The community is rallying around lifelong Revere resident Barbara Sullivan, who is batting a serious illness.
Family and friends are showing their continuing support in a big way with a huge fundraiser planned to help Barbara on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Malden Moose Club.
Barbara, 56, has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Cholangiocarcinoma (liver cancer) and heart disease. She has just completed five cycles of chemotherapy and is awaiting results before her physician will decide on the next phase of her treatments.
The initial discovery of Barbara’s cancer was made in February when she was being evaluated for her heart condition. During the pre-operation process, doctors found a tumor on her liver. After a scan was done, it was determined that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
“It’s a very aggressive form of cancer,” said Linda Mario, Barbara’s cousin, who works in the field of palliative medical care for oncology and is a psychologist as well.
Barbara said she is so appreciative for having such a knowledgeable person as her cousin Linda supporting her and explaining some of the medical terminology during the ordeal.
“Linda has been by my side since this all started,” said Barbara. “It’s good to have someone like Linda there for me. She can explain to me in layman terms when they’re talking in doctors’ terms. It’s good to have someone who understands what’s going on.”
Barbara’s sister, Dianne Sullivan, has also been a strong source of support and is a member of the organizing committee for the fundraiser.
“It will be from 6 p.m. to midnight at the Malden Moose,” said Dianne. “There will plenty of food catered by Henry’s, a DJ, and we’re doing a raffle and a 50-50 drawing.”
A Lifelong Revere Resident
One of four daughters of Edward and Rose Sullivan, Barbara has lived in the family home on Reservoir Avenue her whole life. She is a cousin of the late Revere City Councillor Joseph A. DelGrosso, for whom the City Council chambers at City Hall are named.
“We used to campaign with him [Mr. DelGrosso] and help out Manny Ferrante, who lived two doors away – they were wonderful men,” recalled Barbara.
She attended Immaculate Conception School and Revere High School, graduating in 1981.
It was at Revere High School where she distinguished herself on the softball field, playing on the same teams with other talented pioneers from that post-Title IX era in women’s sports.
“I played softball all through high school for Coach [Joe] Nichinello and in the Powder Puff game and summer league,” recalled Barbara, who was a slick-fielding first baseman, catcher, and outfielder.
“She was a power hitter,” said Dianne on behalf of the other Sullivan sisters, Patricia and Debbie.
Following graduation, Barbara worked at Carmel Credit Union in Chelsea for 21 years. She then took a full-time job at BJ’s Wholesale for 15 years and has worked at the new Wegman’s store in Medford for the past two years.
“Wegman’s is so family-oriented and they have been so good to me during my situation,” said Barbara. “They told me when I am better, they like my work ethic and I’ll be back.”
Barbara also worked at Ted’s Pub and Bonadino’s kept up her love of softball following her high school career, competing in the Revere Women’s Softball League.
Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna remembers well the talented athlete who was known for her warmth, kindness and competitive spirit.
“I met Barbara in the early ‘80s during the start of the Revere Women’s Softball League and we instantly became great friends,” said McKenna. “Barbara played for other teams but then joined the Shipwreck Lounge team, which I played on and later coached. Barbara is big-hearted, kind, and caring. She is one of the sweetest people I know.”
Linda Mario said Barbara’s kindness and generosity extended beyond the playing field.
“Barbara would give you her shirt off her back,” said Linda. “She was always willing to give her time or whatever she could do to help someone. She was known for that. She has a huge, huge heart and that’s why there are so many people giving back to her now.”
Linda noted that Barbara is unable to work during her cancer treatment process and there have been some complications. “She has needed some blood transfusions,” said Linda.
Barbara is grateful to her relatives for their helpfulness and acts of devotion.
“I have a very big support network,” said Barbara. “My aunt and uncle [Bob and Ann Osgood] have been great,” said Barbara. “My aunt comes over every day.”
Barbara has maintained a positive attitude during her battle with cancer.
“Everyone knows her at Mass. General,” said Linda. “She has the best attitude, always has a smile on her face. She always says good morning to everyone, from the administrative assistants to the nurses – everybody likes her. She just has a really good attitude to fight this disease. She really believes God is going to help her.”
Barbara attends St. Anthony’s Church (“I love going there,” she says) and draws much inspiration from her religion. “I was brought up Catholic. My grandmother lived downstairs, God bless her. My aunt Barbara and my aunt Theresa were always there for me when my mother passed away when I was 13. My sisters, my father, the aunts and uncles. They were always around me. My religion has been a big influence in my life. This illness is the hand I have been dealt and I have to play it.”
A Zest for Life
Linda said her cousin has always shown “a zest for life.”
“I want to get back to the way I want to get back to, and get back to work,” said Barbara.
Barbara said some of the people who motivated her during her high school years were Coach Joe Nichinello, Coach Edward Leyden, and “my Powder Puff Coach Joe Merullo.”
Barbara is looking forward to being with her many friends at the fundraiser and “my softball buddies.”
“Patty Melchionno has put it out there on Facebook for the softball crew,” said Barbara. “Both sides of my family, there are 22 grandchildren, so they’ll be there, also all the DelGrossos.
“My father retired from Boston Gas and he has a very dear friend, who we actually call our brother [Stu], who has been a godsend – he’s the one who got us the Moose Hall for the fundraiser,” said Dianne, who works for National Grid. “He’s been helping us a lot.”
Admission to the fundraiser is $20. Tickets are available in advance by email: [email protected] Donations are also being accepted at 103 Reservoir Ave, Revere, MA, 02151.