Taking Action: Why One Cancer Patient Walks

by John O’Hara

Walker John O'Hara poses with Team Shuffle 4 Dana-Farber
Walker John O’Hara poses with Team Shuffle 4 Dana-Farber

One day, I was sitting in a Dana-Farber waiting room, and I looked around at all of the people waiting with me. They were someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, child, neighbor, or friend — people just like me. And they were all facing what I was facing, the helplessness of a cancer diagnosis. Being someone who likes to get things done, I knew I needed to take some kind of action, but I didn’t quite know what that action should be.

When my brother, Karl, and our good friend, Mark, suggested we put a team together for the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, it seemed like the perfect solution. Walking was the opposite of waiting. And by walking, I was standing side by side with others who have been affected by cancer in their own lives and saying, “We’re not going to let this continue.” Our team may have started because of my diagnosis, but it is about so much more than me.

I walk for everyone I know whose lives have been touched by this horrible disease. More than that, I walk for people I do not know, and people I will never meet. I walk in the hopes that future generations will not know the helplessness of a cancer diagnosis.

John O'Hara and Team Shuffle 4 Dana-Farber

John O’Hara and Team Shuffle 4 Dana-Farber

I walk in support of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, whose patient care is unparalleled and whose groundbreaking research will hopefully someday eradicate cancer. I walk for the incredible medical care that I have received since my diagnosis, especially from Dr. Jennifer Chan, who is working tirelessly with Dr. Matthew Kulke in neuroendocrine tumor (NET) research.

Mostly, I walk because I believe it makes a difference. Walking turns my helplessness into hopefulness. When I participate in the Jimmy Fund Walk, I am hopeful for a future without cancer. When I see how many people sign up, give, or raise awareness, I envision the waiting room getting emptier and emptier. I walk for my children, and my children’s children, so that they never have to find themselves in a Dana-Farber waiting room.