Family participating in the Annual 5K

Cancer Unites Us All

Annual 5K Raises Funds for Patient Programs

The annual Lahey 5K Cancer Walk & Run, to be held this year on June 24, is far more than a race or a fundraiser for its more than 1,300 participants. It’s a reunion of health care providers and patients, some who do the walk together. It’s a victory lap for those whose treatment is over or a show of determination for others who are still actively fighting cancer. It’s family members and friends attending in support or memory of loved ones, and it’s community members drawn to a good time raising funds for a good cause.

Because, as the event’s tagline one year admitted, cancer affects us all. And on June 25, it united us all.

“Every year it is a tremendous, heartwarming experience,” said Paul Hesketh, MD, Director of the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center’s Sophia Gordon Cancer Center and chair of Lahey Cancer Institute, the umbrella organization integrating cancer services across the four hospitals.

The spirit of the event is just what its founders imagined 11 years ago. But just as critically now, added Hesketh, “It supports activities that improve the quality of life and experience of cancer patients and their families as they go through this difficult journey.”

Proceeds Benefit Multiple Lahey Hospitals

The event benefits all of the Lahey Cancer Institute centers, which are located at Beverly and Addison Gilbert hospitals; Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, Burlington; Lahey Medical Center, Peabody; and Winchester Hospital. Funds are divided evenly and each cancer center decides where its need is greatest.

Over the years, the event has raised $1.8 million. Most recently, the funds were used to purchase a tablet-based tool for all the hospitals that patients can use to assess their  lifetime breast cancer risk. Funds have also been used to provide cancer support groups, purchase blanket warmers and create a healing garden outside the cancer center at Lahey Medical Center, Peabody. It has also backed Lahey’s pioneering screening program to detect early stage lung cancer and to hire a research nurse who is integral to Lahey’s vigorous clinical research program. As Hesketh remarked, “Our research program allows us to offer our patients access to cutting edge investigational treatments available only in the setting of a clinical trial.”

Hematologist/oncologist Nancy Chun, MD, participated for the first time this year as part of Winchester Hospital’s “Got Hope” team, along with her husband and two of her three children. Her team brought party hats, horns and beads and carried signs autographed by patients wishing them well and thanking them for their care.

“As an oncologist, I witness first-hand how valuable to patients these funds are,” she said. She cited a couple of programs that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. They can offer integrative therapies like massage and acupuncture to patients while they are receiving treatment in the infusion room. We’ve also been able to launch a class in “fighting fatigue,” one of the most common complaints that cancer patients have.

The goal this year was to raise $285,000 from the event. Thanks to the generosity of last year’s participants and an increase in sponsors, donors, and participants, the 2016 Cancer Walk & Run raised $298,000.

Lahey oncology’s nurse navigator program is sure to benefit. Past race funds allowed the hiring of a nurse navigator for the Lahey lung cancer program, and it was such a success that they would like to employ one to help patients with other types of cancers, too.

“The nurse navigator is critical,” Hesketh said. “It provides a single, available contact person for patients and their families to help them wind their way through a complicated process of treatments.”

Cancer patients and their families often speak of how Lahey and their care providers become like family to them. On June 25 in Burlington, we had a family reunion.

Register now for the 2017 Lahey  5K Cancer Walk & Run on June 24 at Burlington High School.