2018-05-17 / Front Page

Saco youth goes ‘Grey in May’ for mom

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer


Peter Cairns is pictured with his daughters Megan, left, and Emily at the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike race that spans Massachusetts to support cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. (Courtesy photo) Peter Cairns is pictured with his daughters Megan, left, and Emily at the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike race that spans Massachusetts to support cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. (Courtesy photo) SACO – Thornton Academy student Megan Cairns doesn’t remember a time before her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Her mother, Julie Cairns, was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare malignant brain tumor, in 2006, when Megan was 4.

“It’s just always been part of our family. There’s nothing different about us, it’s just part of our life,” said Cairns, 17, a junior at Thornton Academy.

Cairns is an avid athlete and each year participates in field hockey, softball and cheerleading. She found that every year the teams would participate in a breast cancer awareness activity, with athletes wearing pink to promote the cause. Cairns realized that there was nothing to promote brain cancer awareness, the color of which is grey.

Cairns has decided to do something about that. For the last two years, Cairns has participated in “Go Grey in May,” a brain cancer awareness initiative that involves her wearing grey clothing all month.

“I decided that I wanted to bring awareness about this disease. Everyone knows about pink for breast cancer, but not many know that grey is the color for brain cancer,” Cairns said.

This year, however, Cairns is expanding efforts and organized a school wide Go Grey in May event. On Tuesday May 15, Julie Cairns’ birthday, students from Thornton Academy were encouraged to wear grey in support of the Cairns family and brain cancer awareness.

Cairns and her sister Emily, a freshman at Thornton Academy, have worn grey and posted daily pictures on Facebook. Both girls now own what Cairns says is a “whole lot of grey clothes,” including shirts with messages such as, “I wear grey for my mom” and with cancer ribbons and the word “Warrior.”

“My friends are all trying to participate this year, so they’ve been borrowing grey shirts and sweatshirts from me,” Cairns said.

“Thornton Academy is such a compassionate school that supports their students. They’ve done so much to help Megan do this, and it means a lot to me,” Julie said.

A favorite event for the Cairns family is the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike race spans Massachusetts for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Both Cairn’s father Peter and aunt Anne Marie Haley bike in support of Julie, and their family makes a trip out of it.

“We make signs and cheer them on,” Cairns said. “It’s so much fun. Even when I was 10 years old, I would want to wake up to see them off at 4:30 in the morning.”

“The great thing about the Pan-Mass Challenge is that the funds go directly to Dana Farber, so we’re raising money that is going directly toward brain cancer research. My husband rides from Wellesley to Provincetown, 86 miles a day, and all the funds go to the Haley- Cairn Fund,” said Julie, born Julie Haley, originally from Portland.

Cairns spreads her dedication for brain cancer awareness throughout many aspects of her life.

“I have grey ribbons on my field hockey stick and my softball helmet. I even draw one on my wrist before games,” Cairns said. “It’s like I’m carrying her with me.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be an estimated 22,880 new cases of brain and nervous system cancer in 2018, and 16,830 deaths. The chance of surviving five years is 33.2 percent.

Cairns’ mother Julie is in remission, but their family continues to be vigilant in her health. A recent doctor’s visit revealed three tumors on her chin and masses in her lungs, so she will return to the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute later this week to find more answers.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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