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Brave Theo

Theo and his mom, Paige Divoll

Donor Story

Brave Theo

Paige Divoll’s five-year-old son Theo was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer on Patriots’ Day, also known in Boston as Marathon Monday, in 2023. A year later, Theo is reaching the end of his initial treatment protocol, and Paige is running the Boston Marathon in support of Mass General for Children’s pediatric cancer care and research.

Marie Walton
April 9, 2024

For Paige Divoll, mom of three and lifelong athlete, Boston’s Marathon Monday will always be the day that her son Theo was diagnosed with cancer. But this April 15, exactly a year since they found out Theo had stage four neuroblastoma, she’ll be running the marathon herself.

Life-Changing News

Theo was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at just five years old. He had broken his leg in a skiing accident and endured a slow recovery with confusing symptoms like frequent urination and intense salt cravings, that became increasingly concerning to Paige and her husband, Ira. On Marathon Monday in 2023 Paige and Theo found themselves on their way to Massachusetts General Hospital’s Emergency Department, at the instruction of their primary care physician, where they learned the terrifying news of Theo’s neuroblastoma, a large tumor in his abdomen and cancer that had spread to his bones and bone marrow.

Paige recalls walking through the pediatric oncology floor that day and seeing displays and decorations referencing the pediatric cancer marathon team and Howard Weinstein, MD, Chief of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, one of the driving forces behind the team, who has been running the marathon for more than 30 years in honor of his patients.

“There’s no better metaphor for pediatric cancer treatment than training for a marathon,” Paige says. “Both feel impossible and so hard, and yet, every day, we find the strength to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

This year, Paige decided to run the Boston Marathon® as part of Mass General’s team to honor Theo and his caregivers and raise critical funds to support pediatric oncology. Running has served as an outlet for Paige while her child endures an extremely aggressive treatment plan, a way to take an hour a day to herself to focus on moving her body and processing everything that’s happening to her son. “As overwhelming as my life is right now, I can’t imagine doing this without the zen that running provides me,” she says.

Over the course of the past year, Theo has endured five rounds of chemotherapy, a surgical resection of his tumor, proton radiation therapy, two stem cell transplants and several rounds of intensive immunotherapy. Paige calls him “Brave Theo.” She is stunned by his resilience, she says, by his ability to take everything in stride and unflinchingly accept the gut-wrenchingly difficult hand he’s been dealt.

Overwhelming Support

When Paige was accepted to the Mass General Marathon Team to fundraise for pediatric cancer care and research, she set her fundraising goal to what felt like a daunting $10,000. But, in less than 24 hours, she had surpassed that goal.

Now, she’s raised more than $24,000 with a month left for more donations to come in. “Thankfully, I haven’t really had to do much at all to get folks to contribute,” she says. She’s received donations from Theo’s nurses and doctors, friends of friends, even people she’s never met, all motivated by Theo’s incredible perseverance.

Not only has Paige’s community at home in Andover, MA, and at Mass General rallied around her to make sure she reached her fundraising goal; they’ve also made sure she has time each day to complete her training runs.

“Our oncologist knew I was doing this and set the expectation with our nurses that I would have time to run every day, and they’ve absolutely lived up to the expectation,” she says. When Theo had to return to Mass General for a month-long inpatient stay for each of his two stem cell transplants, his nurses would ask Paige when she wanted to go for her run that day, and coordinate schedules to make sure someone could keep Theo company during that time. Theo himself makes it easy, too. “He totally understands that ‘Mom runs,’” Paige says. “He plays Zelda, and I run, and life keeps going.”

“As Theo’s mom, I’ve spent every day wishing I could trade places, or even give him the smallest bit of comfort,” Paige says. “The marathon is my opportunity to do something for Theo in what has to be the most helpless experience as a parent.”

“Theo will not be out of the shadow of neuroblastoma until he’s an adult, and the risk of relapse diminishes,” Paige explains. “Research dollars raised today will benefit Theo at 15, 25, 50 years old, in addition to the kids waking up at Mass General newly diagnosed with cancer. Each dollar I raise gets us one step closer to Theo and kids like him being free of cancer.”

To support Paige’s efforts, please visit her fundraising page.

To learn more about how you can support pediatric cancer care and research, please contact us.

To learn more about Mass General’s marathon team, click here.