Pink ducks fill pond as Merrimack fights cancer

Janelle Engram '17 was 10 years old when she learned her mother, Janet, had been diagnosed with stage two breast cancer when she was seven months pregnant. It was a double shock when Engram's mother called in February to say doctors had found a new lump on one of her breasts and she needed a double mastectomy. “After 18 years of being cancer-free, my mom was rediagnosed,” Engram told fellow Merrimack students, faculty and staff on Oct. 15.

The biggest crowd in memory attended the 8th annual Pink Duck Release for Breast Cancer Awareness at the Mendel Center pond. Organizers raised about $450 toward the fight against breast cancer by selling pink ducks, said Sarah Fabianski, a master’s degree student in higher education who helped organize the event.

Engram, a sophomore psychology major, said her mother underwent surgery in April and was diagnosed as cancer-free in June.

After sharing her story, Engram walked away from the podium and gave her mother a hug. “It was really emotional,” she said afterward. “I love being able to share (her mother’s story) with people.”

Men and women are susceptible to breast cancer, said Brenda Holt, a nurse at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen. Women should start having mammograms when they are 40, unless they have a history of breast cancer in their families and then they should start at 35, Holt said.

“It’s important that we report any signs of any changes in our bodies immediately,” she said. “Nobody needs to be afraid because cancer is very treatable today.”

Organizers sold ducks for $1 each, or $5 for a legacy duck. People who bought legacy ducks got to keep them and ducks will be released every year in their names, Fabianski said — “to leave their mark on the program.”

More than 50 people attended the duck release, which included a blessing by Fr. Raymond Dlugos, a silent walk across the Moseley Iron Arch, and remarks by Engram, Holt and Fabianski before the ducks were set free on the pond.

“I loved being part of putting it together for all of you,” Fabianski told the crowd.





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