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A “Lemazing” Tribute to Support Cancer Care in Franklin County

December 06, 2021
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Joe Lemay, along with his friends and family, gathered as a team again this past August to ride, walk, and run in the annual Wheeling for Healing event in memory of his wife, Diana, who died of cancer on June 12, 2021.

“Diana and I began participating in Wheeling for Healing because we were thrilled that all the money raised goes to Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Oncology Department,” Joe said.

The couple had so much planned for their lives together, especially after retirement, but that was not to be. Diana died just short of her 59th birthday.

In 2019, the couple began participating in the annual event, which began 11 years prior with the hope of raising funds to support Baystate Health’s community hospital in Greenfield. Joe plans to continue to participate each year in memory of his beloved wife.

“Wheeling for Healing is such a wonderful cause,” he explains. “All of the money stays at Baystate Franklin and helps all of our neighbors who need it. It helps support the department by providing funds for new equipment or patient resources.”

The Lemays received Diana’s unwelcome diagnosis on August 17, 2017. She had gone to Baystate Health in Springfield for some tests, and it wasn’t long before the screen showed everything. She and Joe were in shock as the doctor showed the areas where cancer had metastasized to her lungs, adrenal glands and more.

“We were told, ‘Yes. That’s cancer. Go home and get your affairs in order’,” Joe explains. “There was cancer everywhere in her upper body. We went home and hugged and cried for what seemed like forever.”

Living in Greenfield, they went to Baystate Franklin for help and saw Dr. John McCann who immediately told them he would do everything he could.

“The doctor and all of the nurses were so kind and compassionate,” Joe said.

The second year after her diagnosis, 2019, was a good one, according to Joe. She was well enough to travel, so they did what they could, going to Niagara Falls in Canada and a concert in Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. They also saw Cher in concert in Boston and took a gentle yoga class together – all of the things they’d planned to do after retirement. They also participated in Wheeling for Healing – it was certainly one of the highlights.

Joe says it is “extremely important” to donate to the Oncology Department through Wheeling for Healing, a program that offers so much to the department every year, and one of the perks is spending time at the yearly event with people who understand, to some extent, what everyone else is going through.

“I credit Dr. McCann and the compassion he showed with keeping Diana alive for four more years after her diagnosis,” Joe says.

The Lemays got to know everyone in the Oncology Department at Baystate Franklin, as well as those who volunteer, organize and participate in Wheeling for Healing.

“What a wonderful bunch,” he says. “Such caring individuals.” Joe described Diana as a “sweet woman who loved life, was his best friend and who adored her twin granddaughters, who were also part of Team Lemazing in August.

“She was radiant,” he says. “And she absolutely loved Wheeling for Healing and what it does for the hospital and for people with cancer and their families.”

Team Lemazing plans to walk, bike or run every year for as long as its members are able. This year the team raised $5,810, which included Lemay’s contribution of $1,000 to be a sponsor.

“We’re elated that it is all going to Baystate Franklin,” he says. “Diana would have been, as well.”

Wheeling for Healing began with the hope to support care in the county. It has helped purchase state-of-the-art equipment, including new infusion chairs and exam tables to ensure patients’ comfort; supported improvements for a better healing environment; and funded incredible programs like art therapy and yoga to encourage wholesome healing for patients and survivors.

The annual event has raised more than $500,000 to date. All funds raised remain local to supporting cancer care and services at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

Learn more at BaystateHealth.org/WheelingforHealing.