North Andover’s Matt Farmer is preparing to do what most people would deem unthinkable: On Sept. 18, 2022, the 23-year-old will compete in the Ironman 70.3 Timberman triathlon. For those unaware of what’s involved in the massive athletic undertaking, Farmer and others from across the country will embark on a 1.2-mile swim, then bike 56 miles before running a half marathon in scenic Laconia, New Hampshire.
When Farmer does so, he’ll be carrying one special person in his heart and on his mind: His mother Karen Farmer, who died in October 2021 after a yearlong battle with renal cancer. She was 56.
He has chosen to participate in the Ironman triathlon for charity – and is donating all money raised to Lawrence General Hospital in appreciation of the care Karen received during her cancer treatment.
“I was very happy with the level of care at Lawrence General,” he said. “Cancer affects so many people and it’s one of the leading causes of death in the United States, so anything that I can do to help the lives of those who struggle with this disease is my main goal. I want to enhance the ability of the great professionals at Lawrence General to take care of their patients.”
Karen Farmer was hospitalized twice at Lawrence General following her diagnosis in 2020, her son said – first for two weeks in summer 2021 and then for about a month before being receiving hospice care. The compassion showed to the Farmer family from nurses and other LGH staff inspired Karen’s son to pay it forward.
“I was living in Boston during her two stints in the hospital in the summer and fall and I’d usually take the train to Lawrence to visit her,” he said. “I was always very impressed with the care from Lawrence General: They were always very transparent and always talked with my mom to see how she was doing. The nurses were always very caring and kind to us. When it was determined she wasn’t going to make it, the nurses treated my family very kindly and with compassion.”
According to Farmer, LGH staff “really cared and wanted to make her stay in the hospital the best that they could.”
A woman who loved to joke, be with her dogs Bear and Scout and take family vacations, Karen Farmer “would make everyone laugh and make their days just a little better,” her son said. Married to Dan, she worked as an accountant’s assistant at Anthony and Dodge and was a mainstay at both Matt and daughter Christina’s school sports and activities, making her a fixture in the North Andover community, according to her son.
“Anyone who knew my mom knew she was just a happy-go-lucky person who had a positive impact wherever she went,” Farmer said. “She always took pride in just being my mom.”
What would Mom say about Ironman? Farmer said first she’d “disapprove – because I only learned how to ride a bike my senior year of college, and now I’ll be riding 56 miles.” Then, he says, “she’d be proud that I’m raising money for the hospital.”
If you would like to support Matt Farmer in his efforts, you can donate to the Karen Farmer Memorial Fund ahead of his participation in the Ironman triathlon, by visiting LawrenceGeneral.org/donate and note “Karen Farmer Memorial Fund” in the memo line. Donations will also be gratefully accepted following the September 18 event, Farmer said.