Written by Chris Gay
Every day the world loses people to one disease or another; battles are fought, tears are shed and lives are lost. Each deserves to be remembered independently. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible for any single person to catalogue. Today though, this writer will focus on one such individual who personified strength and courage throughout her entire life. And it was those same traits that enabled her to do so much to help others before she was stricken with complications stemming from treatment for a disease she’d already beaten; complications that would ultimately take her own life.
Meg Berte’ Owen was from my hometown. We graduated the same year and briefly attended the same school. It would be fair to say that I didn’t know her well, and I frankly can’t recall talking much with her during that time. However it was what I learned about Meg through a mutual friend a few years after her unfortunate passing, along with the more recent research done for this piece, which truly began to paint the picture of just how special this remarkable young woman truly was.
Meg was born in 1972, passed away in 2009, and yet somehow managed to fit a century of living, kindness, generosity and accomplishments into those short thirty-seven years. One glance at her biography reveals a list of achievements that might make Einstein blush: High school Salutatorian, National Merit Scholar, Magna Cum Laude graduate, varsity soccer team captain and an MBA recipient from Harvard Business School, to name but a few. She went on to become a teacher and then businesswoman, but none of the aforementioned defined her true character the way that unexpected adversity did.
At the age of twenty-three Meg was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer that required a variety of harsh treatments that included radiation, chemotherapy, and a stem cell transplant to defeat. But defeat it she did, with her characteristic perseverance and a dedicated group of caring friends, family and doctors by her side throughout. During her ordeal, Meg determined that she and other cancer survivors needed a “team” to help them along on their various roads of recuperation.
While secure in the firm support of her own team, Meg realized the importance of helping other women who were dealing with the same affliction she was, and went all out to help as many as she could. For that purpose she formed the Cancer Chicks organization, and spent huge amounts of time at Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center offering support to numerous cancer patients. She became an avid cyclist, and at one point even rode her bicycle across the country to advocate for Cancer Awareness. Among the most important themes to Meg personally was that of Survivorship, and it was that theme which she strived to instill in the minds of those cancer patients she touched, in order to help motivate them to push forward. Using herself as an example, she taught them to never give up; that they were not then, nor ever would be, alone. To overcome the disease the way she had, and the way she knew that they could, too.
As has been said countless times, the word “hero” is thrown around very casually these days. To me, that word should be reserved for the obvious people; policeman, firemen and the like. And still one more type. Those people who, like Meg, after being bestowed with an unimaginable hardship they didn’t want, ask for, or deserve, still manage to stare their fears down without blinking and, instead of succumbing choose to push it aside, stand tall, and help others with all they have. Even with the uncertainty of their own fates never far from their consciousness.
On October 15, 2009, Meg Berte’ Owen lost her life to lung disease caused by complications of the treatment used in her earlier fight against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. But those treatments bought her 15 years, years she then used to fight on behalf of many others who shared her pain; years that created a legacy which Cancer cannot ever touch or destroy. A legacy that will help add to the funding, research and efforts that are working relentlessly to swing and chop at this disease at the base of its foundation. These are the efforts that will someday, without question, allow Medical Science to extinguish the diminishing flame of Cancer forever, just as the useless menace deserves.
Chris Gay is an author, freelance writer, broadcaster, voice-over artist and actor. He’s written the theological, paranormal thriller novel 'Ghost of a Chance', the shocking novella 'Sherlock Holmes and the Final Reveal,' and three humor books: 'The Bachelor Cookbook: Edible Meals with a Side of Sarcasm,' 'And That’s the Way It Was…Give or Take: A Daily Dose Of My Radio Writings' and 'Shouldn’t Ice Cold Beer be Frozen? My 365 Random Thoughts To Improve Your Life Not One Iota.' His website is www.chrisjgay.com, and his humor blog can be found at www.chrisgay.wordpress.com