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September 27, 2013

Thinking pink

Local woman teams up with schools, businesses in fight against breast cancer

Breast cancer research and treatment have come a long way since Marilyn Flaherty was first diagnosed 31 years ago.

And Flaherty, now a three-time survivor who turns 65 next week, has been a big part of that. She has been volunteering since her first diagnosis and has worked with Making Strides Against Breast Cancer since its inception two decades ago. Her Making Strides walk team has raised $12,000 and is working toward a $6,500 goal for this year’s Boston walk, which is next Sunday.

Flaherty was 34 with two young children when she underwent treatment for the first time. She recalls weekly chemotherapy for a year and a long wait for biopsy results. Her second diagnosis, in 1991, came with more chemotherapy and radiation.

Within a few weeks of her third diagnosis three years ago, she had a double mastectomy, something that wasn’t even an option the first two times. She had more chemotherapy, but this time, it was delivered every three weeks over a period of three months.

“The difference between what I went through then and three years ago was phenomenal,” Flaherty said. “They found it and let me know that day.”

Each year, Flaherty recruits more people and places to help her in the fight against breast cancer. Last year, Newburyport High School hopped on board, and this year, the Molin and Nock schools are also joining the cause.

The high-schoolers, who raised $2,500 last year, will be selling items such as T-shirts that say “I Pink I Can” and pink shoelaces, while the younger students will offer pink pencils and pink rubber bracelets. The pink theme continues with decorations for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a “Wall of Hope” that honors loved ones touched by breast cancer.

“The students love to be involved in things,” Flaherty said. “People forget that the kids suffer from this, too.”

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