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PhD Candidates Walking to Support Professor

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Last spring, English professor Cristy Beemer was diagnosed with breast cancer. Friends and colleagues rallied around her, helping with meals and rides to Boston for chemotherapy treatment. Right now, after surgery and as she readies for another round of chemo, her prognosis is very, very good.

To help make that prognosis --and that of the 288,000 women who are stricken by the disease annually—better, four members of the English department’s PhD program have pledged to raise money to help fight the disease.

On Oct. 2, Trish Portanova, Eden Wales Freedan, Erin Wecker and Patty Wilde will join the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk in Boston. The 5-mile route along the Charles River brings together survivors and supporters who want to help put an end to the second most common cancer reported by the American Cancer Society.

The UNH Writing Center staff is donating team T-shirts.

“We wanted to do something tangible but no one wanted to overstep boundaries,” says Portanova, associate director of University Writing Programs. “Raising money and participating in the walk is another way to help. I’ve heard Cristy say that cancer walks generate money for new kinds of drugs so we want to help make that happen.”

So far, they have raised more than $1,500. Wales Freedan says she has been pleasantly surprised by the donations.

“I’m amazed at how people want to give--even people who don’t know her want to make a contribution,” Wales Freedan says. “Once we started, we quickly found that there are people out there just itching to contribute.”

Wales Freedan says she doesn’t know Beemer as well as the other women might but that she was drawn to her openness.

“I’ve been impressed with how openly she has talked,” Wales Freedan says. “And I’m amazed at how strong she is.”

Adds Portanova, “She’s such an inspiration. Some people get this kind of news and shut down. Cristy has been the opposite of that. She’s very passionate; very honest. To hear her talk, there was no question she was going to fight and win.”

Wales Freedan says, “Ten years ago, people didn’t talk about breast cancer. It’s so prevalent. I’m so glad there are programs like this walk that people can do—it’s a physical witness of support.”

“It will be a beautiful walk along the Charles full of positive energy,” Portanova says. “That can’t help but make a difference.”

Make a donation to Team C. Beemer or e-mail Portanova at patricia.portanova@gmail.com.