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This past September 25th proved to be the perfect fall day – sun shining, crisp cool air, and not a cloud in the sky. A perfect day for the UMass Cancer Walk & Run, and a day to celebrate my father Richard Crosson, a cancer survivor. Rewinding to September 2015 my father was a patient on 8 BMT after receiving his bone marrow transplant from a generous donor. I can remember seeing the walkers and runners in masses on the UMass quad, but my sole purpose that day was to spend time with my dad. We would walk the hallway of 8 BMT where the encouraging and motivating nurses would say, “only 40 laps to reach 1 mile. Back and forth we would walk. I couldn’t imagine all that was to come over the next year, but it led my family to forming Team Crosson, Crosson Out Cancer, and participating in the 2016 UMass Cancer Walk & Run. Even my sister flew in from Nashville, Tennessee to walk the five-mile loop with our team leader, our dad. Which means, that day, he walked the equivalent of 200 laps of the 8th floor hallway.
Our journey began with UMass Cancer Center on May 26, 2015 when my father went to the emergency room because he was short of breath coupled with other fatigue symptoms. I dropped him off, under his instructions, only to return with my mother and learn of his diagnosis – Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Immediately, my siblings came to UMass – my brother from South Carolina, my sister from Tennessee and my older brother from New Hampshire. All of this would not have been possible if we were located elsewhere. Living just down Route 9 in Shrewsbury, the close proximity to UMass allowed us access at our fingertips. When we first heard of the diagnosis my parents discussed going elsewhere to get another opinion. The doctors told them that there wasn’t time that chemotherapy needed to begin right away. During every conversation the message was clear – the doctors and team at UMass were determined my father would receive the best possible care. If the family thought that would be given someplace other than UMass, they would be entirely supportive. There were never any egos. But my parents chose to stay – and the care that was given was extraordinary. Led by Dr. Ramanathan and her team I don’t think we could have asked for more.
Being at UMass meant I could drive the 3.7 miles every day, multiple times a day, any time I wanted. It meant my mother could spend afternoons and evenings there after teaching at Shrewsbury High School. Being so close meant when my brothers and sister came they wouldn’t have to spend extra time traveling, home and the hospital were unanimous. Being so close meant we got to know every member of my father’s team extremely well – the nurses, the doctors, the dieticians, the food service staff – each played a role in our daily routine, and each did everything they could to let us know we, as an entire family, were cared for. As heartwarming as this attention was, it’s even more so to know that this is how UMass operates on a daily basis – providing their patients and families with respect, attention, dedication, and of course, state of the art treatment.
On behalf of my entire family, we thank UMass. We formed Team Crosson because we know the importance of giving back. We would not be in this position if it were not for all of you and all the walkers, runners, and volunteers that came before us. We will continue to advocate and spread awareness of the UMass Cancer Center.
My older brother and sister-in-law were married that August, a few months after our father first entered UMass. Each member of my father’s team did everything they could to ensure my father would be able to attend. And they came through. He was there enjoying every moment surrounded by supportive family and friends. When he returned to UMass for his transplant they were there, waiting to see pictures and hear stories, being more than a compassionate team, but extended members of our family. This kind of support is given by truly special people, and that’s what the UMass Cancer Center is made of.