Boston 5K Walk/Run
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is delighted to recognize Brendan Farmer as the MMRF Spirit of Hope Honoree at the 2016 MMRF Team for Cures: Boston 5K Walk/Run.
On May 15, 2013, at the age of 40, Brendan was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Given the advanced stage of the disease at the time of his diagnosis, Brendan immediately began receiving the traditional, high-dose chemotherapy drug cocktail. Now, as he prepares to mark the 3 year anniversary of his diagnosis, Brendan continues to work towards remission, buoyed by the fact that his myeloma is well managed through a slightly modified version of that initial cocktail. Despite the fact that remission remains elusive, Brendan is determined to not let cancer define him. This is clear by how he chooses to lead his life each day, continuing to teach his class of kindergartners at Milton Academy, intent on being his best for them.
Although there has been a level of uncertainty for him as he navigates living with an unpredictable disease, there are some things that remain unwavering: he, by all accounts, is a teacher to his core. He cares deeply about the Milton community which, although evidenced in countless ways, is perhaps most obvious by his level of commitment to making sure even our youngest members understand what it means to part of a community. The testimonials about him from current and former students highlight the level of affection and respect that he has garnered. One former student wrote, “No matter what, Mr. Farmer never gave up on me. Even though I gave him every excuse to cast me off…I will never be able to thank Mr. Farmer enough for being the supportive man I needed, and always having an open door and greeting me with an inviting smile. I know I wouldn’t be nearly the young man I am now if I hadn’t been taught by Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer will always be the best teacher I will ever have.”
Given the respect and admiration surrounding Brendan from the wider school community, people expressed an interest in finding ways to support him after his diagnosis was disclosed. Appreciative of the support, but unsure what to do, Brendan wrestled with what felt comfortable to him in response to the outreach. During the period of time following his initial diagnosis, he and his wife, Rosemary, began doing research in order to better understand treatment options as well as the disease itself. The MMRF became a “go to” resource for the Farmers as Kathy Giusti’s story resonated with them, and there was an ease in finding the information they needed.
In thinking about Brendan’s journey, it seems only fitting that the MMRF 5K Walk/Run Program exists. A lifelong runner, when Brendan received a card in the mail in the winter of 2014 about the MMRF Boston 5K Walk/Run, he shared the information with friends. He felt the event was particularly meaningful, as he was (and is) keenly aware of pacing and knows that, for him, this is a marathon, not a sprint. He shared that if anyone inquired about how they could help him, he would welcome them to join Team Farmer which he had created. As word spread about the event, Team Farmer’s “numbers” shattered all goals set. His initial team of 4, including himself, his wife, and his two children grew to include over 100 participants from the school community, raising over $15,000. On April 26, 2014, in a sea of matching t-shirts, they created a wave of orange along the race route and defied the stormy weather. The MMRF Boston 5K Walk/Run became a community event, and in Team Farmer’s second year, members were determined to be even stronger. This proved to be true both in the number of participants who joined the team and in money raised, reaching $20,000. Although the design on the front of the Team Farmer t-shirts changes each year, the message “putting one foot in front of the other in the fight against multiple myeloma” is a constant on the back. This message is particularly poignant, as there was a period of time when the drug cocktail rendered the physical act of walking nearly impossible for Brendan. Those who know Brendan have truly never seen him as deeply moved as he is at the MMRF Boston 5K Walk/Run. The event provides a tangible way for people to show support.
Brendan has made an incredibly strong commitment to the MMRF in his fundraising efforts, exceeding $35,000 raised in two years. He has fought through the “annoying” side effects and discomfort from the chemo drugs, which has become his “new normal”, and continues to be all about his family and his students. He is a living example of the power of a positive mindset. He fully expects to see the day when there is a cure for multiple myeloma. Until then, Brendan models perseverance and dedication for his students. He believes deeply in his students and in being present in the moment for them. He advocates for them and teaches them how to advocate for themselves. In the process, Brendan has shown how powerful one community can be.
The MMRF works tirelessly to find a cure to extend the lives of patients just like Brendan, and is proud to honor Brendan as the 2016 recipient of the MMRF Spirit of Hope Award, given at every MMRF 5K Walk/Run event to a person who inspires hope and shows extraordinary commitment to the MMRF. Brendan has touched the myeloma community with his strength of character, his kindness, and his embodiment of hope.