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Putting a face on cancer

October 13, 2005


Reprinted from the Record Enterprise (Link opens in a new window.)

This Saturday is the annual 'Making strides against breast cancer' nationwide march.

I'll be walking in Laconia, but my heart will be at the Peterborough walk. Peterborough is the town my cousin grew up in and the one where her funeral was held just a few weeks ago. There will be a Team Becky at both walks.

This is the story of my hero, Becky Sullivan McClintock, who died at the age of 37 leaving behind a seven year old daughter with long strawberry blond hair and a captivating smile and a loving husband, Todd.

Becky's story is not unlike those of others who have survived cancers, are suffering from cancers and who have succumbed to cancers.

But, unlike those, Becky lived almost her entire life with three different kinds of cancer.

At age nine she was diagnosed, at first, with rheumatoid arthritis suffering from back pain. After many tests, Becky was diagnosed with childhood leukemia. Years of chemo and treatment went by and she was finally in remission, then cleared. She graduated from Con-val and then Colby-Sawyer College with honors. In 1994 she married her true love. Her childhood physician from Boston Children's Hospital attended the wedding which he described as a 'miracle' because her case was the most serious case of childhood leukemia he had ever seen.

Two years later she lost her father, my first cousin actually, at age 51 to lung cancer (he did not smoke).

Then, miracle of miracles and against all odds (because of chemo) Becky became pregnant in 1997. Joy was tempered with sorrow, though, when at seven weeks pregnant, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I helped her fight a huge insurance company over where her treatment would be and we won (she wanted to go back to Boston where she knew the staff).

After Megan was born in 1998, Becky and her daughter were the focus of a cancer series in the Boston Globe; a success story.

Sadly, a year and a half ago Becky was found to have bone cancer, a secondary type of cancer most commonly developed after breast cancer. She did not give up, but after several failed clinical trials and experimental drugs that also failed, she decided to live out her the rest of her life quietly with her family.

Two weeks after she was here to celebrate our daughter's baby shower, Becky went to sleep on Sept. 12 and never woke up.

That is why I'm walking this Saturday for Becky and for every young mother who a has succumbed or is suffering from breast cancer and for every child and husband left behind.

Watching the young PSU students walk during the 'Keeping You, Me and Memories Alive' walk made me think. Until we find a cure for cancer, every one of them will probably be touched by a friend or relative who has or who will develop a form of cancer.

That's why we can't give up. Why we must pursue all avenues of research and why we must support all the causes such as 'Making Strides.'

I hope you'll join me this weekend in either walking, donating, or just thinking about our fellow citizens who suffer with a form of cancer.

And let us never lose hope.


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