Mothers, daughters and cancer

Each year, Maine Cancer Foundation’s Tri for a Cure celebrates the strength of women and the many bonds that tie us together. Within the sisterhood of cancer survivors and their supporters, there’s another special bond nestled within the masses of pink ribbons and brightly colored swim caps: mothers and daughters.

Nancy Nadeau, 36, of Cumberland, is participating in another of the Maine Cancer Foundation’s athletic fundraising events, the Twilight 5K, with her daughter, 5-year-old Ava.

Ava Nadeau joined her mom, Nancy, as she crossed the finish line in 2016’s Twilight 5K. This year, the mother and daughter duo will walk and run the race, together.

Nadeau, a competitive runner for more than 20 years, ran the Twilight 5K in 2016 and Ava welcomed her across the finish line. It’s a memory Ava still talks about.

Having run hundreds of road races, Nadeau says, “The Twilight 5K was by far the most inspirational and emotional race.”

This year, Nadeau and her daughter are raising money and participating in the race together.

“It’s important to include your children into giving back to the community because it shows that the world doesn’t revolve around them,” Nadeau says. “We must do our part in making the world a better place.”

The mother and daughter duo will walk and run for people they have lost, for those battling the disease and survivors, too. Among those survivors is Jess Jordan of Cape Elizabeth, Nancy’s best friend.

Jordan was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer on Feb. 24, 2016, at the age of 34.

Newly engaged, healthy and active, Jordan found the lump while gripping her chest, stressed over wedding plans.

Her mother, Mary, was a source of unwavering support during her five months of chemo. Mary would research integrative therapies for Jordan and foods to help her get through chemo treatment at Dana Farber in Boston. She was as passionate about helping her daughter as she was about helping other families going through the same battle.

Breast cancer survivor Jess Jordan will compete in this year’s Tri for a Cure. Supported by her mother during chemo, Jordan is aiming to be the top fundraiser as a way to honor her mother, who died unexpectedly in January.

Jordan participated in the run portion of last year’s Tri for a Cure and told herself that if she was well enough in 2017, she would do all three legs of the event.

“It was so incredibly inspiring, and competing in a race alongside other women who could relate to my story made me feel so supported,” Jordan says.

Out of many worthy fundraisers, her experience in 2016 inspired Jess to get involved with Tri for a Cure. Both she and her mother were excited to raise money for a worthy cause.

But the focus of this year’s event changed when Mary unexpectedly passed away on Jan. 14, 2017.

“I felt like being healthy enough to compete in this race was a true testament to how much my mother helped me, and I wanted to complete this for her,” Jordan says.

“She was the one who got me through all of my treatments,” she says. “I decided that if I was going to run in her memory, I needed to really make an impact.”

Jordan is poised to be the largest fundraiser this year and, as of press time, had raised $17,768 dollars of her $21,000 goal. She set her sights on raising more money than the top donor from 2016.

Many local businesses have gotten involved and sponsored events to raise money toward Jordan’s goal, including The Good Table in Cape Elizabeth, a favorite restaurant of Mary’s. She loved to collect sea glass and the restaurant donated $1 from every Seaglass Mojito sold in May to benefit Jordan’s fundraising.

“Meeting this goal means that other people are being supported in honor of a woman who was so passionate about helping others,” Jordan says. 

But the Tri for a Cure is just the beginning. She is working with her sister and making plans to raise more money for cancer research beyond the Tri. Jordan also hopes to develop more resources for cancer patients locally, too, tapping into the incredible network and community she has built during her treatment and fundraising.

“My hope is that this money will one day ensure that other mothers won’t have to experience the pain of watching their child battle cancer.”

Katie Bell is a Portland-based freelance writer who has contributed to publications throughout Maine, New England and London.

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