Throughout high school, Kelly Grimes had a persistent dream: to see China and explore the culture. So, when she turned 18, that’s what she did. Soon after her arrival, she was surprised with a diagnosis of aplastic anemia, a blood disorder that occurs when bone marrow produces too few red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The news landed her back on a plane to the United States for a one-year treatment plan at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund Clinic, but China was still in her sights. After a year of treatment, including a bone marrow transplant from her sister, Kelly checked out of the hospital and went right to the airport—and back to China.
Meanwhile, Benson Chen, originally of Foshan, China, was starting his own college studies in his home country. That’s where he met Kelly, and the two quickly bonded while playing frisbee, practicing English, and doing normal college activities—a much-needed change of pace for Kelly after her tough treatment experience. The two started dating after a year of friendship and were married two years later.
“It was on our honeymoon that Kelly started to show symptoms,” recalls Benson, of his wife’s relapse. “I felt the immediate need to support and take care of her, but I was also quite nervous and scared of what this would mean for our future.”
The couple spent eight days in the hospital while Kelly received transfusions, tests, and consultations—and Benson wondered about the future. After the immediate treatment, the two boarded a 12-hour flight to Boston, and to Dana-Farber. Kelly trusted her old team, and some of the nurses at the Jimmy Fund Clinic, from her first bout, were still there and fondly remembered her.
Benson, as a new husband, joined his wife in the United States as she received her treatment and soon became familiar with the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) Bridge to Progress that joins the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care and the Charles A. Dana Building at Dana-Farber, right by the Jimmy Fund Clinic.
“The bridge and introduction to the PMC really inspired me, that so many strangers who I have never met contributed to help patients like my wife and make sure we have this lovely environment and awesome support,” he says. Benson and Kelly were encouraged to join this group of dedicated supporters and pay it forward for the next patient. They participated in the PMC Winter Cycle at Fenway Park, and this year are taking on the inaugural PMC Unpaved, a first-of-its-kind off-road bike-a-thon over the scenic back roads of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts on October 1, 2022. PMC Unpaved, like all PMC cycling events, will donate every rider-raised dollar to Dana-Farber as part of the organization’s annual gift. The PMC is Dana-Farber’s largest single contributor, accounting for 55% of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue.
“Back in China, I am a big fan of bikes and bike almost every day, and now we live in New Hampshire where there are lots of trails for training,” Benson shares. “I look forward to cycling with likeminded people who are all in support of this same mission—it’s pretty cool to think about the community.”
Kelly is joining the fun, too. She will be volunteering giving water and cheering for all of the cyclists, including her husband.
“A little effort can make a big difference,” says Benson. “There are so many people who need financial and mental support, and Dana-Farber can help these patients. We are happy to share our story and to fundraise as part of this community.”
Join Benson and Kelly at PMC Unpaved this fall. Your efforts support 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.