“Tom’s Fund Means Everything to Me”

A bedside in the Fox Chase Cancer Center isn’t the most obvious place for a romance to start. But that’s where Hope Raymond’s and Tom McDermitt’s paths first crossed, visiting a mutual friend living with advanced prostate cancer.

“I walked into the room and stopped immediately,” Hope remembers. “I wasn’t able to move. I had to remind myself that I was there to visit a friend.”

Six months later, the duo met again. They spent the next eight years together.

Hope later learned that Tom had been her friend’s support group facilitator and that these bedside visits were just one of the many ways Tom went above and beyond for the people he counseled.

She learned that he was a musician. That he’d played – and loved – pretty much every sport known to mankind. That he was “funny, shy, introverted, extroverted, and extremely generous.”

And that he himself was living with cancer.

Diagnosed at age 35 with non-Hodgkins B-cell lymphoma, Tom would go on to have four recurrences, receive 11 different rounds of chemotherapy, two rounds of radiation, and two courses of Bexxar. He dealt with bladder cancer and one type of myeloid dysplastic syndrome, a precursor to leukemia.

He would also end up the facilitator of Gilda’s Club’s prostate/bladder and blood cancer groups after a chance meeting with then-program director Kelly Harris at an American Cancer Society event.

And his resiliency and quiet courage would inspire Hope, his friends at Gilda’s Club, and – with the creation and production of his “Daily Survival Kit for Serious Illness” card – so many others throughout the country and even the world.

Tom passed away in May 2004 surrounded by family and friends. In his memory, Hope started the Tom McDermitt Fund, the first discretionary fund at the then-Gilda’s Club, to support the programs that had been most dear to Tom: the support groups he facilitated and the monthly Men’s Breakfast – later renamed the Marshall Men’s Breakfast when a member of Tom’s support group and a dear friend, Jim Marshall, passed away.

“The fund means everything to me,” Hope says. “It’s about Tom and the work that he brought to Gilda’s and to people living with cancer.”

It’s been 10 years since Tom passed away, and each year, Hope along with her and Tom’s friends, give generously to the fund to memorialize Tom and ensure that the programs he loved – and that make such a difference for families affected by cancer – continue.

If you would like a copy of the Daily Survival Kit for Serious Illness, you are welcome to contact Hope at dskfsi@yahoo.com. For more information about the Tom McDermitt Fund, please visit its page on our website.