Eight years.

Aug 22, 2017 | Advocacy & Policy

The following post is written by Kristen Palma Poth, TargetCancer Foundation President

Eight. It is a number that carries a meaning for me that I never could have imagined or predicted. The eighth month, August, is the month that I lost my husband Paul at age 39 to the vicious and rare cancer known as cholangiocarcinoma. While August has always carried some angst- the end of summer, the anticipation of the approaching school year- it now burdens me with the memories of our last weeks together and his last days of life. They are memories that I mercifully never think about during the rest of the year. My brain has become expertly skilled at letting in information, thoughts, and memories only as needed, a clear survival technique of the subconscious. But that same brain works on a calendar and as it turns to the eighth month my brain and body feel and remember.

Eight is also the age that my son was diagnosed with a serious illness. Thankfully, the experience was completely different as a result of extensive research and understanding, but any sense of calm, security and reconstruction of life after Paul’s death felt blown apart by the news. The cruelty and injustice felt unbearable, except that I had this perfect and beautiful eight year old boy to love and care for. To survive, I could only look forward to nine, ten and beyond.

August 22 marks eight years since Paul died. In years it sounds long, but in memories and feelings, it is nothing. I can still clearly picture Paul right next to me, the man I loved more than I ever thought I was capable of. Yet much has changed over these past eight years. Our son has grown from a toddler reading Dr. Seuss and playing with his trains, to a strong, curious, charismatic and compassionate ten year old who loves to write comics, listen to the Beatles, read Harry Potter, and regale any audience with a story… just like his dad.

Eight years ago, only months before his death, Paul decided he must do more to spur research against his and other rare cancers that were underfunded, ignored by researchers, and left with little or no treatment options. He could not accept that in a city like Boston, with the best medical and scientific minds in the world, that no one was focusing on his cancer. Being a lawyer, he was a problem solver and this was a problem he wanted solved, if not for himself then for the many who would come after him.

His initial research brought him to the idea that giving smaller grants to the right projects and scientists could lead to large impacts in cancers that were otherwise receiving no attention. He had no idea how forward thinking he was. He filed the appropriate paperwork for a 501c3 and created TargetCancer Foundation. He then quickly raised $25,000 from his many friends, family and colleagues. One month before his death, from his chair receiving a chemotherapy infusion, he handed over TargetCancer Foundation’s first grant to Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Molecular Therapeutics.

Eight years later, TargetCancer Foundation awarded its one millionth dollar to research. The progress in just eight years is great, but the need is greater. Paul’s founding vision continues to push TargetCancer Foundation forward to successes that I know he wished and longed for when he started our work. What will we do with the next eight years and the next million dollars?

You can help us give the next million dollars and beyond by making a donation today.