Father’s Day may be when he says it with a card, but cancer survivor Derik Lampron will feel some of his most profound love and appreciation for his dad, Don, during the Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk presented by Hyundai on Sept. 24.
As they cover the famous 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton to Copley Square, alongside dozens of family members and friends, Derik will remember when his father and other loved ones – including his mother, Marjorie, and wife, Jenn – took shifts driving him from Newton, New Hampshire, to his daily radiation treatments at Dana-Farber. That was in 2009, after Derik was diagnosed at 34 with sino nasal undifferentiated carcinoma (SNUC), a rare and often incurable cancer of the sinus cavity.
Not long after, Don had an epiphany that led to the formation of their Jimmy Fund Walk team.
“We were at Dana-Farber with Derik for his last chemotherapy infusion, when we saw a group of F15 jets fly past our window,” recalls Don Lampron. “I realized it was Patriot’s Day, and they were doing a flyover at Fenway Park for the Boston Marathon. I turned to Derik’s wife, Jenn, and said, ‘We need to do something for Dana-Farber.’”
In that moment, the seeds of Team Pépère – “grandfather” in French – were born. And, most appropriately, it has turned into a family affair. In addition to Don, Derik, Jenn, and Marjorie, the team includes Derik’s two daughters, his brothers Jason and Curt and their wives, and numerous nieces and nephews.
“When I was finishing up my treatment, I could barely walk 26 feet,” says Derik Lampron. “I slowly worked my way back. Three years ago I did all 26.2 miles alongside my older daughter, Jocelyne, who was only 10, and we’ve both done that ever since.”
Noting that his younger daughter, Jacqueline, plans to walk the 13.1-mile route at age nine, Derik Lampron credits the support of his family as crucial to his recovery. Jacqueline was only six months old, and Jocelyne 4, when excessive nose bleeds in 2008 led Derik to the doctor and his eventual SNUC diagnosis. Surgery to remove a plum-sized tumor from his sinus cavity l and seven weeks of aggressive radiation and chemotherapy came next, and, along with the driving, Lampron’s parents, siblings, and in-laws helped with child care and other needs.
The Jimmy Fund Walk has raised nearly $120 million for research and patient care at Dana-Farber since 1989, and last year more than 9,400 walkers and 1,000 volunteers took part – including hundreds of Dana-Farber staff members and their families and friends. In addition to the four routes, all of which end in Copley Square, there is a for those who want to fundraise but can’t make it on Sept. 24.
“I do believe that I wouldn’t be here without them.” Derik Lampron wrote of his care team – which includes surgeon Donald Annino, MD, DMD, radiation oncologist David Sherr, MD; medical oncologist Robert Haddad, MD, disease center leader of Head and Neck Oncology; and nurse practitioner Daniel Gorman, NP-C, ONC – in a Jimmy Fund Walk fundraising letter last year. “They kept my family whole and for that we are indebted. Please help me pay it forward for the next family who faces the same situation.”
Three generations of his own family will fulfill Derik’s wish this fall. And as is his custom, Team Pépère patriarch Don will touch the photos of smiling Dana-Farber patients covering each mile marker along the route, offer a silent prayer, and say to himself:
Hang in there. Help is on the way.