Red Sox Jimmy Fund bond hits close to home for Larry Lucchino
When Larry Lucchino came on board as the new president and CEO of the Boston Red Sox in 2002, he was already well aware of the special relationship between the baseball team and its official charity: the Jimmy Fund of Dana-Farber. During 1985-86, while serving as vice president/general counsel for the Baltimore Orioles baseball club, Lucchino was treated at the Institute for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Lucchino tells his story:
I don't declare myself "cured." I'm a superstitious baseball executive who doesn't believe in claiming victory in the seventh or eighth inning. What I am is a "survivor." I was first diagnosed in September of 1985, as I was about to turn 40. I had just come back from a motorcycle trip across France and had been coughing for some time. I went to a doctor for X-rays and was hospitalized immediately at Georgetown University Medical Center (in Washington, D.C.). I had heard of Hodgkin's disease, but not non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I didn't even know if I could spell it - but I had it.
When it came time for treatment, I surveyed the best cancer facilities in America. A great friend of mine who is a physician made a series of recommendations, and it ultimately came down to three places: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md.; Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore; and Dana-Farber. I chose Dana-Farber because of its association with Harvard Medical School and as a result of initial conversations I had with (Physician-in-Chief Emeritus) Tom Frei, MD. He was so positive, available, comforting, and impressive that I felt compelled to go there.
I had the great good fortune of being treated by both a wise elder statesman in Dr. Frei and an aggressive, hard-charging star of the future in the irrepressible Lee Nadler, MD (now Dana-Farber's senior vice president for Experimental Medicine). I came north for a biopsy in early October, and was treated into the following spring with chemotherapy. I had an autologous bone marrow transplant in May and stayed in Boston through July. I went back to Baltimore and returned frequently over the next several years for periodic examinations and other kinds of involvements with Dana-Farber.
Everyone at the Institute, from Drs. Frei and Nadler to the nurses to the entire staff, was especially sensitive and helpful. You go to a place because of its general reputation and its stars, but much of your experience is determined by the folks who help you day-to-day. I found that Dana-Farber had what we in baseball like to call "deep depth" - highly competent, dedicated, wonderful people at all levels.
Just a couple months after I was diagnosed, (former baseball star) Roger Maris died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I was well aware of what a world-class athlete he was. Cancer is a miserable disease, in part because it strikes without regard to who you are, or what you are, or where you've been, or what you've done. I didn't fool myself into thinking that being a former athlete myself was going to make any difference whatsoever.
My boss and mentor (then-Baltimore Orioles owner) Edward Bennett Williams, who also was treated at Dana-Farber, and our dear friend Jay Emmett donated a satellite dish to Dana-Farber so I could follow my beloved Baltimore Orioles on TV while recovering from my bone marrow transplant. My immune system was so weak that it wasn't until the 37th day after transplant that I was finally allowed out of the isolation room. I wanted to celebrate by going to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and was cleared to do so by Dr. Nadler - provided I could find a special booth that would protect me from the elements and the other fans. I found one, and Jay Emmett accompanied me to the game.
Throughout 1986 I returned to Dana-Farber with some frequency, because like so many patients I had a heightened sensitivity to any ache, pain, cough, or cold. I basically backed off regular work for several months after the treatment and didn't become full-time until around Christmas that year.