020 event would be virtual, making it easy for Cathy to participate from Florida. Cathy, who was just beginning her quarantine process, walked 13.1 miles alone in Naples. Although she was physically alone, her Casey Street Gang showed up, too. Shawn, Suzie’s husband, rallied the crew in Norwood, the family’s hometown, for a team walk and group lunch, creating a sense of normalcy in a very abnormal year. Others sent texts and photos of themselves participating in their own neighborhoods all over the country
And although he was incredibly weak from his treatment, Jack also couldn’t miss Walk day—he put on his Jimmy Fund Walk T-shirt and worked up the strength to walk down his driveway to support his team and honor Suzie’s memory.
On transplant day, November 3, 2020, Jack received Cathy’s stem cells. Although it would be months before he was feeling better, the procedure was a success, and a recent bone marrow biopsy shows Jack is in remission.
After such a challenging 2020, the Casey Street Gang has much to be grateful for in 2021. Jack returned to Casey Street itself in Norwood to join the virtual 2021 Jimmy Fund Walk, celebrating his successful transplant and honoring his late sister, Suzie, alongside Shawn, Cathy, and other family members and friends. Others plan to walk in Colorado, California, Virginia, Alabama, and New York to show their support.
“I would encourage everyone to join the Jimmy Fund Walk for a fun day to spend quality time with family and friends,” Cathy says. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past, remember those who are no longer with us, and a time to be hopeful for those continuing to fight for a cure!”