On Friday the 13th 1985, I was admitted to Baystate Medical Center after collapsing several times at school. Later that evening the doctors brought me into a big room and told me and my parents that I had Leukemia and that without immediate medical intervention, I had anywhere from five days to two weeks left to live.
The next morning they drove me to Boston Children’s Hospital where I would spend the next couple months. On the very first day I was put on a punishing protocol of chemotherapy and was told I was going to experience many necessary but painful procedures. In addition to worrying about me, every night my parents had to find food and lodging.
Then a minor miracle happened, my mother told me that they were staying at a Ronald McDonald House. She said it was a big beautiful Victorian house with a beautiful clean room. Most importantly, it was close to the hospital. I felt a sense of relief for my parents knowing they didn’t have to worry about their own daily survival, and they could concentrate on the task at hand; to get their child better.
Over the next year, I too would stay at the Ronald McDonald House as an outpatient when I had to go to Boston for treatments. It was more like home than in the hospital. Most importantly RMH gave us the support of the cancer community. The kitchen became a place where everyone would assess everyone else to see if they needed some help, just a kind word or listening for a while. Often the parents who were farther along with their treatment protocol would share their experience with the new parents to give them hope. The Ronald McDonald House was more than a place to stay; it was a community of support and hope. It has now been thirty years since I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and twenty-eight years since I beat cancer. After you have read my story I hope that you will help ensure that the Ronald McDonald House is able to remain ever constant in its mission to help families in need.
Derek M. Beaulieu Sr.