Wellesley High Grad Overcomes Cancer, Raises Money for Research

January 12, 2021 by  
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Rachel Hamilton

Rachel Hamilton, a 2003 Wellesley High School graduate, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma earlier this year — a disease few 26 year olds expect to contend with. But in November, Rachel’s scan showed no sign of the cancer — which affects a person’s lymphatic system — and has begun her career as a management consultant. A born athlete and former cross country runner for Wellesley High, Hamilton is running in this year’s Boston Marathon, and hopes to raise $10,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The Townsman spoke with Hamilton about her experience with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and why she decided to attempt such a lofty fundraising feat.

When were you diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and how did that affect your life?

“[Hodgkin’s Lymphoma] was totally new to me,” Hamilton said. “It was not something I had a family history of or had previous exposure to.”

Shortly before her diagnosis, Hamilton said she “felt very healthy. On May 1 of this year I walked the Walk for Hunger — that is a 20-mile walk — and I did it very quickly. I felt great doing it.”

But she said the day after the walk she was in grocery store when she noticed her lymph nodes were swollen and protruding from her neck. She said she waited a few days before she consulted a doctor.

“I saw a doctor on May 5,” she said, “and I got the diagnosis of Hodgkins on May 18.”

“Hodgkins is a cancer, but I was lucky to have a curable cancer. The first oncologist I met said you have to remember that this is curable. He was a pretty senior guy and he had been made the president of the oncology society, so that was pretty powerful for him to say that this was curable.”

When did you start chemotherapy, and what affect did the treatment have on your life?

“I graduated from Harvard Business School on May 26,” Hamilton said, “and I started chemo on May 27.”

“Chemo lasted all summer for 16 weeks. It was very tough. It was totally debilitating. I had the opportunity to talk to a few people about what it might be like before I started mine. My research did not fully prepare me for how bad the experience would be. I never imagined feeling so sick.”

Hamilton said that although she was fortunate to be surrounded by people who cared about her, she said the experience was still very traumatic.

She said she had a PET (positron emission tomography) scan in July, halfway through her treatment, and the results displayed no evidence of the disease.

“I had completely responded to the treatment,” she said. Hamilton underwent the additional eight weeks of treatment and in November her results came back clear.

“While chemo was extremely tough, at least I knew it was working,” she said. “It was so tough to go through despite knowing it was making me better. I can’t imagine what it must be like for people who go through the same traumatic treatment with worse odds.”

How did your experience with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma affect the way you view cancer and the work being done to research treatments and possible cures? Did your experience inspire you to participate in this fundraising effort?

“We hear so much about cancer in the media. It is very present; it really feels like it’s everywhere,” Hamilton said. “When you have it yourself, all of those mentions feel very personal because it is such a powerful experience, unlike anything in my past experience.”

“But cancer just surprises so many people. It’s heartbreaking when they don’t have treatment options, or when they do, but the therapy is so traumatic. Having gone through the experience, I just feel a more personal reaction to all of the things I hear about cancer. People I know and friends of friends or people in the news…when I think of why I’m running and why I want to raise money, it’s for the people who get a diagnosis so that they have treatment options or better treatment options.”

Why did you choose to run in order to raise money?

“I’ve always liked to run,” Hamilton said. “I think of myself as an athlete. I wasn’t sure I could do it myself but I’ve always admired people who put themselves out there to raise money publicly. I started to feel better and I felt so much better more quickly than I anticipated and I felt like I could run. I have friends who have run a marathon for other causes, and I was surprised to think I could do this so soon, that I could do it in April. I was excited to do something really adventurous.”

Hamilton said running to raise the money is a “great fit with my experience” and she said running is part of who she is.

“Going through a cancer diagnosis, treatment and training for a marathon in less than 12 months is not something we normally think of as something you do after a cancer diagnosis. I think it is a great message; there is life after cancer,” she said.

The Boston Marathon is scheduled to take place Monday, April 16, 2012.

To support Hamilton’s cause, visit this link.

Read more: Wellesley High grad overcomes cancer, raises money for research - Wellesley, Massachusetts - The Wellesley Townsmanhttp://www.wickedlocal.com/wellesley/news/education/x1819703637/Wellesley-High-grad-overcomes-cancer-raises-money-for-research#ixzz1jH751oIA

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