A full-circle journey for cancer survivor

MD student Daryl Blaney tells UMass Medicine Cancer Walk supporters how institution saved his life

By Kristen O’Reilly and Bryan Goodchild

UMass Medical School Communications

July 24, 2013

Fourth-year medical student Daryl Blaney knows better than most why supporting the UMass Medicine Cancer Walk and the work at the Cancer Center for Excellence is important. Blaney was successfully treated for childhood leukemia at UMass Memorial when he was just three years old, a formative experience that inspired him to want to become a doctor himself. He is eager to give back to the institution he credits with saving his life, especially to the doctors and nurses who treated him with compassion and skill when he was just a little boy.

“Recently I had the opportunity to work side by side with many of the same people who were part of my own care team,” said Blaney at the UMass Medicine Cancer Walk Kickoff Breakfast on Wednesday, July 24. “Working with them as a colleague, in the throes of diagnosing leukemias and treating them, only served to cement what I have known since Nov. 5, 1988 [the day he was diagnosed with cancer]: that the staff of the UMass Cancer Center of Excellence defines the top echelon of comprehensive cancer treatment.”

The 15th annual UMass Medicine Cancer Walk will take place on Sunday, Sept. 29, at 10 a.m., starting on the campus green. All proceeds from the walk support research and care at the Cancer Center for Excellence.

Blaney’s memories of his two-year battle with cancer center around the support of two families—his real family, and the family of caregivers at UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center. Although all offered him strength during the tough months of chemotherapy, a child psychiatrist who taught him coping strategies made a big impression. Because of that experience, he hopes to continue his medical training in psychiatry, possibly focusing on children.

“Many times in the clinic, you are treating symptoms, without getting to the root causes of problems,” said Blaney. “Psychiatry focuses on changes that can drastically improve quality of life and be very significant in keeping people healthy.”

Blaney knew that once he decided to go to medical school, UMass Medical School was the only place he wanted to go.

“From the get-go, the University of Massachusetts Medical School was my number one choice. It always has been,” said Blaney, who reports being cancer-free for 22 years. “I’d actually drive by it on Route 9 and stare longingly up at the neon blue sign and think, how awesome would it be to go the place that I credit with saving my life.”

For more information about the UMass Medicine Cancer Walk, or directions on how to start a fundraising team, call 508-856-2589 or send an email to cancerwalk@umassmed.edu.