As she lay in a hospital bed fighting for her life after chemotherapy had taken its toll on her body, Naperville resident Lucy Berry could only think of her two sons who were visiting.
Kevin was on his way out, and Matt was on his way in. When they leaned over to hug and kiss her, she touched their coats and said. “These coats aren’t nearly thick enough.”
“The cancer brought her to knees, but she was worried her little boys didn’t have heavy enough coats,” said Matt about his mom who fretted about them despite suffering from melanoma.
While Lucy was originally from the Beverly area, she and her husband raised their five sons in Naperville where she was involved at Riverwoods School and Naperville Central High School.
But that life was cut short.
Lucy died Feb. 1, at 56, after a seven-month battle with melanoma. She’d had cancerous moles removed, but they kept coming back, and in July they returned, more aggressive than ever.
“She was sick every day for seven months,” son Jim Berry said. “I wouldn’t even wish it on my worst enemy what she went through.”
It’s hard for the Berry boys to explain how much their mother meant to them and the support she gave them, especially as the only female in a house filled with boys and husband Jim. It helped that she was a big sports fan.
Although only a short time has passed since she died, the family recognized there was something they needed to do in her memory. She wouldn’t want them to sit around feeling sad about what they had lost.
“She wasn’t a pouter,” Matt said.
Through a mutual friend, they were introduced to Nan Donovan, the founder of March4Meg. Donovan’s daughter Meg Moonan died from melanoma in 2012 at 43, leaving behind a husband and four children. Moonan, too, had had a suspicious mole removed but found some swelling in her groin area, and by then, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
“We were struggling, we still are,” Donovan said about the grief after her daughter’s death. “We needed to turn this around and do something.”
The family founded the March4Meg 5K run/walk on the South Side of Chicago where they live and created a melanoma program. In 2013, March4Meg raised $30,000 to establish the Meg Moonan Endowment for Melanoma Research at the Cancer Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center.
“It’s not just to fund research, but equally education and awareness,” said Donovan who spends her time teaching people, especially high school students, about the dangers of tanning beds.
Visiting a tanning bed before age 30 raises one’s chance for getting melanoma by 75 percent.
“More people die from melanoma than smoking, lung cancer,” Donovan said. “Most people don’t know this.”
The Berry family has joined forces with March4Meg, hoping to create awareness and funding for the program at Christ Hospital.
“There’s strength in numbers, and we’re seeing that,” Donovan said. “Knowing that we’re helping them, they are helping us. We’re reaching people and that’s what we want.”
And for the Berry family, they are grateful to have found a group to partner with to remember Lucy.
“It’s a local thing,” Matt said. “Meg was very much like our mom: same neighborhood, the South Side, an Irish family.”
And because no money raised goes to administrative costs, the Berry family wants to support the organization even more.
“It truly is to just raise money for awareness and research,” Matt said.
Finding a cause helps the Berry family cope with the loss of their mother whose life was her family.
“Words can’t describe how much she meant to us — and now that she’s gone,” Matt said. “We want to rally around mom, honor mom, and get people to raise money and build the endowment.”