In September 2011, Newton resident Angela Palmer had just passed her 10-year anniversary of beating breast cancer.
Then, Angela heard that dreaded word again. This time, though, it was stage four brain cancer.
The brain tumor had not metastasized as a result of the breast cancer, her husband says, but had formed on its own.
"It had a lot of people stumped," says husband Patrick Palmer. "She has lived an impeccable lifestyle. It's just not fair, for someone like this who is so conscientious about health to get nailed with this."
Since her diagnosis, Angela has undergone 13 hours of surgery, 30 radiation therapies and 42 oral chemotherapy treatments. For the first few months of treatment she spent a lot of time in bed, Patrick recalls, and used a walker when she had to get around.
"It's very difficult. With the kids, they see it, and obviously as a spouse it's very difficult as well," Patrick says. "But, you got to do what you got to do. You handle it. I haven't got time to sit down and feel sorry for myself."
But over the last few months, things have started to look up for Angela and her family, which includes four children and nine grandchildren. The walker is gone and instead, Angela is working out regularly with a personal trainer.
Much of Angela's improvement can be attributed to Avastin, a cancer treatment previously used on lung and colon cancer. According to Patrick, the drug has significantly changed Angela's quality of life.
Patrick recalls the first time Angela had an infusion of the Avastin drug -- she finished the treatment and told Patrick she wanted to go out to dinner. A short while later, she stayed up late to celebrate her daughter's birthday at the Beehive Restaurant in Boston.
Before long, she was hosting a party for friends during the AFC Championship.
"Since [starting the treatment], she has not used a walker, has not used a wheelchair and she does 45 minutes a day on a stationary [exercise] bike," says Patrick, who is the president and CEO of the West Suburban YMCA. "She's completed two out of three steps to get her driver's license back...that's a rare occasion for this stage of brain cancer."
But the drug trials and research that produced this life-changing treatment are expensive, Patrick explains, and money only comes from private fundraising.
So as a way to support Angela's therapy, as well as "all the other Angela's that are going to follow" Patrick and his wife have started the Angela & Patrick Palmer Research Fund for Brain Cancer at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
The fund, which started with a $100,000 pledge from the Palmers, supports research at the Neuro-Oncology Department and the hope that someday, a cure for the disease will be found.
"[Brain cancer] is a very serious form of cancer," Patrick says. "Our idea was to assist in any way that we can to allow Dana Farber to continue their drug trials."
Since launching the fund in April, Patrick says fundraising efforts have brought in roughly $70,000. Some of those efforts include his son-in-law's benefit run in the Boston Marathon and Mayor Setti Warren's ride in the Pan-Mass Challenge.
On Monday, the Angela & Patrick Palmer Research Fund will host a benefit golf tournament at Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord, MA.
Monday's golf tournament kicks off at 11 a.m. with registration and lunch. A shotgun start is scheduled for 12:30 p.m., with a cocktail reception, silent auction and award ceremony scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
A spot in the tournament is $500, and a few slots are still available, Patrick says. Those who are interested should email Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org and find more information on the tournament's website.
In addition to the golf tournament, staff members from the West Suburban YMCA have organized a "Team Angela" for the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk on September 9. Those who are interested in joining the team can email Mary Kern at email@example.com.
"As a family, we're trying to raise as much awareness about this disease as possible, and raise as much money as we can to support drug trials at Dana Farber so we can get rid of this horrible disease," Patrick says.