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The buzz is back

Nearly 15 years later, we’re lifted again by open-hearted people who continue to show up.

Our thanks to the golf committee volunteers including John, Doug, Jim, and April at the Joan H. Brack Memorial Golf Tournament Sept. 25!

Our thanks to the golf committee volunteers including John, Doug, Jim, and April at the 15th annual Joan H. Brack Memorial Golf Tournament Sept. 25!

Yesterday a lively group of about 135 golfers and a core of volunteers including many of my dad’s former colleagues in the steel rebar business gathered in Stow for a tournament supporting ovarian cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A group of Barker Steel Co. employees initiated the golf outing in 2000 a few months after my mother Joan was taken by disease.

The day was a complete success. Many remarked on a resurgence of energy and camaraderie. “There’s a buzz we haven’t felt in years,” one stalwart member of the golf committee offered. Our numbers were up again.

Yet of course, it’s about so much more than that.

After enjoying a round amidst the crisp colors beginning to unfold at Stow Acres, we resumed the real business at hand: catching up with contacts and old friends, and hearing an update on the state of research.

My mother’s oncologist Dr. Ursula Matulonis joined us once again. Ursula is medical director of Gynecologic Oncology at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. 

She explained how vital this tournament dedicated to my mother’s memory has become to their work. Using funds we’ve earmarked for research at the center, and from other sources, Matulonis described a clinical trial with promising new results. For many women with ovarian cancer that has recurred after initial treatment, a two-drug combination can significantly extend the time that the disease is kept in check.

“There’s a buzz we haven’t felt in years!”

The trial was initially funded in 2008-12 with federal stimulus money through the National Institutes of Health. But once stimulus funds dried up, Dana-Farber has relied on sources like Joan’s tournament and other Jimmy Fund-related fundraising events to help fill the gap. The need for private sources may deepen, Matulonis suggested, with the prospect of more federal funds being sequestered just a few years ahead. 

Please check here for details on this advancement in ovarian cancer research from the DFCI web site, which sums up, “In a report on the trial in the online edition of The Lancet Oncology, researchers compared the drugs cediranib and olaparib, versus olaparib alone, in their ability to stall the advance of ovarian cancer in women with a recurrent form of the disease that responds to platinum-based chemotherapy agents.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe cannot yet fathom whether a cure to this disease will be in sight within our lifetime.

Yet we know this well. When a group of people whose first connection is their work — suppliers, fabricators, and contractors, grizzled veterans and next-generation managers — and they get together year after year to support a higher cause, that is something else. Sustaining the work ahead.

When you hear and sense the respect and loyalty so many have for your dad, what he helped build and perhaps foremost, the primacy of relationships he tended and instilled in a company’s culture — that is endearing. A continuing legacy.

When you see dear friends of your parents taking an afternoon to stop by, the collective reach of those years still within our grasp — and even having a chance to talk with guys you grew up with, hearing about one of their son’s passions as he begins college — this is a profound counterweight to occasionally feeling alone, and wondering where many of those you once knew have gone.    
Thanks to everyone who made it again yesterday, and others who read and may be ignited by this.

I can feel my mother smiling again in the Indian Summer sunlight, perhaps humming to something like:

How sweet it is to be loved by you.

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