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Grateful Father and Daughters Run Boston Marathon

From left, Kaitlin, Mark and Jordan Sampson are running the 2018 Boston Marathon in gratitude for the cancer care received at Mass General by two family members.

Donor Story

Grateful Father and Daughters Run Boston Marathon

With two family members now recovered from cancer, Mark, Jordan and Kaitlin Sampson are running the 2018 Boston Marathon to thank Mass General doctors, nurses and clinical staffers who helped keep their tight-knit clan intact.

Albert McKeon
April 3, 2018

It seems like the right time for Mark Sampson and his two daughters, Jordan and Kaitlin, to run the 2018 Boston Marathon together.

Boston Marathon Run for MGH - Mass General Marathon TeamWith two family members now recovered from cancer, the Sampsons want to repay the doctors, nurses and clinical staffers of Massachusetts General Hospital who helped keep their tight-knit clan intact. Mark, Jordan and Kaitlin will run as members of Mass General’s Pediatric Hematology Oncology marathon team, raising money for cancer care and research initiatives that enhance the quality of life of young cancer patients.

Michael Sampson, the youngest of Mark and Jodi Sampson’s three children, was long under the care of the hospital’s Division of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology after being diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer when he was 22 months old. Given only months to live, Michael is now 21 and living happily with his parents in their Middleton, Massachusetts, home.

The Sampsons believed they had endured more than enough of cancer after Michael’s many medical procedures at Mass General. But in 2006 and again in 2013, Jodi separately battled cancer in each of her breasts, receiving radiation treatments at Mass General. It would have been enough to devastate most families, but the Sampsons persevered, drawing on their religious faith and love for one another.

Diagnosed with seemingly incurable brain cancer as a child, Michael Sampson is now 21 and living happily with his parents.
Diagnosed with seemingly incurable brain cancer as a child, Michael Sampson is now 21 and living happily with his parents.

That’s why, with everyone now healthy, Mark, Jordan and Kaitlin are determined to make the 2018 Boston Marathon a special family affair. “The girls were excited to give back to the pediatric oncology program,” Mark says of his daughters. “They were young when I ran the Boston Marathon in 2000 and 2001, so it will be great to run together and help Mass General.”

Beating the Odds

In 1998, Mass General doctors discovered that the cancer on the right side of Michael’s brain had metastasized to his spinal fluid. Radiation treatment would have been harmful because he was an infant, so he instead underwent a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy for five years.

Jordan, now 27, and Kaitlin, now 25, were too young to realize the extent of Michael’s medical struggles, but they’ll always remember the care and kindness that the staff of the Pediatric Hematology & Oncology division extended to their family. “The hospital was fighting for us with everything they did during my brother’s stay, caring for him and us,” Kaitlin recalls. “They always took good care of us and definitely went above the call of duty.”

Michael still has to occasionally receive treatment, a routine that has included more than 20 surgeries at Mass General over the years to replace shunts that blocked and couldn’t effectively drain brain fluid. Michael suffered brain damage when he was younger, but lives “as full a life as he can,” Jodi says. He attends Northshore Education Consortium, a school for children and young adults with disabilities, and works at Market Basket. “He’s a blessing to our whole family,” Jodi says.

From the left, Kaitlin, Jordan, Michael, Jodi and Mark Sampson
From the left, Kaitlin, Jordan, Michael, Jodi and Mark Sampson

Inspired by Her Son

When Jodi was diagnosed with cancer in her right breast in 2006, Jordan and Kaitlin were then teenagers, and the significance of the disease hit them hard. Jodi made it a point to not change her daily routine, and her daughters noticed. “She raised three kids, and still went through radiation every morning at Mass General but was back in time for us to go to school in the morning,” Jordan says.

To get herself through the battle, Jodi was inspired by Michael’s fight. “Michael taught me a lot,” Jodi, 55, recalls. “I learned so much from my son. I told him I had to go to Mass General to be treated like he was. All he said was, ‘Mom, just be brave. Just be brave.’ Here I was getting advice from a young kid with an old soul.”

She again drew inspiration from Michael after cancer was found in her left breast in 2013, and also found comfort in the advice of Barbara Smith, MD, PhD, who is director of the Breast Program and co-director of the Women’s Cancers Program at Mass General. “I love her,” Jodi says. “She is very pragmatic. She said after we found it the second time, ‘You know what, Jodi? It’s just bad luck. Let’s just do this, and do that, and you’ll get better.’ ” And Jodi did get better.

“I really feel like I can call Mass General my second home,” she says. “I feel at ease there.”

Pediatric Cancer Marathon Team Supports Initiatives that Enhance the Quality of Life for Young Patients

Running as a Family

Kaitlin and Jordan, who live in South Boston, often train together. On many weekends, Mark joins them. The sisters run at the same pace and are usually within 100 yards of one another, fueling their hope that they will finish the Boston Marathon together. They might not be able to keep up with their dad. “He’s impressive for 57 years old,” Kaitlin says. “He’s an excellent runner.”

Whenever Mark experiences physical discomfort after a long training run, he thinks about the many struggles Michael has had. “These patients have gone through so much in their lives that four months of marathon training doesn’t compare,” Mark says. “I feel like if Michael can go through what he did, I can do this.”

Please consider supporting Mark, Jordan and Kaitlin Sampson and other runners raising money for Mass General’s pediatric cancer marathon team.

John Hancock-Mass General Boston Marathon® Partnership

Mass General is proud to be an official Partner of John Hancock in the Marathon Non-Profit Program. The Non-Profit Program provides over 1,000 Boston Marathon® bibs to select non-profit organizations throughout the community, which provides organizations with a significant fundraising opportunity. Last year, John Hancock Non-Profit Runners raised over $10M for their causes. Learn more about our John Hancock-Mass General Boston Marathon partnership that continues to provide significant support for our three signature causes: Pediatric Cancer, Emergency Medicine, and Home Base.