It was just an ordinary Thursday in October 10 years ago. I was having lunch with business associates and doing some planning for the following year. When my son’s number showed up on my screen, I was excited as always to talk to him. He had just begun his sophomore year at John Carrol University. What he needed to tell me changed our lives forever. A teacher in his college class didn’t like the way he appeared that morning and took him to the emergency room. Based on his complaint, the doctors ordered an X-Ray. What he said on the phone was “Dad, the doctors think I have Lymphoma.” As I type these words, I relive the deep sense of panic that began that afternoon! We were on our way to Cleveland within the hour. Patrick required an emergency procedure to relieve pressure that the mass was applying to his heart. He came through that and they were able to take a tissue sample for biopsy.
Patrick was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic. Further testing determined that he did in fact have Hodgkin Lymphoma. Treatment options were discussed and chemo began soon afterward. Hodgkin Lymphoma is supposed to be curable so we were optimistic. Plan A failed after several months, as did plan B and C. At that point we moved his treatment to Roswell Park. The doctors and nurses were amazing. They loved Patrick and he loved them. They were still optimistic that his cancer could be treated and they prepared him for a stem cell transplant. On May 19th, 2014, Patrick passed away in the 8th floor ICU at Roswell. Before we lost him, when I would hear of a story such as ours about the tragic loss of a child, I would always think that I couldn’t imagine how totally devastating that would be. I was right. I couldn’t have imagined. It is so much worse. Every day we experience this internal sense that something is not right. It’s such a constant ache that it’s almost physical. It’s exhausting. A life sentence.
Patrick was just becoming an amazing young man. He experienced a retreat at St. Joe’s that affected him deeply. He discovered that he needed to live his life for others. That mission began to consume him. His confidence, self-image, and stature grew and began to reflect that goal. He developed an empathy for others that defined him. His friends, to this day, reach out to us frequently and share their memories and the affection that he inspired in them. They have so many stories about the deep selfless concern each of them felt that Patrick provided when they needed it most. They continue to meet and celebrate his birthday almost every year. (Pictured above birthday memory 2023)
I have been involved in hockey in Western New York since the 1960s. I knew that the local hockey community was extremely active and close-knit but who would think that they could hold an event that would raise over a million dollars. I had to check this out for myself. What I discovered has amazed me. Not only was The 11 Day Power Play organization able to accomplish that once, they have exceeded that amount for seven years in a row!
I became involved with The 11 Day Power Play in 2018. I played in the Community Shift that year. Four hours of hockey was difficult for someone my age, but when I would picture the patients that we encountered during Patrick’s journey, I found the energy to hop over the boards and do my part. It all starts with Mike and Amy Lesakowski. They had a vision. They took that vision and ran with it and what they have created changes lives! Their leadership has become an inspiration to literally thousands. So far, this amazing organization has generated more than ten million dollars. The mission to support research, wellness, and families has brought comfort to hundreds of cancer patients. I am extremely honored to be the current president of the board of directors of The 11 Day Power Play.
If my story inspired you, please follow our new blog. Our players and supporters will be sharing their stories throughout the year. This community is unique and amazing – we’ve experienced so much and we’re able to accomplish huge goals, together! If you’d like to share your experiences with The 11 Day Power Play and fighting cancer, please submit a post today. You could be our next story.