By Alison Krawczyk
Photography by New Image Photography, Sam Ogden
When Joan Suzanne Tomsich was just 48 years old, she thought her life was over. A diagnosis of multiple myeloma led her to thoughts like, “Will I be around to see my kids graduate or witness them getting married?” For Tomsich, the answers to these questions ultimately were “yes,” thanks to the groundbreaking work of Kenneth Anderson, MD, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. As director of the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center and the Kraft Family Professor of Medicine, Anderson has played a key role in many major advances in multiple myeloma research. He and his team have paved the way for most of the 16 novel therapies the Food and Drug Administration has approved in the past two decades. So, when Tomsich had the opportunity to make a philanthropic contribution, Dana-Farber was the obvious choice.
“In terms of where to make this gift, I didn’t even have to think about it,” says Tomsich. “Of course, I was going to give in support of Dr. Anderson’s research. I know the money is going to be well-spent and that he is going to find more treatment options, and hopefully one day, a cure.”
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow that can lead to a number of symptoms, including bone lesions or fractures, decrease in blood counts such as anemia, and impairment in kidney function. Dana-Farber’s research in this area has transformed patient care, enabling many of today’s patients to live three to five times longer after diagnosis than they might have expected only two decades ago. Nevertheless, myeloma cells eventually grow impervious to even the most potent medicines, causing disease relapse, and some myeloma subtypes do not respond well to standard treatments.
“We need to expand our research, continue to identify new therapies, and bring them to patients as quickly as possible,” says Anderson. “Joan’s generous support will fast forward discoveries and development of novel treatments to improve the lives of patients and their families, which will be a long lasting and wonderful legacy to the Tomsich family.” Tomsich named Dana-Farber as the sole remainder beneficiary of a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) established by her mother, Suzanne Tomsich. Her gift of $10 million to The Dana-Farber Campaign will support Anderson’s work through the Joan Suzanne Tomsich Fund for Multiple Myeloma Research, as well as establish the Joan Suzanne Tomsich Endowed Fund for Patients and Families under the direction of Deborah Toffler, MSW, LCSW, senior director of Patient Care Services at Dana-Farber.
The Division of Patient Care Services offers supportive, educational, and financial resources to help reduce the burden of a cancer diagnosis. Patient assistance programs specifically help with financial barriers that patients and families face by assisting families with putting food on the table, paying for transportation or parking for treatment, and navigating potential income loss during treatment.
“No life is without stress, but when a patient is worried about how they are going to pay for gas or food, it can be a great burden to an already difficult time,” says Tomsich. “I want these programs to help fill that financial gap so that patients will not have to worry as much.”
Tomsich learned compassion from her parents, Suzanne and Robert, who generously supported charities in the arts, education, and healthcare, including a gift to Dana-Farber to name the Robert J. Tomsich Family Gallery in the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. Although Robert Tomsich passed away in 2018, through Joan Tomsich’s incredible new gift, her family’s legacy of generosity will continue in perpetuity.