SYRACUSE Maureen Humphrey lost her child to cancer, but not in the traditional sense.
Humphrey was pregnant in June of 2001 when she learned that she had clear cell adenocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive cervical cancer that necessitated a radical hysterectomy as well as the removal of 28 lymph nodes.
“No one ever expects that cancer or illness will happen to them, and we certainly felt the same way,” said Susan Bertrand of Baldwinsville, Humphrey’s older sister. “Maureen's cancer diagnosis was a shock, but worse than the diagnosis was the grief she felt knowing she was going to lose her unborn child and never again have the chance to conceive or carry her own child again.”
But the surgery was successful, and with the promise of adopting a baby from Colombia on the horizon and her cancer in remission, Humphrey began to hope again —until about six months later, when she started experiencing pain in her lower back. Tests revealed that the cancer had returned. Despite aggressive treatments at Sloan-Kettering in New York City, Maureen Humphrey lost her battle with cancer on Jan. 19, 2003, at the age of 31.
“Though she was not a ‘child,’ she was my parents’ child, and there is no greater loss,” Bertrand said.
Bertrand, like countless others, decided to channel her grief into helping others facing a cancer diagnosis; she started the Maureen’s Hope Foundation shortly after her sister’s death.
“I always say that my vision of hope is not just about achieving a desired outcome, it’s about the journey, and we try to make that journey a little easier for others,” Bertrand said. “The foundation has been a healing outlet and a way to give back for both my family and myself.”
Maureen’s Hope is one of numerous organizations that seeks to help families facing a cancer diagnosis. The nonprofit relies on donations and volunteer labor to cater to the needs of families, from providing a house cleaning service to help with yard work to assistance with fundraisers.