MAYWOOD, Ill. - When Caitlin Garvey was on the Oak Park River Forest High School swim team, her biggest fan was her mother.
Denise Garvey never missed her daughter's meets, even while being treated for breast cancer.
Denise Garvey died two years ago at age 52. On Saturday, July 17, Caitlin will be swimming in her mother's memory at the annual Swim Across America fundraiser at Ohio Street Beach. Caitlin's goal is to raise $10,000, on top of the $40,000 she has raised in four previous swims. The event will benefit the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center at Loyola University Hospital in Maywood, where Denise Garvey was treated.
Caitlin Garvey, 21, is a student at DePaul University. She and three of her former high school teammates will swim 1.5 miles in open water.
Denise Garvey lived with cancer for more than a decade. In 1997, she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. After chemotherapy, her leukemia was under control. But in September, 2005, she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and highly aggressive form of the disease.
Garvey was treated by Dr. Kathy Albain, an oncologist who specializes in breast cancer and lung cancer. Albain has gained a national reputation for groundbreaking research in breast cancer. But many patients say that what they appreciate most is how hard Albain works on their behalf. Albain said Denise Garvey was "one of the bravest patients I have ever known. She fought her very aggressive disease through multiple types of therapies without complaining and with grace. I will never forget her and her smile."
Swim Across America raises money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events around the country. All funds from the annual Chicago swim go the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, the first free-standing facility in Illinois dedicated to cancer research, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. The center contains all outpatient cancer care, along with extensive research laboratories, offices and educational space.
"They did everything they could for my mom at the Bernardin Center," Caitlin said. "She wasn't about to give up, and they weren't, either."
About 200 swimmers will swim one of four distances: Â½- mile, 1 mile, 1.5 miles and 3 miles.
"Our event is the only non-competitive, open-water swim in Chicago's Lake Michigan," said event director Sue Hopkinson. "Participants can challenge themselves -- and their friends -- in the water, but more importantly, we encourage participants to challenge themselves to raise funds for cancer research."