Peter Silveira took to calling his daughter, Hannah, a good luck charm during his treatment for gray-zone lymphoma in 2014-15. Now, with her dad’s cancer in remission, the grade-schooler – who accompanied him to several of his treatments at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) – has taken it upon herself to pass some of that luck on to others.
During one of Silveira’s recent checkups with oncologist Caron Jacobson, MD, at DF/BWCC, Hannah brought a transparent, hot pink pencil case stuffed with crumpled bills and change. She handed it to the doctor, who read the accompanying note:
“Dr. Caron Jacobson, here is $25 I saved to help with research for gray-zone lymphoma. From Hannah Silveira, age 9. You helped my dad, so I would like to help someone.”
For both caregiver and patient, it was an unforgettable gesture. Silveira had a decades-long aversion to doctors and hospitals dating back to 1984 when he was treated at Dana-Farber for Hodgkin’s lymphoma – when he was Hannah’s age. He and his wife, Jennifer, didn’t tell Hannah or her older brothers, Aiden and Josh, much about dad’s childhood cancer experience, and Silveira did everything he could to avoid even routine physicals.
It was only when Jennifer noticed bumps on her husband’s neck that he went in for tests that revealed his second cancer diagnosis, after which he shared the whole story with the kids. “They all have big hearts, and have really been there for me,” says Silveira. “I knew I couldn’t be afraid anymore, because I had to take care of myself for Jennifer and them.”
Now, in a place that once terrified him, his little girl had gifted him one of his proudest moments.
“I still tear up just talking about it,” says Peter. “When you are a parent and your kids make a choice like this – well, it really gets to you. I just looked at Jennifer and said, ‘We must be doing something right.’”
Although Peter learned about Hannah’s idea before the appointment, Jacobson was surprised by the gift. She’s been telling colleagues about it ever since.
“I was so impressed and touched by Hannah’s gesture, and found the whole experience incredibly moving,” says Jacobson. “For her to have such a generous spirit at a young age, and also to have so much gratitude and relief that her dad is doing well, it was fantastic to see.”
Jacobson plans to put Hannah’s gift, which has since grown considerably, toward translational research underway on Hodgkin’s lymphoma and gray-zone lymphoma – both of Silveira’s cancers. She also says she has shared the story with her 2- and 5-year-old kids, “so they can see how even someone young can make a big difference.”