The Cancer Center’s Story Project is an effort to capture stories from our community of patients, friends, family, clinicians, and staff who have been affected by cancer in some way. This is Jay's Story.

  • Jay’s use of the Social Work program at the hospital has expanded his understanding of how "healing" extends beyond just the physical.
  • "I consider the people at Mass General family."

Since being diagnosed, what have you learned about yourself?

“I was diagnosed in 2008 and I got clarity of my diagnosis in the fall of 2009, when we got a good biopsy and figured out that I had lung cancer. And we came here to Mass General and discovered that it was the mutated gene ALK and it was sort of like winning the Charlie’s chocolate factory golden ticket because there was hope. And even less hope then than there is now. 90 days later I was terminated from my job. At the time I was diagnosed with a good diagnosis, knowing that I had stage 4 lung cancer that it was probably terminal and then I lost my job. So I lost my identity… I was losing my life, I was losing my family, I was losing everything."

"I would say I was one of the more distraught persons you could think of. And it was that time that I learned about social workers. My doctor at the time was Dr. Temel. She introduced me to the social work system at the hospital. And I have been seeing them on a regular basis and only in the past year or so have I began to cut back. They’ve helped me through the spectrum of all of the trials - I’ve been through three different trials. It will be a year and a half next month that I’ll be cancer free. I’ve learned a great deal about me, I’ve learned how to meditate and reduce stress. I’ve gone through acupuncture. I’ve learned who I am, I’ve learned what’s important to me. And I’ve learned I have a lot of caring friends here at the hospital. I’ve learned how to deal with a lot of personal issues. I would say the healing process isn’t just the disease here, it’s the whole person.”

What has been your best experience here?

“I was never afraid of coming here. I’ve always felt right at home. I actually enjoy coming here at this point. I have so many friends that have gone beyond the doctor-patient relationship. They are truly friends."

What has become important to you since being diagnosed? And then once you found out you are cancer free, has that changed?

“No, you start to live your life a little differently. The things that are really important are family. I consider the people at Mass General family. My children and my wife are very important. I talk to my children all the time. They weren’t married when I was diagnosed. I didn’t think I’d be able to go to their weddings. Two of them are married now. My daughter has a partner and they are happy together. So, that happened when I was first diagnosed. To get to know those other individuals who are now my in-laws, is fantastic. It was something I thought I was going to miss. Getting to know them, doing things with them means so much. And my kids have been fantastic. They call me and communicate as much as they possibly can living in three different time zones in the United States. All three are well employed, have spouses, doing great and I got to see all of it.”

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

“I’ve grown to really love coming here. I’m obviously not that sick anymore but the friendships mean so much. I’ve really liked volunteering and being involved in the hospital at this point. It’s a way to give back. I always have been involved with things and being able to be involved here means so much to me. You see people come, you see people go, and I wish them all well.”

I consider the people at Mass General family.

Jay Petri

This interview took place on March 7, 2017 and has been edited for clarity.