Thomas "Tommy" ClearyPatient Advocate at Student
Twenty-one-year-old Tommy Cleary now sees that though his cancer was a difficult experience, it gave him a new perspective on life.
Now a Boston College junior, Tommy was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012 when he was 14 years old and living in his hometown of Red Bank, N.J.
One Sunday morning before his baseball game, he felt a pain in his left side that was so bad he was unable to play. When his pain continued and his temperature began rising, he went to the emergency room. There, he learned his white blood cell count was through the roof. Doctors soon after would confirm it was leukemia. He was admitted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and received treatment there for 6 months. During these 6 months he spent just a few weeks out of the pediatric oncology floor. “I was there so long, they called me the mayor,” he laughs. A month and a half after being declared cancer free, he was re-diagnosed and had to undergo chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Inspired by his own journey, and having seen many other friends and family fight cancer, Tommy is now the co-president of Relay For Life of Boston College (www.RelayForLife.org/BC) In this role, he has visited the AstraZeneca Hope Lodge center in Boston to make dinners for the patients. He describes that experience as incredible, beautiful and amazing. “Every cancer patient benefits from the American Cancer Society,” whether through research, programs or services, he says. “I’ve seen it first-hand.”