The holiday season is upon us, and for many, this is a very challenging time of the year. Some face the possibility of not being able to travel and gather with family and friends, and others, like myself, feel the additional loss of a loved one.
I’ve been apart from Ann, my late wife of 28 years and mother of our wonderful children, for these past 14 years. We lost her to breast cancer. She was only 52.
Ann was a loving wife, daughter, sister, and mom who was generous, kind, and thoughtful, always putting the needs of others before her own. Ann and I fell in love as students at UMass Amherst in the early 70s. In 1985, we were living in Boston and I was working in City Hall with good prospects for career advancement. But when our first child, Christina, was born we moved back to Seekonk, our hometown, so our baby could grow up surrounded by the love of her extended family. Four years later Adam was born and Ann left her part-time job so she could devote herself full time to our children.
Dance and karate, Brownies and Cub Scouts, recitals, and school projects: Ann kept a hectic schedule supporting and nurturing her family. Each day she would bring the kids by to visit their grandparents, who lived just around the corner. When Adam entered school, Ann took a job as a teaching assistant for the “mother’s hours” it afforded. After school, she and Adam would share a cup of tea.
Ann was not only a dedicated mom and daughter but a selfless and loving wife. Like many married couples, we had dedicated our lives to our children but looked forward to a time when we would return our attention to our relationship more fully. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was not to be.
There was the pain and scarring of radiation therapy, then chemo. I would sit with her twice a week, holding her hand, tending to her comfort while the harsh medication dripped into her body. There was an all too brief, hopeful time when her doctors thought that they might have arrested the creeping menace.
Life returned to a semblance of normalcy. Christina graduated from high school and then went off to college.
But the menace eventually returned. Her doctors tried radio ablation to burn away the spot that appeared on her liver, not once but twice. During the 2006 holiday season, she began to feel unwell and by Valentine’s Day, she was gone. The following spring, Christina graduated from college and Adam from high school, but their mom was not there.
Although Ann was unique, her struggle with breast cancer was not. Like most, she did not have a family history of the disease. She just happened to be one of the one in eight women who develops breast cancer in their lifetime and another victim of this pandemic. Millions of dollars are spent each year searching for effective treatments once the suffering has already begun, but very little is spent on prevention. Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC) believes that prevention is the best cure. We are dedicated to preventing environmental causes of breast cancer through community education, research advocacy, and changes to public policy.
I am proud to be serving on the Executive Board for MBCC as the Board Vice President, and I do so in Ann’s honor. I hope that you will consider making a donation to MBCC during these very difficult times so that someday fewer families will be faced with a breast cancer diagnosis.
MBCC Board Vice President