SHARLA SIEVE (left) is incredibly touched that her daughter Olivia is holding a fundraiser that seeks to help colon cancer patients including her to receive treatment at a proposed new clinical program at MGH. (Courtesy Photo)

 

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Lynnfield High School sophomore Olivia Sieve’s mom Sharla is her hero.

“My mom is the strongest person I know,” said Olivia in an email sent to the Villager. “She has always been the most kindhearted and incredible woman I have ever known. She is an amazing mom to five kids, and is the biggest role model in my life. I hope that one day I can be half the woman she is.”

Olivia’s love for her mother, who was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer last year, inspired her to launch the “Sharla Strong” fundraiser last month. Olivia is holding the fundraiser to help Massachusetts General Hospital launch a new clinical program that will make hepatic arterial infusions available for patients. Hepatic arterial infusions are a form of regional chemotherapy that is used to treat advanced colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver.

“The fundraiser I’m holding is to help jumpstart the process of making hepatic arterial infusions available at Mass General Hospital for people with colorectal cancer that has metastasized to the liver,” said Olivia. “In the U.S., there are only 15 hospitals that offer hepatic arterial infusions.”

Olivia said her mom has to travel to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City to receive hepatic arterial infusions.

“My mom had her pump implanted in October of 2021,” said Olivia. “She had to go to New York to get her infusions twice per month for year. However, she is now able to go just once a month. I want this type of care to be available close to home so many more people can have access to this type of treatment without needing to drive long distances. Mass. General Hospital is in the initial phases of starting a program to provide hepatic arterial infusions for their patients battling colon cancer. However, to do this requires a lot of funding, which is what 100 percent of the proceeds from my fundraising will go towards.”

Olivia said the fundraiser’s proceeds will allow MGH to help support “the hepatic arterial infusion pump clinical program at Mass. General Hospital.”

“This program will be led by Motaz Qadan, MD, PhD, a hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgical oncologist in partnership with Elizabeth Walsh, MD, in medical oncology,” said Olivia. “Dr. Qadan was recruited from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in part, to establish a hepatic arterial infusion pump program. In a published study, treatment with the pump allowed 47 percent of patients with unresectable cancer to become surgery eligible, enhancing their chance of a cure.”

The fundraiser also seeks to establish a fund in Sharla’s name.

Olivia said the fundraiser began in early October after she told her friends that she was looking to raise money in honor of her mom. She decided to order some bracelets to sell.

“I was expecting to maybe make $1,000,” said Olivia. “However, there was an outpouring of support that I never could have predicted and over $5,000 was raised just by selling bracelets. Bracelets can still be ordered and if anyone is interested, they can email me at [email protected] The bracelets are $5 each.”

After launching the bracelet fundraiser, Olivia decided to create a fundraising page on the MGH website. The ‘Sharla Strong’ fundraiser has raised $78,000 over the last several weeks. The fundraiser has exploded across town and a number of residents have been sharing Olivia’s MGH fundraiser on Facebook.

“The goal is to raise $100,000,” said Olivia. “I am honestly blown away by the support that has been coming from the community. It is just incredible to see how many people have donated and contributed to this cause.”

Sharla is incredibly touched that Olivia decided to launch the fundraiser in her honor. She said her daughter’s fundraiser will help other colon cancer patients in addition to her.

“When my daughter told me she had a surprise she couldn’t wait to share with me, I had no idea what it could be,” said Sharla. “Once she told me about the personalized colon cancer bracelets she had ordered and planned to sell at a local Halloween event, I was incredibly touched and so impressed with her ambition and initiative. That event was a huge success, but Olivia wanted to take things further. With the help of our close friend, Jocelyn Gentile, Olivia’s bracelet fundraiser has grown into something I could never have imagined, and will allow MGH to implement a program they’ve wanted to establish for many years. It’s a comfort to me to know that this program will help so many people and make lives a little easier for patients going through an already traumatic experience with their cancer diagnosis.”

Olivia said “having the hepatic arterial infusions available at Mass General Hospital will save lives.”

“It would also save time and the hardships of traveling and receiving treatment,” said Olivia. “In addition, it saves patients money who may not be able to afford the prices of food, gas, airfare and hotels that patients need to have when they go to hospitals in different states to get their treatment.”

If residents would like to donate to Olivia’s fundraiser, they can visit https://because.massgeneral.org/fundraiser/4247004.