Keeping Ryan's Dream Alive
By Kaitlyn Farley
It was his dream - that and someday owning an Irish pub called "Farley's."
Attending Boston College was at the top of the list for my brother, Ryan Farley, and when he received the acceptance letter from BC one glorious spring morning, his excitement far exceeded the joy most students accepted to their school of choice ever experience. Ryan was celebrating more than the fact that he was invited to be a student at BC; he rejoiced that he had lived to see this day at all.
The reality was that he almost did not make it. At the age of 16, Ryan was diagnosed with stage four testicular cancer. He suffered through more than a year of aggressive chemotherapy treatments and countless surgeries, including one that lasted for 11-and-a-half hours. However, he vehemently battled the disease and was told that he was finally in remission.
It was the love and support of his family and friends back home in Cheshire, Conn., that Ryan gave much of the credit for his recovery. Ryan was met with similar support when he walked through the gates of BC as a member of the Class of 2003. He immediately cultivated long-lasting friendships and relationships with faculty and students, as he made the most of each moment that he was blessed with at BC.
Imagine the shock to all of us when Ryan went home for Christmas break of his freshmen year and was told the cancer was back.
The constant support, and visits, from Ryan's new friends at BC never faltered. A steady stream of cards from both friends and acquaintances were sent to him in Connecticut. Each week, a card from [Freshmen Dean] Sister Mary Daniel O'Keefe arrived in our mailbox, sending warm wishes and prayers for Ryan and our family. Kristen Alexander, in the Admissions Office, who was always Ryan's favorite, continued to show her constant love and support for him. Countless members of the BC community truly showed their care and concern for another - the pillars upon which BC was founded.
Ryan never made it back to BC. On March 18, 2001, after a tremendous fight, he succumbed to cancer at the age of 19.
At my family's most difficult time, the outpouring from BC surpassed what could ever be expected. Two BC priests, Fr. Jim Fleming and Fr. Donald MacMillan, stood on the altar to say Mass along with our parish priest at Ryan's funeral in Connecticut. A memorial Mass was held on campus in Ryan's honor and Fr. Leahy said Mass while Ryan's close friends paid a beautiful tribute to a lost hero.
Witnessing this unbelievable homage being paid to Ryan, who had only been at BC for one short semester, I realized that Boston College was where I needed to spend my four years of higher education. People can talk all they want about the Jesuit ideals and the close-knit community of BC, but I had the privilege of seeing these words put into action.
Thankfully, I was accepted and have had the honor of attempting to continue the legacy my big brother started some five years ago. BC welcomed me with the same open arms with which they welcomed Ryan. As an incoming freshman, I had about 20 pseudo older brothers take me under their wings. Whether this was a blessing or a curse has yet to be determined.
During my freshmen year, at a UGBC meeting, I heard some talk about starting an all-university Relay for Life here at BC and immediately, I knew this was a perfect way to do something good in my brother's honor. This fundraiser for the American Cancer Society is a truly wonderful event and in our very first year, 2003, the relay was a tremendous success, raising over $100,000. Our achievements since then have been recognized by the American Cancer Society and others dedicated to the fight against cancer.
This year's Relay for Life will be held at Harvard University on April 22-23. All are welcome to either come show their support or start a team and raise money. This 24-hour event, consisting of teams who have members alternate walking around the track, includes a very touching luminary ceremony that remembers and honors those who have battled cancer.
I know that if Ryan were here, he would undoubtedly be a part of this special event, one that both exemplifies the spirit of the BC community and honors the spirit of my brother.
-Kaitlyn Farley is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.
For more information on participating in Relay for Life, see www.acsevents.org/relay/Macambridge or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.