The depth of my gratitude is equal to the height of my success — and I feel victorious

PJ, who has osteosarcoma and writes about his gratitude, poses at Spring Training in 2017October 22 started out as a normal day. I had just finished lunch and was sitting in my room, when my nurse, Jackie, came in and told me Lisa Diller, my oncologist, was on the phone. I was kind of surprised she was calling me, since I hadn’t had a recent scan or anything.

“I heard you had a good weekend,” Dr. Diller said. “Do you want to go to the game tomorrow? I have two tickets to Erica’s Suite at Fenway.”

It was the first game of the World Series at Fenway Park. I’m a huge sports fan and my first sports memory was of the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004. Of course I wanted to go.

I thanked her a million times and hung up the phone. Then I felt nervous. I wasn’t sure how we’d get everything together to get me there. I’ve had prior experiences getting my pumps off to smaller pumps, but I wasn’t sure how we were going to get them all off and have a backup plan ready in case anything went wrong. But Jackie and my charge nurse, Pam, told me we’d figure it out and helped put everything together to make it happen.

PJ, who has osteosarcoma, at the first game of the World Series
PJ at the game with his dad, far left, and his nurse, Lisa, front

The other problem was that we had two tickets, but I needed my nurse, Lisa, to go with me to keep an eye on all of my medical equipment. I felt terrible because my dad was at Fenway Park at that very moment, buying me a postseason “Do damage” sweatshirt. When he came back to my room, I had to tell him I just got World Series tickets, but wasn’t sure if he could go.

A third ticket, an awesome game

Thankfully, the next morning someone came through with a third ticket for my dad. Not sure exactly how they managed it, but Lisa Scherber from Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s probably had something to do with it. She’s always been great at getting me tickets.

Going to the game was awesome. They were able to bring me right in on my stretcher, so I didn’t have to worry about sitting up in a wheelchair, and they rolled me right up against the railing, where I could see everything. The atmosphere was amazing — I tried to focus on just soaking it all in.

PJ, who has osteosarcoma, poses with Red Sox players at spring training 2017
PJ with Red Sox players Andrew Benintendi and Blake Swihart at spring training in 2017

The game went back and forth and it didn’t really occur to me that we might win until Eduardo Nunez hit the home run. Then Craig Kimbrel came in and got that last out and they started playing “Dirty Water.” It finally hit me that we had just won a World Series game and I was at the game. It was surreal.

My focus on gratitude

I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in August of 2016. Since that time, I’ve really tried to focus on having gratitude and keeping a positive attitude. Going to the World Series game is just one of the many things I have been grateful for.

When I was first going through treatment, I learned that sometimes you have to take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, or even one second at a time. Those hard times taught me to appreciate all the great moments I have in a day. We all have so many great moments that we take for granted. I learned that if I just took a second to change my mentality and perspective, I could enjoy everything so much more. Like now, when I have conversations with my friends, I can actually be real and not just go through the motions like a lot of people do.

PJ, who has osteosarcoma, with friends at the top of Mt. Monadnock
PJ, left, with Gaby and Greg at the top of Mt. Monadnock

There’s a saying I’ve really latched onto since my diagnosis: “Strength does not come from a physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will.” It’s a quote from Gandhi, but I first saw it when running back Nick Chubb posted it after tearing his ACL. The next day I got diagnosed, so it seemed really fitting. To me, it means you can do so much more with your mind than you can with your body. If you have a plan and you put your mind to it every day you’re going to see results. You don’t have control over everything, but you can change a lot more than you think.

Living with strength

A painting of the view from the top of Mt. Monadnock by PJ, a patient with osteosarcoma
PJ’s painting of the view from the top of Mt. Monadnock

And that’s how I try to live. After my first surgery to remove the tumor from my hip in November 2016, they told me I’d never walk again, at least not without a really bad limp and a cane. But after four months of physical therapy, I was walking on a single cane. The next summer, I hiked to the top of Mt. Monadnock with two of my friends, Gaby and Greg. I just kept working at it, and doing a little more every day until I could hike without crutches or a cane. I started doing hikes at Noanet Woodlands in Dover every day and decided I wanted to try Mt. Monadnock. That hike was way more than I expected, and I really had to push it to get to the top. But, once I was there, it felt like such an accomplishment. I had been told I wouldn’t be able to walk, and there I was at the top of a mountain. Gaby and I both have paintings of that view.

I’ve learned that there’s always something to be grateful for and that something good can come out of even the worst situations. Like right now, I don’t have the greatest diagnosis, but I’m in the best children’s hospital in the world and have one of the best rooms on the floor. I’ve also met most of the Red Sox players and went to a World Series game. Most people never get to do that. Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.

About our blogger: PJ Ferrier, 22, is a patient at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. He grew up in Ashland, Massachusetts, and graduated from Ashland High School. He studied physical therapy at UMass Lowell, and lives in Ashland with his parents, Carol and Paul Sr., and sister, Kayla.

Learn more about Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s.