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Stow Walks for Cancer Cure

By Ann Needle

Ellen Sturgis (crouched on right) with the Ovarian Cancer Brigade team at last year’s Jimmy Fund Walk. Courtesy photo

Chances are, every Independent reader has been touched by cancer, whether it is a family member’s diagnosis, a friend’s battle with the disease, or his or her own ordeal. So, it is no surprise that Stow residents are participating in at least two of this year’s teams in the Jimmy Fund Walk, all with their own stories to tell. The Walk takes place this Sunday, September 9, and covers the +26-mile route of the Boston Marathon.

However, participants can choose the length they wish to walk. All proceeds go to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Ellen Sturgis spoke of how her late mother’s experience eventually steered her to raising thousands of dollars for the non-profit Ovarian Cancer Brigade through the Walk. Diagnosed at age 71 with stage 4 ovarian cancer, Chiquita Sturgis did not have much of a chance of fighting the disease, Ellen Sturgis recalled of her mother. “She had been having unassuming kinds of problems. She was having stomach cramps, bloating. That’s what it’s known for; it’s the ‘silent killer’. Even doctors don’t think about it because it’s not as common as breast cancer.” In 1996, almost a year after her diagnosis, Chiquita passed away. Sturgis recollected, “I was left with this idea of how do I know so little about ovarian cancer?”

Last year, Sturgis joined the Walk with the non-profit Ovarian Cancer Brigade. She reported raising $2,500. This year, Sturgis said she is targeting $2,500 as her personal goal, while the group as a whole is already over the $40,000 mark, aiming for $50,000. All of the money raised will be donated to the work of Dr. Ursula Matulonis at Dana Farber, who Sturgis hailed as “a pioneer in gynecological cancer.” Sturgis said she visits Dr. Matulonis up to four times annually to take a look at her research, “And there’s a lot going on. Fourteen years ago it was a death sentence. Now there are different treatments for different types [of ovarian cancer].”

For this year’s walk, Sturgis noted that she will carry as many pictures of her donors with her as possible. “When you get all these people to donate, it makes a huge difference, even if it’s $25.” The Ovarian Cancer Brigade’s donation page is at:, along with a link to Sturgis’s donation page.


“Summer of the Traveling Tumor”

The Independent adores a good writer. In her blog chronicling life with cancer, Leah Tepper easily takes that honor, penning lines such as “Keeping Up with the Cancerous” and “The Summer of the Traveling Tumor” ( But talent cannot compensate for what Tepper termed on her blog “the luck of the draw,” with the 19 year old receiving a diagnosis of adrenal cancer more than two years ago.  An aggressive and relatively rare disease, the adrenal cancer spread throughout Tepper’s body, requiring several surgeries, chemo rounds, and stretches in the hospital.

Naturally, those who know Tepper often feel helpless, including the Hayes family of Bolton. Maureen Hayes said it was this feeling of helplessness that prompted her son, Matt, to get a “Team Tepper” together for the Jimmy Fund Walk this year. The Hayes’ have been close friends of the Teppers since 22-year-old Matt and Leah’s sister Rachel were in pre-school together, Maureen explained. Through what can only be termed an ordeal for the Teppers as they journey for treatments between Children’s Hospital Boston, Dana Farber — and even adrenal cancer experts at the University of Michigan — Maureen has been coordinating meals and other services for the traveling Teppers. Now, it’s Matt’s turn. Maureen reported he had more than 10 participants line up, with about $5,000 raised thus far. “Matt always says she’s [Leah’s] like a sister to him,” Maureen remarked. “And I would do anything for them.”

Currently, Tepper is hospitalized with side effects from her latest round of chemotherapy. However, Maureen noted Tepper was feeling better, and was hoping to go back home soon. It appears the Jimmy Fund also does overtime for Tepper and other cancer patients. Marveling at the range of services the organization has provided Tepper since she became ill, Maureen mentioned Tepper’s trip to Red Sox spring training last year, among others.

For those wanting to donate to Team Tepper, go to With Tepper having undergone a number of blood transfusions, Maureen also suggested donating blood, if possible — good advice, especially if money is short. As Tepper blogs of her potential treatments, “Maybe some magic will happen, who knows!”

Leah, Nick and Rachel Tepper at Fenway Park