When Katie Kennedy was a young girl, one of her favorite things was seeing a Red Sox game at Fenway Park with her dad, Dan. It was there that Katie, now 52 and a patient at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, was first introduced to the Jimmy Fund and its longstanding partnership with the Boston Red Sox. Little did she know that 40 years later she would be benefitting from the funds raise by the Jimmy Fund community.
At 48, Katie started experiencing some sharp pain, which she thought was a symptom of her endometriosis. As the pain continued, Katie landed in the emergency room, where an emergency colonoscopy led to her diagnosis of colon cancer—a disease on the rise in younger adults like her.
“I was shocked, since I did, and still do, so many healthy things to avoid getting cancer,” Katie recalls. “It was doubly hard telling people and responding to the news. My friends’ and family’s shocked reactions are what made it real for me.”
Prior to her diagnosis, Katie had been involved with the Jimmy Fund, as a participant, volunteer, and fundraiser in the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk (Team Darby) and the Pan-Mass Challenge. Even with her knowledge of the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber, she was surprised by how comprehensive her care truly was.
“My care team, led by Drs. Jeffrey Meyerhardt and Ronald Bleday, was incredible and helped put me at ease,” Katie says. “They asked me to participate in a study to determine whether strength training could help prevent side effects in patients who are receiving chemotherapy for colon cancer. I was so fatigued from chemo that I couldn’t imagine lifting weights, but once I did it, it felt great. It was mentally and physically encouraging that my body was still capable of a challenge to make me stronger during this journey.”
Another unexpected highlight of her journey at Dana-Farber was making more special memories with her dad. While not the same as comparing baseball stats and cheering on the Sox, Katie and her dad’s new routine of going for coffee and those conversations helped put “this temporary setback” in perspective.
“I am the oldest of five children, so this one-on-one time together was one of the best things about my diagnosis,” she says. “He would listen to me vent and gently offer his wisdom, reminisce on childhood stories and family memories, which helped cancel out some of the cancer drama.”
During her treatment, Katie availed herself of many patient services at Dana-Farber. From exercise to nutrition and acupuncture to art therapy, programs offered by Dana-Farber’s Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living helped Katie’s mind and body throughout her treatment, and into survivorship.
“I never considered myself an artist, but working with the art therapists to learn new skills helped me get lost in the moment and stopped me from worrying about my treatment, hair loss, fatigue—everything,” Katie recalls. “It really changed my life. I still enjoy taking Zakim Center creative art classes on Zoom.”
Today, Katie is out of active treatment and paying it forward as a mentor in Dana-Farber’s One-to-One Program, a service designed to connect a newly diagnosed patient and caregivers with someone who has been through a similar experience—a sort of “cancer coach.” Her husband and her niece are also giving back, both starting new jobs at Dana-Farber since Katie started treatment.
Outside of cancer, Katie is looking forward to traveling again, hopefully to New Zealand and Ireland, her favorite destinations, and to cheering on the Red Sox this season.
“Defying cancer looks different for everyone, but to me, tapping into my own resilience was a key part of my journey and something I am proud to continue with after treatment, and if I can help another cancer patient, even better.”
Support patients like Katie by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.