Four-time cancer survivor prepares to walk three fundraisers
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Marlborough resident Veronica “Vikki” Crowley has a family history of various types of cancer, which took the lives of her mother, sister, two aunts and a nephew. She’s also a four-time cancer survivor still battling the disease.
“I shouldn’t be here, but I keep coming back,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve lived through four types of cancer. I don’t understand why I’m still here, unless it’s to finish something I’ve started.”
A founding member of the Sunflower Girls, Crowley and her team started raising awareness and funds in 2003 with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a 60-mile walk concluding in Boston. She’ll take that walk for her 10th year Friday, July 26, through Sunday, July 28.
For her sixth year, she’ll participate in the Marlborough-Hudson Relay for Life starting Friday evening, June 7, through Saturday morning, June 8, at Ghiloni Park in Marlborough.
For the first time this year, Crowley will do another 60-miler: Just ‘Cause Breast Cancer Walk from Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 2, in Harvard and surrounding towns.
She felt compelled to take action 10 years ago, when her sister was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer.
“I got angry,” she said. “I needed to do something to make people aware and fight this disease. My goal is to find out exactly what is causing cancer and hopefully to find a cure.”
After registering for the Komen 3-Day, Crowley began walking regularly after work and weekends, which she hadn’t done previously. Her walking team’s coach was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 21.
“She had the radiation and the chemo, and still continued coaching us,” Crowley said. “We watched her struggle, but then we lost her. That made me angrier.”
Crowley recounted one of her first times in the Komen 3-Day as her favorite memory, when she and her team passed a home with a family of young children.
“A little boy came up to me and gave me a hug,” she relayed. “He said, ‘I want to thank you. My mommy is alive because of people like you.’ I burst into tears. It stayed with me all these years.”
In 2007, Crowley received an invitation for the survivors’ reception at the Marlborough-Hudson Relay for Life, of which she was unaware at the time. She was impressed with the fundraiser’s special activities, starting with the Survivors Lap.
“It lets you know that you’re not alone,” she noted.
Crowley usually walks laps continuously throughout most of the relay’s 12 hours, but she pauses when candles are illuminated to remember loved ones affected by cancer for the Luminaria Ceremony.
“That’s the one time you see me sitting,” she said. “I end up crying when I see the candles lit for all the different people. It touches home.”
While attending a fundraiser, Crowley learned of the Just ‘Cause Walk. All proceeds are shared between the Gillette Center for Women’s Cancers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden in Harvard.
“The mother of a friend of mine used to go the healing garden,” Crowley said. “I remember her saying it’s a very peaceful place when you need alone time.”
Crowley noted that she appreciates the support the Sunflower Girls receive from donors.
“I never thought I’d be walking 60 miles,” she said, “and this year it will be a lot more.”
Donations for the three walks can be made online by credit card. Forms are available to send checks by mail for the Just ‘Cause and Komen 3-Day walks.
For information on Just ‘Cause, visit justcausewalk.org; for Relay for Life, visit relayforlife.org; for the Komen 3-Day, visit thethreeday.org.
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