Boston Mayor Marty Walsh recently gave the keynote address at Dana-Farber’s Living Proof: Celebrating Survivorship event. He shared his experience as a child being treated for Burkitt’s lymphoma at Dana-Farber and Boston Children’s Hospital. Below are some excerpts from his speech:
I was diagnosed with cancer at age 7. I went through treatment for almost four years.
At 7-years old, I didn’t really know what was going on and how serious it was – and it was pretty serious. For many years I missed a lot of school. I missed most of my second and third grades.
When I finally went into remission, I realized all the support I had from the community and people around me.
When I had cancer, one of the hardest things for me was losing all my hair. I had red hair at the time, really red hair, and it was hard to get a match [for a wig]. The guy on the top floor of my house came down one day and clipped off a piece of my hair and he came back with an identical wig for the color of my hair.
I received great care at Dana-Farber and it’s something that has given me incredible strength inside as a person. I had my chemotherapy [at the Jimmy Fund Clinic] and I had my radiation at what is now Brigham and Women’s Hospital. And there was a nurse there who used to give me the IV and she’d get it right the first time, every time.
One reason I ran for mayor of Boston was the challenges I faced in my life. Understanding that strength that I had inside me – not giving up and following my dreams.
Cancer patients find themselves living in two worlds: their home community and their medical community. The key to a positive experience is when these two communities interact, clearly and passionately.
Cancer is a very long journey. It’s one that involves whole families and neighborhoods and communities and faith-based organizations.
It’s incredible watching this institution grow – and watching the technology and the science – and how far it’s come since I was treated here in 1974.
I’m proud to be the mayor of Boston because I want to make sure that this institution grows and this institution keeps up the fight. We hear a lot about making sure that we end cancer and we find a cure, and this institution is working on finding cures every single day.
Sometimes it’s just simply a smile, a hug, or a handshake that make someone’s day. I want to thank the staff, the doctors, the nurses, the janitors, and the front desk people– all of you — for the great work that you do, and for being here and for supporting so many families.
I’m proud to be a cancer survivor. I’m honored that people – especially kids – going through cancer can look to my story for hope.