Lisa Voveris got a shocking wake-up call when she visited the doctor after years of procrastinating on routine medical care: a cancerous tumor was growing in her cervix. She needed treatment right away, her gynecologist said.
Her first thought? "I'm going to beat this," she remembered thinking, after getting her grim diagnosis about three years ago. Her youngest of three children - her son - was only 16. "I never prayed so much," she said. "I just couldn't leave him."
Lisa was extremely grateful to be in one of the country's foremost cities for cancer treatment, and she was seen quickly at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's (where Joe also received excellent care).
Her treatment plan was intense: 25 rounds of radiation, five weeks of chemotherapy and five surgeries. The first type of chemo she was given caused an allergic reaction and intense sickness, so a second type was tried. Thankfully, the plan worked and her cancer went into remission. But it was a very tough go. She was grateful for the love of her son, who would not leave her side. "We really bonded," she said. "I don't think I'll ever be able to repay him. It was just above and beyond what any kid should be expected to do."
But the successful treatment had some unintended and lasting side effects; Lisa still suffers from severe pain in her legs that prevents her from walking easily or standing for too long. Even sitting in one position makes her numb. The disability has kept her from returning to work as a cook, which she enjoyed and misses. Her doctors can't entirely explain her condition, but hope time will bring healing, she said.
Still, she hasn't lost her sense of humor, or the fighting spirit that helped her beat cancer. "People say attitude is everything - it really is," she said. She jokes that someone should invent a seat that will allow her to cook without standing. "Can I just get a side stool and zip down the line?"
But it's hard to pay the bills, living on disability. A few years ago, Lisa learned about the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. And when she got behind on her electric bill last year, and the utility company threatened to shut off her lights, she reached out for help. The Foundation wrote a check to keep her power on, and sent along a gift card to help with groceries, as well.
Joe also sent her an autographed jersey for her son at Christmas; the two had met previously at a Foundation photo shoot and Lisa's son is a huge Patriots fan. Lisa told Joe she'd wanted to buy her son a real jersey for a long time but could not afford to do so. Joe was more than happy to grant Lisa's simple wish, and her son was ecstatic with the surprise.
For people like Lisa and her son, these kindnesses come along at just the right time. And that's the Joe Andruzzi Foundation's goal; to provide comfort and assistance when people need it most.
"Organizations like this, that really help people, are like a Godsend," Lisa said. "They just show up in the darkest parts of the storm."