Sean Brodeur talks about his heartbreak over his mother’s death 14 years ago and how he honors her every year by walking in the annual marathon in October and raising money for cancer research.
My First Walk
By SEAN BRODEUR
My name is Sean Brodeur, I am the youngest of three and my parents are Theresa (Terri) and Timothy (Tim) Brodeur.
At the age of 5, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I hadn’t heard the word “cancer” or known the severity of a stage IV diagnosis. But what I noticed over her 2 ½ year battle helped me understand it intimately.
The loss of her hair was eventually replaced by bandanas and wigs. Her loss of appetite and added restless discomfort meant she wasn’t as able to partake in our extracurricular activities. What I, who had just started kindergarten, soon learned was the resilience of human connections and the power of people.
Over the disease’s prognosis, my siblings and I saw a swift wave of support come to my mother’s aid. My mother wove a dedicated and loving network of friends and family, so when she was eventually moved into a hospital bed full time, many took up the roles she couldn’t: driving us to practices, rehearsals and play-dates. My mother never wanted to distract from a sense of normalcy for her children. Till the end, she made sure that we made it out the door with lunch and a note.
On Oct.11, 2005, my mom’s battle ended, but her strength and perseverance taught me at the age of 7 to fight. That left my family of five now down to four, an even balance of two boys and two girls. I tried to put a positive spin on it, but things were definitely different without my mom.
All of us were sad and there was a huge hole not only in our hearts, but in our home too. At least we had each other to lean on as we settled into our new way of life, our new normal.
A few months later in December 2005, my mom and dad’s friend, Norma Logan, who had been raging her own war with breast cancer, started the nonprofit organization you know today, alongside her close friend and colleague, Sandy Maniscalco. I didn’t know Norma, but I was happy that she knew my mom and memorialized her name through the foundation. I’m honored to think others can too
In the first quarter of 2006, Norma accomplished exactly that which she intended, she founded the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation. This was news to all of us, especially my family, but we were excited to represent the region as a local figurehead in breast cancer research ensuring that 100 percent of donations go to research grants. More personally, we felt proud to think that our efforts might prevent others from sharing in the heartache cancer causes and, if we were fortunate enough, maybe save families from the tragedy of loss that we grew to know so well.
Norma’s time was cut short soon after the foundation was up and running. In April 2006, Norma passed away after her struggle with breast cancer. At this point in time, I came to the numbing understanding that many breast cancer diagnoses were fatal.
In October 2006, The Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation, had its first official marathon walk from Old Saybrook (the town my parents settled and raised me and my siblings) to Waterford (the town where my mother grew up, not far from Camp Harkness where Norma spent her summers). In the very first walk, my father and two sisters walked stride for stride, but not me. Folks, my family included, thought I was too young. The first walk raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and people were empowered, except me. I couldn’t help but feel like I let down my family, myself and my mother. It was a feeling that stayed with me for quite some time.
So, in October 2007, when the annual walk came around again, I was adamant that I wanted to walk it. I had to grow up sooner or later and I was old enough and strong enough to walk 26.2 miles. In hindsight, I had no idea what I was about to undertake and it was probably better that way. I started and completed my first full marathon walk with the foundation that year at the age of 9. I was so tired, sore and thrilled all at the same time. People were cheering me on and it wasn’t just family it was hundreds of people who didn’t even know me. I felt amazing and proud, I was Terri’s youngest child and had just walked an incredible distance. I knew from that moment on, that first walk was the first of many to come.
Fast forward three months to January 13, 2008, another day when my life would forever change. Much to everyone’s surprise came the immobilizing news and sadness that my father had taken his own life. It wasn’t until this moment that I finally began to understand cancer for what it really was, an all-consuming disease. Its toxicity and malignance ended lives in my mom and Norma, yes, but its potency didn’t stop there. It spread to my dad, poisoning him too. He is just one victim of collateral damage, and I’m just one of many with a story to share. But one thing is consistent throughout each of our stories, and that is that cancer not only affects the woman battling it, but everyone and everything in its surroundings.
Fast forward again to 2019, now at the age of 21 and a senior at UCONN, I kickoff my 13th walk. It always brings so many emotions, aches and pains on my body, but it’s meaningful and powerful because of the camaraderie and outpouring of love from the walkers. People walk or volunteer on walk day for many reasons, generally in support of those battling cancer and those yet to be diagnosed, and to honor those who have died. This foundation, named after my mother, is near and dear to my heart and allows my mother’s legacy to live on. Perhaps you’ll consider joining me, my sisters and my extended family in walking to fight cancer? Visit tbbcf.org for more details.