Turning Grief into Hope, Mom Rides in Memory of Her Daughter


Thank you for this guest post from The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge.

As she watched her young daughter battle cancer, Janet O’Shea knew she needed to do more to help others. Diagnosed at just 2 years old with a rare form of cancer called Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumors (AT/RT), Charlotte O’Shea spent many of her days in and out of hospitals going through intensive chemotherapy and experimental treatment.

That meant Janet O’Shea also spent days and days in the hospital. She became close with other parents who came to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for their children to get treatment for AT/RT.

O’Shea and other parents found a way to turn their plight into action and started “Cure AT/RT Now,” to raise research funds for this little-studied disease. Since 2008, more than $500,000 has been raised for the AT/RT fund through charity events including the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge and Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.

Charlotte was expected to live only 12 months after her cancer diagnosis, but instead she lived for four years.  Charlotte died Dec. 8, 2010 at age six.

This summer, O’Shea will bike 190 miles in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, making a physical and a financial commitment to honor Charlotte. O’Shea and a team of riders aim to raise more than $250,000 this year for cancer care and research by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where Charlotte was treated.

At three years old, Charlotte was undergoing aggressive treatments that included a stem cell transplant and intensive chemotherapy.

“Even though Charlotte is not here, she pioneered other avenues for treatments for this type of cancer,” O’Shea said. “The PMC is an opportunity for me to do something for her. I have to make something positive out of Charlotte’s death. I can’t leave the disease the way it is.”

The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge is annual bike-a-thon that raises more money for cancer care and research than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. In its 31-year history, the PMC has raised $303 million for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“Charlotte was the bravest and most loving person I have ever known and I miss her terribly,” O’Shea said. “But I will ride the PMC in her honor and memory so that other children do not have to suffer from brain cancer and so other parents do not have to experience the loss of their child.”

O’Shea lives in Bolton Mass., with her husband Jim and their three children: Charlotte’s twin brother Will, and 13-year-old twins James and Katherine.

The 32nd annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge is Aug. 6-7. To learn more, visit www.pmc.org and support O’Shea’s ride.

Melanie Mayo-Laakso


Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering.com. Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one’s best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *