The goal in sight: WH hoops alums fundraise for grandkids of coach
HANSON — PJ Fisher, 3, and his little sister Jovi, 1, are like a lot of children — he loves train sets and hanging out with his grandpa and she has a favorite blanket to snuggle.
But an eye exam at 10 days old, confirmed PJ had bilateral retinoblastoma, a genetic mutation that causes tumors to grow in the retina. His sister was diagnosed in-utero and was delivered prematurely to permit surgery on her right eye.
“My eye was sick,” as PJ puts it now. “We had to heal it.”
It’s not quite that simple. PJ and Jovi have to have MRIs every six months, if not sooner, to monitor their eye tumors and any potential growth in their brains. They also have very routine eye exams under anesthesia (EUA) on a monthly or bi-monthly schedule. The EUAs will continue for the rest of their lives.
Tumors had also started to show up on photos, such as at PJ’s baptism when he was 3 months old, according to his mom Kate Daley-Fisher.
“It started glowing white [in photos],” she said. “It’s a big movement called ‘Know the Glow.’”
Red-eye in photos is normal, a white spot is a sign of trouble.
“It’s pretty obvious when you see it,” said the children’s maternal grandmother Maureen Daley.
W-H girls’ basketball alumnae who played for PJ’s grandfather, James Daley when he coached the Lady Panthers, have stepped up to help fund some of the children’s medical costs. Their fund-raising goal is $10,000.
As the song puts it, “That’s what friends are for.”
It still elicits an emotional response from their former coach.
“I see a lot of them at different times and we do connect and get some nice Christmas notes,” Daley said of his former players Sunday evening. “This took me by surprise. They’ve really done a wonderful thing.”
One of those former players, Susan Cole of Whitman, said she and Kate (Buckley) Lussier are “planning to give back” with a fundraiser at the Meadow Brook Restaurant from 7 to 11 p.m., Saturday Feb. 20.
“At W-H Mr. Daley touched so many kids’ lives,” Cole said. “It’s time for us to start to give back to them.”
Admission is $20 per ticket. Baskets for raffle range from Bruins ticket packages to an overnight stay at the Cape, gift card tree and much more. At this point there are 20 baskets up for raffle as well as cash prizes.
“Mr. Daley was a huge part of my life and our family,” Cole said. “Mrs. Daley babysat my son from the time he was 6 months old. I want people to realize this family wouldn’t seek anything out and they’ve handled this like champs — they are those people who just do, do, do, including Kate and her husband Paul.”
Daley-Fisher was also touched by the gesture.
“It’s really nice,” she said. “It’s nice to see them come together and want to help.”
Retinoblastoma carries a higher risk for secondary cancers and sarcomas, so PJ and Jovi will be watched very carefully. They also will pass the genetic mutation on to their children.
The children inherited the mutation from their dad.
There are about 200 cases of bilateral retinoblastoma diagnosed each year, but there are “tons” of mutations, Daley-Fisher said. Her children and husband are three of only four people with their specific mutation.
“I’m the first one to have it,” Paul Fisher Sr. said. PJ is a family nickname for Paul Jr. “When they found mine it was pretty much by accident because my mother had brought me to the doctor for an ear infection.”
During that examination, Fisher’s eye tumors were discovered.
“Our kids’ form is hereditary,” said Daley-Fisher. “Not all forms are. We were told of would be a 50/50 chance one of our children would get it. We just hit the jackpot and got two.”
Daley-Fisher is a teacher in Randolph and her husband is self-employed shipping contractor. The couple reside in Holbrook.
PJ’s left eye was removed due to spreading tumors in the fall, when daily radiation appointments forced his mom to take a leave of absence from teaching. She is now back at work.
“He likes to say, ‘I fixed my eye’ and hands it to you,” Daley-Fisher said of PJ. “He’s trying to get used to it — it doesn’t fit right yet.”