Family, Oncology Team Rally Together to get Father to Daughter’s Wedding

Jan. 19, 2018

Marty Lembo has always done whatever he needed to do to be there for his kids. He was there for all their milestones — coming home from the hospital, their first day of kindergarten, teaching them to drive.

When he found out just a couple months before his daughter’s wedding in 2017 that his colon cancer had progressed, he was devastated but determined.

Marty Lembo and his family“We told the doctors it wasn’t a matter of just having me there,” he says. “I’ve got to be fully functional. I’ve got to feel good. I’ve got to be able to walk around. You know what weddings are like. That was the focus and that was the focus with the doctors. They understood it.”

Marty’s colon cancer was initially diagnosed in 2016 as stage 4; it had spread to his liver. Despite chemotherapy and surgery with Roberto Hernandez-Alejandro, M.D., and Fergal Fleming, M.D., in early 2017, Marty’s cancer progressed. He and his team had to make serious decisions about what to do next.

“We had to think about, what are our goals by starting treatment now? What is most important to him right now?” says his medical oncologist, Richard Dunne, M.D. “At that moment, it was being there for his daughter’s wedding, walking her down the aisle, and not just being there, but being a full participant.”

When Dunne recommended physical activity as part of Marty’s regimen, the family jumped in to support him.

“We all knew that he wanted to be there and needed to be there, and all of us collectively as a team did what we needed to get him there,” says Marty’s daughter Meli.

She and her brother, Bryan, helped by encouraging Marty to drink plenty of water. Meli emailed her dad every day to make sure he was going to the recreation center to walk.

“She’s tough,” Marty says with a laugh.

Through it all, Meli says, Marty stayed strong for her.

“He continued to be himself, able to talk me off a ledge (wedding, work, life-related), made me laugh, made me look at things from different angles and kept me sane,” she says. “He was still stubborn as could be, and I as bossy as could be, but we knew we needed each other to get to September.”

Marty Cyndi and Marty's oncology teamMarty and his wife Cyndi stayed closely involved with planning the wedding. They made frequent trips to Maine where the wedding would be held, near their daughter’s home. Throughout it all, they’d come to Wilmot for appointments with Dunne every two week. In between visits, their nurse, Sulynn Richards, R.N., stayed in touch.

“Sue made weekly phone calls, offers of encouragement and support to let them know that we were available if they needed anything,” Dunne says.

Marty and Cyndi say they’re grateful for the care the team provided them throughout the process.

“The relationship to me has gone deeper than doctor and patient. They sincerely are concerned,” Marty says. “They wanted to meet the goal. They weren’t sure but we fought through it.”

Meli and Marty walk down the aisleWhen the wedding weekend arrived, Marty felt good. He helped prepare breakfast and do dishes for all 100-plus guests. He played golf, and even though he was tired at the end of each day, he had a great time.

Most importantly, he was there for Meli — walking her down the aisle and dancing with her at the reception.

In his toast to the bride and groom, Marty reflected on all the important moments in Meli’s life.

“Just remember,” he said. “Time is fleeting.” Then he encouraged family and friends to raise a glass to celebrate his daughter and son-in-law.