Henry is 17 ~ PMC 2022
A few hours before Henry was born, we sat in the cafeteria of a Boston Hospital and wrote down baby names on a piece of paper. The oncologists at Dana Farber had let it slip that the baby we were carrying was a boy. And in the rush to deliver him so that he could immediately start chemotherapy, they told us he needed to be named immediately. We decided he needed a strong name. A name that had history and heft. A name that would steady him and us for the unimaginable struggles ahead.
Before that moment, we hadn't seriously considered the name Henry. But suddenly it felt like the only name this kid could have. It felt unshakable and kind. We had no idea what challenges his cancer diagnosis had in store for him and us but with the name Henry, we strangely felt like we had a little armor to meet what lay ahead.
And so on June 2, 2005 we laid eyes on Henry. And so did a very crowded surgical room of specialists who cheered his early arrival and then quickly whisked him away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Boston Children's Hospital where he had his first chemotherapy treatment at 27 hours old. Henry had been diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. A tumor was compressing his spinal cord and doctors were racing to stop the damage.
Before long, everyone knew Henry. The nurses at the Jimmy Fund - where he was the youngest patient - affectionately called him their baby. The oncologists and physical therapists, orthopedist, neurologist, at times it felt like everyone was intimately familiar with Henry. At six weeks old, when he had a near fatal allergic reaction to the chemotherapy, the doctors in the ER repeated his name like a steady beat until his big brown eyes popped open.
Now, he's 17 and we find ourselves saying... Henry, where are the car keys? Henry, did you clean your room? Henry, it's time to get up!
Some days it's impossible to believe we are here. 17. Henry was excited to start his sophomore year of high school. He joined the crew team and fell in love with the new sport. In October, he had a major surgery to correct the rotation of his left foot. The paralysis in his leg caused his foot to rotate outward, creating significant pain in his ankle, knee and back. Surgery was successful but far more painful than he'd expected. He spent two months in a leg cast and several more in an air cast. But Henry didn't let his new hardware slow him down. The same day his doctor cleared him to slowly return to normal activities, Henry hit the slopes to snowboard at a local mountain.
By the spring, Henry had healed enough to return to crew and some gentle mountain biking. And soon, he was dusting off his late grandfather's road bike to get ready for this year's PMC!
This year will be the first time Henry will ride all 200 miles of the Pan Mass Challenge, from Sturbridge, MA to Provincetown!
We formed our team 13 years ago in Henry's name to raise money for Dana Farber where he received life saving cancer treatment. But it's impossible to explain all that the Jimmy Fund has done for us as a family. They were our entry into parenthood. They taught us how to clean his chest port where he'd receive his chemotherapy and how to give him daily shots to boost his white blood cells. The nutritionists helped us when Henry kept losing weight and the orthotists fortified his leg braces when he tested them beyond their limits. They literally held our hands and hugged us and made sure we were eating and sleeping. The doctors and nurses and medical techs were our lifeline on days when it was a struggle to feel hopeful.
One day, when Henry was in his second round of chemo and battling an infection, we called a team meeting. His doctors explained their plan and tried to offer comfort, saying one day he'll get his drivers license. I remember thinking they were crazy. He was hooked up to so many IVs. He was losing his hair, he had skin rashes and collapsed veins and no white blood cells.
And yet here we are. 17.
We hope you'll join us in our Pan Mass Challenge ride this year. On August 5th and 6th, Henry, Josh and our Equipe Henry team will join thousands of other riders to raise money for cancer research and treatment. Over the years, our team members have lost parents, siblings, aunts and uncles to cancer. As always, we ride with Uncle Knock Knock (aka Nat) and Popsie (aka Bill) in our hearts.
You can make a tax deductible donation to Henry or Josh's PMC ride by clicking on their links below or writing a check to the PMC and sending it to:
Henry & Josh Fenollosa
12 Benjamin Road
Arlington, MA 02476
Henry's PMC ride
Josh's PMC ride
In many ways, we were so lucky to live near Dana Farber and receive their care made possible in large part by donations like yours. And the only way we can insure a healthier future for kids like Henry is to fund more research to find new treatments. Because cancer never stops.
But then again, neither does Henry.
With love and appreciation for being on this journey with us,
Cath, Josh, Henry, Leo and Ruby Fenollosa