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Amy Beckett: A symbol of hope

by jmaloni
Thu, Jun 9th 2011 10:50 am

Lewiston's Relay For Life is June 18

by Angela Joseph

Special to Niagara Frontier Publications

"The fear of the cancer returning always stays with you -- it is just buried better some days than others," says breast cancer survivor Amy Beckett.

Beckett is a 39-year-old schoolteacher at Niagara Middle School, located in the City of Niagara Falls. She is a mother, a wife, a Relay For Life participant, and a five-year cancer survivor. 

When Beckett was 34 years old, she found a lump in her breast. "The moment I discovered it, I was terrified because I knew what it was," she says. The next day she went to see the doctor and get an ultrasound.

"I was holding out some hope that it was just a lump," Beckett says.

That day Beckett had a biopsy and had to wait five days to receive an answer.

 "It felt like five years -- I couldn't even begin to describe how scared I was," she explains.

"When the doctor told me it was, indeed, cancer, my heart dropped," Beckett says. "My son had just graduated preschool, and I wondered if this was the only graduation of his I was going to see."

In between getting her students ready for exams and dealing with the possibility of being transferred to another school due to budget cuts, Beckett was meeting with breast cancer specialists and oncologists. "It was all very stressful," she says. "However, I managed to get through all the initial craziness; the school year ended, and I was able to stay at Niagara Middle with my friends."

Over the next few years, Beckett went through four months of chemo, a month of radiation, and a year of a drug called herceptin.

She got through it all, and, "Now, I'm a cancer survivor," she says.

Eventually, Beckett was able to go from two-week oncologist appointments to three-month appointments. Now, she is on six-month plan where she only has to see the oncologist once every six months.

During her battle against cancer, Beckett got involved in the Relay For Life in Lewiston - the River Region's main volunteer-driven cancer fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. People walk, run or jog around a track to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.

"Through my experiences I had received support, information, and assistance from ACS -- I wanted to give something back," Beckett says.

She has participated in the Lewiston Relay For Life for the past three years. On June 18, she will participate in her fourth Relay For Life, held in 2011 at the Lewiston-Porter Central School track in the Town of Lewiston. The event starts at noon.

"I do it to educate and raise money, so hopefully the kids I teach and see every day will never have to worry about cancer," Beckett says. "Also, I do it to give back to the ACS for the help I received. Lastly, I do it for myself, so that one day I might feel safe again and not worried about what if. ... I have to say taking part makes me feel good."

"There is something very special about taking part in the Survivor Lap with all the others who have fought cancer and won the battle," she says.

The Survivor Lap is where survivors are invited to circle the track in celebration of the victories won over cancer.

"It is nice to be a symbol of hope to those who are fighting cancer; to show them that there is a happy ending to treatment, and it is possible to fight and win -- that having cancer does not necessarily mean you will die," Beckett says.

"There is a sense of community, of being part of a group -- we are all cancer survivors. We all went through treatment of some kind, some more aggressive than others, but we have walked down the same road. We all get what others don't know matter how hard a survivor tries to explain it. We are there to help and support and celebrate each other -- all of this is why I attend Relay For Life each year," she says.

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