Dawn: paying tribute to her mom after breast cancer

A lifelong New Yorker, Dawn grew up in a tight-knit family. Dawn, her mom and three sisters loved playing the board game Trouble, taking trips to the beach and drinking milkshakes at midnight.

“That’s how my parents raised us—always being there for each other,” Dawn says.

Then, two cancer diagnoses changed everything. Dawn and her mother were both diagnosed with breast cancer two months apart in 2008. Despite Dawn’s personal battle with breast cancer, she stepped in to be her mom’s primary caretaker.

Helping others came naturally to Dawn. She had just retired from 25 years of working on a school bus with students in special education programs.

As the medical bills for her mom’s treatment piled up, Dawn’s family worried about how to cover the growing costs.

“My mom was not on Medicaid and she had to pay a lot of money out-of-pocket,” Dawn recalls.

It was a challenging time, but the women they met during chemotherapy treatment were a great resource for Dawn and her family. One suggested that she could reach out to patient assistance organizations to help cover her mother’s medical expenses.

“I contacted a few organizations, and PAN was the organization that was able to help. They blessed my mother with support for the costs of her breast cancer treatment,” Dawn says.

After six years of living with cancer, Dawn’s mother passed away, with her family at her side. 

Dawn turned 52 this year and for her birthday, wanted to honor her mother’s memory. To pay forward the help their family received, she raised over $2,000 to help seriously ill patients through PAN.

When facing breast cancer or another serious diagnosis, Dawn wants others to know that life can feel unrelenting—and it’s important to acknowledge those feelings. “But,” she added, “when you hit the floor, you have to get back up.”