When Larry Fitzmaurice’s sister, Kathleen, went in for her first regular colonoscopy early last summer, the whole family received a shock. Kathleen, who until then had been very healthy, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.
“It was very surprising—Kathy hadn’t been sick or ill at all,” Larry says. “And she certainly wasn’t expecting anything like this. It rocked her life and all of our lives.”
Kathleen, Larry says, is an independent woman with an “indefatigable spirit.” As the months progressed, and she encountered unexpected challenges, she never let her cancer diagnosis define who she is.
“Through months of chemotherapy, emergency surgery, ostomy, and many challenges that would have hobbled a lesser person, Kathleen showed tremendous courage and strength,” Larry says. “If you saw her today on the street, you wouldn’t know there is a thing wrong with her. She’s returned to work. She’s committed to returning to a normal life. She’s 100% determined to beating cancer.”
Still, after the diagnosis, Larry and his wife Lisa searched for a way to support Kathleen.
“She is one of the strongest women I know, so we struggled with how to support her,” Larry says. “As a family, what could we do to help?”
That’s when Lisa took to the web and found the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and our annual New York City Undy RunWalk—one of 22 such events around the country that raise money for colorectal cancer research, awareness initiatives, and patient support.
“We rallied around the Undy Run as a way to support Kathy, and to lift all our spirits in the process,” Larry says.
The Fitzmaurice’s rented a van and drove about a dozen family members to the race. They had T-shirts designed saying “Team Fitz Never Quits.” Many more supporters donated to their cause online. In all, the Fitzmaurice’s raised more than $6,000, becoming the top fundraising team.
“As Kathleen’s sister in law, I was honored to be able to learn how deeply Kathleen’s friends and colleagues cared for her,” Lisa says.
“Kathleen’s illness changed everyone,” Lisa says. “It has made some of us very aware of the gift we’ve been given to try harder to get to know someone. Even though you love them unconditionally, you don’t always try as hard to get to know them.”
Larry and Lisa and the rest of “Team Fitz” intend to take part in the race again this year. But they want everyone to know their participation isn’t about them.
“A lot of people were talking about what Lisa and I did, but it wasn’t about us at all,” Larry says. “It was about Kathleen, people donated because of who she is – an inspiration to all, and loved by many.”
Today, Kathleen continues treatment, and doctors are optimistic.
In March, we observe National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Join us as we build our nation of passionate allies, fiercely determined to end this disease within our lifetime.