Patient Recipient Aiming to Pay it Forward with JAF

Steve D

Steve has many hobbies. While he enjoys bowling and loves coaching on the softball field, his favorite is playing darts. The 58-year-old Meriden, CT native regularly participates in regional dart tournaments.

In August 2021, things started to change for Steve. He began having less energy, experienced night sweats, and felt increasing pain on his side. When the pain became unbearable, Steve headed to the hospital.

The doctors discovered that Steve had a kidney stone and underwent a procedure to remove it. During Steve’s time at the hospital, however, the medical staff found something else in his abdominal area and ran some tests.

Some days after Steve left the hospital, he received a call from his doctors that would change his life.

“I remember they asked if I could meet with them, and I asked, ‘Why? What’s going on?'” Steve said. “That’s when they first told me that I had cancer.”

Steve was officially diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s Lymphoma in mid-September 2021—a rare, fast-growing, and aggressive form of lymphoma that Joe Andruzzi Foundation (JAF) Co-Founder Joe Andruzzi also had. For Steve, coming to terms with his diagnosis was a challenging first few days, as he had ‘very tough’ conversations with his family, work, and friends.

“Talking to my family, friends, my boss, and the HR department at work, it was hard breaking that news,” said Steve. “It felt like my life was on pause now since I had to stop working, traveling for darts and softball; it was tough.”

Steve quickly began treatment at the Midstate Medical Center. His treatment plan consisted of six chemotherapy rounds that involved heading into the medical center biweekly on Monday and staying until Friday. According to Steve, he did close to 100 hours of chemotherapy that first week.

Unfortunately, in between his second and third chemotherapy sessions, Steve became incredibly ill and was rushed to the hospital. The medical staff discovered his white blood cell count was 0.4 percent.

“I remember being curled up like a ball in the hospital for three straight days and thinking nothing was going to work since they gave me nearly every medication they had,” Steve said. “Those were tough days and nights, but thankfully my numbers went back to normal.”

As the primary financial provider of his family, Steve’s diagnosis soon became as much a financial toll as it was a physical one. Household expenses such as his electric bill and getting the necessary nutrition he needed during treatment grew more challenging to pay—with Steve’s family relying mostly on his short-term disability benefits.

Steve brought up these challenges to his social worker and asked if there was a way he could receive financial aid from an organization. His social worker told Steve how the Joe Andruzzi Foundation (JAF) can provide that assistance and applied to the Foundation on his behalf.

In a matter of just a few weeks, Steve was a grant recipient for JAF’s Household Expenses and received a Stop & Shop gift card as well. That act of kindness by JAF is something Steve said he and his family will never forget.

“What JAF did for me and my family was so incredible,” Steve said. “I can’t say enough good things about the Foundation and what they do to help.”

Steve’s connection to JAF didn’t stop there, as he recently participated in a Foundation (Up)Beat outing at a local Dave & Buster’s—even getting to meet Joe and have him sign one of his dart team jerseys. JAF (Up)Beat Opportunities are special occasions for patient recipients and their families to have some fun and not have to think about treatment, even if for a short while.

Steve holding one of his dart league jerseys with Joe Andruzzi

Currently, Steve is cancer-free and is back throwing bullseyes at the dart board once more. Like Joe, Steve now aims to pay it forward and help those in a situation he once was in—including wanting to hold a fundraiser to support JAF.

“I wouldn’t be here without the support from those like my family, my friends, and the Foundation,” said Steve. “Whatever I can do to pay it forward for a great organization like JAF, I’ll happily do.”

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