For 3 periods, there’s no leukemia, no chemo, only the B’s

Kristopher Sarno, 15, checked out nurse Debbie McCarthy’s Bruins jersey last night at Mass. General hospital. Sarno arrived yesterday for more chemotherapy to treat his leukemia. Kristopher Sarno, 15, checked out nurse Debbie McCarthy’s Bruins jersey last night at Mass. General hospital. Sarno arrived yesterday for more chemotherapy to treat his leukemia. (Jessey Dearing for The Boston Globe)
By Brian MacQuarrie
Globe Staff / June 16, 2011

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Eighteen stories above the base of Beacon Hill, Kristopher Sarno chewed on a T-bone steak, finished a Pepsi, and rearranged his Zdeno Chara shirt as the puck dropped last night for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Bruins emblems and streamers brightened the walls, and Sarno, 15, was all business as his team went to work. The fact he watched the game at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he arrived yesterday for more chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, did not dampen his enthusiasm.

“Are we going to win?’’ said Karen DaRocha, a nurse who works with Sarno.

“Absolutely,’’ the Revere teenager answered with a big smile.

The Bruins are part of what helps Sarno, a 10th-grader at Northeast Metro Tech in Wakefield, cope with the regimen of battling a cancer that, for now, is in remission.

“It would be awesome if I could meet Chara in person,’’ Sarno said, only a few minutes before Patrice Bergeron scored to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Other superlatives were directed Sarno’s way by nurses in the pediatric ward.

“He’s done every single thing we’ve ever asked him to do,’’ DaRocha said.

Debbie McCarthy, another nurse, recalled how Sarno has battled through infections and other serious setbacks, including pneumonia and a staph infection, in the five years since his leukemia was diagnosed.

“He’s had a really rough road,’’ McCarthy said.

After Sarno was first diagnosed with leukemia, he underwent three years of treatment. Then Sarno experienced a brief respite until his health took a turn for the worse last fall and he returned to the hospital.

Yesterday marked the first day of what could be a week at Mass. General. Through it all, Sarno’s mother, Lorraine, stays by his side 24 hours a day in a chair that folds out into a bed.

“I don’t leave him for anything,’’ said his mother, also a rabid Bruins fan. “You walk out of here with a backache.’’

Her spirits brightened when she spoke of the Bruins’ last Stanley Cup title in 1972. “I watched it on TV,’’ she said. “That was huge.’’

Last night, of course, her biggest concern was her son’s health, which has turned her into his coach and chief motivator.

“I won’t let him feel sorry,’’ she said. “I tell him we have to get through this and get rid of it.’’

During the game, Sarno watched the television mostly in silence, his pale face brightening when the Bruins would carry the play toward the Vancouver goal.

Hockey is more than a spectator sport for the teen, who has a personal connection to the Bruins. A few years ago, Bergeron allowed him to watch the team play from his suite at TD Garden.

On a night like that, and on a night like last night, the random unfairness of juvenile leukemia can be supplanted, if only temporarily, by a sporting event.

As Sarno followed the up-and-down action, McCarthy, who wore a Bruins jersey over her nursing garb, savored the pleasure of the moment.

“It’s good seeing him like this,’’ McCarthy said. “He’s a tough kid.’’

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at

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