FOR THE LOVE OF JIM-HOPE FOR A CURE
In March 2018, as I contemplated my decision to raise funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in memory of my husband, I knew I had to tell my story to family and friends to explain why this was so important to me. After many revisions my letter began:
FOR THE LOVE OF JIM-HOPE FOR A CURE
On April 11, 2018, Jim would have turned 65. A few months ago, we passed our 40th wedding anniversary. Now is the time I take the next step celebrating Jim’s life and his hope to advance blood cancer cures. Many know I have raised funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) at the Light the Night walk the past 5 years. This year I’ve joined the LLS Philadelphia area Man & Woman of the Year Campaign. This is a significant fundraising effort and when I raise $50,000 an LLS sponsored research portfolio will be named for Jim. I’m hopeful your contributions will also allow me to raise $100,000 so a second portfolio is named in memory of my brother Rob (pancreatic cancer, 2002) and my sister Patty (cervical cancer, 2003).
Everyone who suffers a major loss needs to find the path to cope with sadness and embrace their life ahead without their loved one. Jim died in January 2012, just 13 months after his diagnosis. Until November, 2011, we assumed his cure was at hand. In the last days of 2011, we assumed we had a few months. On the day before he died, his doctor told him she had one more option to try; it lifted his spirits. Jim and our girls played Bananagrams that night. Jim was determined to keep his strength until the next procedure was available. Several days later Bananagram pouches were on every table of the luncheon following his burial.
Together Jim and I weathered the crisis of losing our first child, Thomas Reid, to crib death in 1982. When Tommy was reburied above his father I promised our children that I had survived that crushing loss for 30 years. Now I’m determined to survive 30 years after we lost Jim. This promise motivates me to care for myself and those I love.
After I returned to work as a lawyer at High Swartz, LLP, in Norristown, my colleagues at the firm missed Jim’s wit and humor at the picnics and dinners. As the firm approached its 100th anniversary in 1914, a scholarship was named for Jim that gives up to $5000 to a college student whose parent or grandparent works at the firm. It has allowed me to meet young people who hope to be as dedicated to their education and their future as was Jim Doherty.
We welcomed new colleagues to High Swartz when we merged with the Doylestown firm of McNamara, Bolla & Panzer in 2016. By then I had been walking in memory of Jim at the Bucks/Montgomery County LLS Light the Night celebration every October. High Swartz now supports two Teams, one for Jim “Chemist to the Starts” and the team begun by Megan Sellers, daughter of our Doylestown Office Manager, Darlene Sellers. Megan walks in memory of her grandfather who died of mantle cell lymphoma and her team is “The Red Carpet Tribe”.
Jim’s best legacy is reflected in our children. Colleen is an immigration advocate with Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia. Maggie Rose is a Counselor in Portland and Biddeford, Maine, where she works with refugees who experienced trauma in their home countries. John, in Princeton, New Jersey, works at the Witherspoon Institute, an independent research center concerned with the moral foundations of a democratic society.
On June 16, 2018 I became the LLS Woman of the Year for the Philadelphia area, having raised over $120,000 in Jim’s memory. When people ask me what I’ll do next, I say I want to meet Joe Biden to discuss the Moonshot Cancer initiative. I hope to meet legislators in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. to address the complexities of balancing the concerns of patients, doctors, pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry. Wonderful doctors supported by LLS have uncovered remarkable treatments over the past years, months and weeks. How do we fund those cures? Are we advocating for patients effectively? Are we supporting and counselling the families, like mine, for whom the cure didn’t arrive fast enough? Are we addressing the moral dilemma of determining who deserves the newest procedure that will save one patient but fail to help another?
I was invited by my LLS friends to join the LLS Advocacy Team, and I’ve come to love this work. (Join me, and send letters about legislation affecting families touched by blood cancer by texting SPEAK to 696-66.) My affiliation with LLS is for the love of Jim, a chemist, who believed a cure would come. He wanted to be part of the scientific journey; when he passed I knew that through my support of LLS I would take up his banner. Now through advocacy work I use my skills after practicing law (and negotiating) for almost 40 years to listen to the various stakeholders and learn from the doctors about the path to cancer cures in the 21st century. I want to add my voice as one who has loved and lost; out of love for Jim I will embrace this part of my future.
By: Mary Doherty