Alain Choaoui, M.D.
As a family physician, I care for many patients who have cancer and see the impact it has on them and their families. I also speak from personal experience when cancer became part of my life. In 2004, I was treated for a gastrointestinal stromal tumor, and since then I understand cancer from both a professional and personal perspective.
My first experience with the WALK didn’t go exactly as planned. Several days before the event, I had an attack of appendicitis that resulted in emergency surgery. Although I couldn’t participate by walking, I still attended to cheer on my team.
At that WALK, I was struck by the sense of community, optimism and energy—everywhere I looked, I saw smiles and people from all walks of life coming together for the greater good. That spirit is one of the terrific memories I have of the WALK, and that force is contagious, which is why we see individuals and teams come back each year.
A cancer diagnosis is a health crisis that takes a physical, emotional and financial toll. The WALK helps by raising funds that go toward much-needed resources for treatment, research and prevention. And every contribution is critical and appreciated -- continued research and the availability of treatment gives hope to so many in need.
When I was President of the NSMC Medical Staff, I recognized that uniting people around a common goal creates a positive sense of community. That is why I am committed to the WALK and its success. The WALK brings together those who are diagnosed with cancer and the community of people who care for them—doctors, medical staff, family and friends. Together we will fight cancer with everything we have.
We all are affected by cancer in so many ways. My family is no exception. Ten years ago, my mother, Maria LaRosa, was treated for colon cancer. Though the outcome was successful, the experience affected us profoundly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our last encounter with the disease. In September 2014, after several months of excellent care at the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center, my mother-in-law, Karen Gerry, lost her battle against an aggressive form of lung cancer. It’s in her honor that our team has participated in the WALK for the past two years and that I’ve taken on the role of co-chair this year.
As the owners of Pellana’s Steak House and Daniella's Cafe, my husband and I are fortunate to see our fellow North Shore residents at some of their happiest, most celebratory moments. So it means a lot to be able to give back to our community through our support of NSMC, which is an invaluable resource for all of us who live here. Through my family’s experience at NSMC and my past involvement in the WALK as part of the Gourmet Gala and the WALK Steering Committee, I’ve developed great respect and appreciation for the care NSMC delivers every day.
During Karen’s treatment, the doctors and staff made a genuine connection with her and with us. They knew that her condition was serious, but they approached it with hope and determination. They never gave up.
My favorite part of the WALK is the camaraderie. The atmosphere is almost like a party. Everyone is in it together and for the same reason. When you finish, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment. In my case, I know how proud of us Karen would be.
I’m grateful to be able to help gain exposure and support for the North Shore Cancer WALK. As busy as life can get these days, it’s important to take stock and get behind organizations such as NSMC that make such a powerful difference for so many.