Friends, family rally around new Canton dad of twins

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Johanna Curran was eager to share the happy news with her friend Michele Fitzwilliam that she thought she was expecting twins, when Fitzwilliam came home from California last Christmas. The two had met years earlier when they were students at Canton High School.

“I’ve known her since my sophomore year of high school when she entered Canton High,” Fitzwilliam said. “We were part of the same big group of friends. We liked the same music. We were involved with the Gay/Straight Alliance at Canton High.”

Johanna Curran and Wes Chapman with their newborn twins, Will and Alice

Johanna Curran and Wes Chapman with their newborn twins, Will and Alice

Curran and her husband, Wes Chapman, soon found out that twins were indeed on the way. During the winter, however, Chapman, a chef, began to experience discomfort in his right arm. “I started going back to the gym and my arm started bothering me,” he said.

He eventually went to see his doctor, who prescribed steroids to relieve some swelling. After 10 days, he went back to the doctor, and this time his physician decided that Chapman needed to have an MRI done. Insurance issues held up the testing, but Chapman finally had the MRI done on a Friday.

“On Monday, my doctor called me in to his office and told me I needed to see an orthopedic surgeon in the city,” Chapman recalled.

Two days later he met with a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and then had a CT scan done on Thursday and another MRI on Friday. The following week, he underwent a biopsy of the lump on his arm that had grown from being noticeable to being the size of a baseball. On May 19, Chapman’s doctor told him that he had Ewing’s sarcoma.

Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare cancer that grows in the bones or the soft tissues around bones. It affects children more than adults.

“We were both pretty emotional,” Chapman said of how he and Curran reacted to the diagnosis. “I think I had kind of figured out that it was going to be cancer at that point in my mind. They didn’t say anything until I had the biopsy. It was crushing, even though I was prepared. Everything goes through my mind. What’s going to happen with my kids? Health insurance? My job?”

Chapman had just begun a new job a few weeks prior to his diagnosis. He began chemotherapy the week after, undergoing two protocols. One is a two-day round that can leave him feeling sore, rundown and ill. The other is a five-day round that leaves him tired. When he is feeling strong and does not have appointments, he works up to 32 hours a week. During other weeks, he works as many hours as he can.

The twins, Will and Alice, arrived July 12 and are doing well. But Chapman said that between the births and his cancer treatment, bills are piling up. To help with finances, Chapman, his friends and family created two fundraising events. The first is a YouCaring page that Chapman set up with the help of one of his brothers. The second was a fundraiser that included raffles and a scavenger hunt last Sunday at the British Beer Company in Walpole.

TJ Doyle, the assistant general manager of the BBC, met Johanna several years ago when she worked there. Her sisters, Colby and Vanessa, and brother, Jeff, worked together to plan the fundraiser, Wes’s Hunt for a Cure.

“An employee had done a scavenger fundraiser four years ago,” Doyle said. “We figured it would be a great thing to do and have some fun with.”

People worked in teams to find or take photos or videos of items on a list, such as a photo of someone on a slide or their own reflection without using a mirror. The event began at 1 p.m. and continued beyond the 5 p.m. ending time. It included a raffle, silent auction, 50/50 raffle, and live music. “We were very excited at the turnout and how it went,” Doyle said. More than $3,000 was raised to help the family.

Chapman recently finished the first phase of his treatment, which has reduced the size of the tumor, and met with a radiation oncologist and a surgeon to determine if he would undergo surgery or radiation as the second phase of treatment. He chose radiation. When that treatment is completed, he will finish chemotherapy.

“Part of the reason is it’s going to give me the best chance of a normal life as far as using my arm,” he said. “My arm will become a little more fragile. No football. no horsing around. It will give me the best chance to play with my kids when they grow up and that’s what matters.”

To donate to the Chapman family, go to Wes’s Hunt for a Cure at youcaring.com.

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