Pediatric nurse pedals PMC in sister's memory
Eileen Lind, RN, MSN, CPNP, is someone who knows how to face a challenge. A pediatric nurse, Lind makes the hour-and-a-half commute from her home in Falmouth, Mass., three days a week, to the Jimmy Fund Clinic, where she helps young people battle cancer. This year, she took on a new test of her strength, joining more than 5,000 riders in the 28th annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) bike-a-thon in memory of her sister, Maureen Russo, who died of cervical cancer.
Russo, a mother of two, was diagnosed in 2003 and received treatment at Dana-Farber. In remission for almost three years, the cancer returned in 2006. This aggressive form of cervical cancer took its toll on Russo; despite her endurance, her cancer was unresponsive to chemotherapy and she died last December at just 37.
"Maureen was receiving treatment right where I work. I used to visit her on Thursdays," explains Lind. "Now it is hard to see her doctors around the Institute, knowing that they're no longer treating her." While the pediatric nurse is accustomed to being around cancer, the experience really changed her perspective. "You think you understand what people are going through, but until it happens to you or your family, it's hard to relate."
A family affair
Lind, who rode in the PMC fundraising cycling event for her pediatric patients with Team Perini in 2004 and 2006, knew the event would be the perfect way for Russo's family and friends to honor her memory, with one of seven routes to choose from that crisscross the state covering a distance of 50 - 192 miles for one or two days. Many of Lind's relatives are athletes, her sister included. Russo was an avid gymnast throughout her life, competing at the college level as Captain of the Springfield College Gymnastic Team.
"We approached her about our idea of starting a team in her name," Lind says. "We wanted to honor her by doing this as a family." With her approval, Team Maureen was born. At her request, all proceeds will go toward gynecology/oncology and Russo's oncologist, Ursula Matulonis, MD, for further research to fight cervical cancer. The PMC is estimated to generate $27 million for cancer care and research in 2007, an event record.
The past year has certainly been a bumpy ride for Lind and her family, but the roads to Provincetown during the weekend of August 4 were not. Team Maureen, 15 members strong, was ready to rally behind the cause. "Everyone was so excited to ride for Maureen. It was an emotional, but enthusiastic day," says Lind. Following the ride, the team threw a party, equipped with two inflatable moon walks, to continue celebrating Maureen's life. "Maureen loved throwing huge parties for her kids. She was the best at it," she adds. "I think she'd be happy to see what we did in her honor."
Lind's personal experience with cancer has made her even more committed to her work at Dana-Farber, she says. "Going through this with Maureen has definitely made me a better caregiver. I'm now able to understand the patients' point of view more clearly than ever before."
— Jason Brander