Almost every Friday night for the last five years, you can find Susan at Beantown Tavern with a group of friends. It’s a place that makes her feel a little closer to her Boston roots and where the bartenders know the group by name. After weeks where life revolves around daily radiation treatments and mornings at the Carolinas Cancer Wellness Center, the Friday night tradition is a spot of normalcy in her shifting world.
To husband John and friends Addie and Gary and others, she’s not ‘Susan the cancer fighter.’ She’s simply Susan Sullivan – their longtime friend and avid Boston Red Sox fan. In fact, it was a long time before her husband was able to use the ‘C-word’ to describe her diagnosis. While he can now say ‘cancer,’ he grew up when cancer was a stigma and frequent death sentence. “You didn’t dare say the name out loud,” John remembers. “It gave it validity.”
Susan is quick to explain the importance of the group that gathers weekly. “One of the most telling things about this group is they really do care,” she explains. As the group celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, Donnie, the owner fellow Red Sox fan, bought everyone a drink, stood on the bar and toasted Susan for being a true fighter and friend. “It touched me to have people, some who I only know by sight, cheer me on and tell me they are thinking of me,” she said. “Through all my surgeries and treatment I could walk in there and just relax and be myself. They give me normalcy and support. It is just a great crowd to laugh with, fight politics with and forget the rest of the nonsense happening around me. And it does make me feel a bit closer to home to hear a Boston accent mixed in with all the Southern ones.”