When Helen Nadeau was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, she was “young and scared” and hoped to simply watch her two teenage daughters become adults.
Luckily, Nadeau, now a 64-year-old Amesbury resident, was surrounded by family and friends who gave her the kindness and support she needed to make it through.
Since then, Nadeau has been active in raising money to help those facing the disease. Every year since 2006, she and her daughter Lisa Nadeau Turner have participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day 60-mile walk.
The event has been held in 14 U.S. cities over the years, including Boston, and Nadeau and Turner have also traveled to Florida, Washington, California and Illinois to take part.
“I want to help the cause,” Nadeau said. “Everybody was so good to me when I had breast cancer that I had to give back.”
She admits that it took some prodding from her daughter for her to get involved in the walk initially.
“She said, ‘If you can live through breast cancer, you can walk,’ so I said, ‘All right,’” Nadeau said.
Together, the duo has raised thousands of dollars annually for breast cancer research, both of them reaching each walk’s $2,300-per-person fundraising minimum with the help of generous family, friends and community members.
“It’s been a good bonding experience for us, too,” Nadeau said.
This year’s walk would have been Nadeau’s 15th if not for its cancellation due to COVID-19, but she has already raised $1,000 for the 2021 Boston walk.
Additionally, Nadeau has also helped provide emotional support to friends and others in the region who are battling the disease.
“I was just sharing all the information I know about how to get through it,” Nadeau said.
Turner highlights her mother’s supportive and giving nature, which she said shows through her work as secretary for Amesbury Elementary School.
“She’s a great mom and she’s always helping people, including all the kids at the school,” Turner said. “Since she’s had breast cancer, almost anyone she knows that has been diagnosed, she always reaches out and sends them cards ... any little thing to guide them through.”
All of the generosity seems to come naturally for Nadeau, who said that supporting people with cancer is now a big part of her life.
“I’ll always give to breast cancer and for cancer,” she said. “It’s just a priority for me.”
Nadeau adds that she hopes to give others hope through her efforts.
“The word ‘cancer’ is very scary to all of us, but together, we can get through it,” Nadeau said.
“Every day is a gift. Enjoy the moment.”