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2020 Recipients

Please scroll down to read all the stories of our amazing & inspiring recipients


Cheryl MacDonald

Halifax, MA

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My name is Cheryl. I am 46 years old, married to my husband Larry for 20 years, and have 3 children, ages 16, 9, and 8.  I am a pediatric private duty RN who works with children with chronic illness in their homes. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2020 following a routine MRI. I underwent a single mastectomy on July 21, 2020 at MGH. Following my surgery, I had to go on medical leave for a couple months to heal and regain my strength because my job requires lifting and repositioning of my patients, which was difficult for me.  After returning to work for only 3 weeks, I had my 2nd surgery, this time for reconstruction. Once again, I had to take a medical leave from work to heal. My husband is a small business owner and he was forced to shut down his business for several months during that time due to Covid. Finances have been extremely tough this year with both of us out of work.  I thank the Carin MacLean Foundation for letting me share my story. 

Marath Sok

Lynn, MA


Hi, my name is Marath Sok.  I am a single mom. My daughter just turned 15. This year has been a tough year. I had been exposed to COVID and quarantined at a hotel  back in May. When my quarantine was over, I found a lump on my left breast and got it checked. When I received the call about my results, I was devastated, shocked, and scared. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to do all these tests to make sure it hadn’t spread. It was scary and sad for me. I know my daughter is very strong, but she is still very young.  I was scared what this cancer would do to me and my family. I had to do chemotherapy for 20 weeks. I was very fortunate that I am living with my family. I used my unemployment checks for bills. I am very lucky to have family and friends support. I had received assistance from different organizations. I felt very grateful and appreciative of what help I get. It made me filled with love, hope, and warmth. Being diagnosed with cancer is devastating, but it less crazy knowing there are non-profit organizations to support and assist us.  Thank you so much !




Marath Sok


Claritza Calderon

Dorchester, MA


Claritza is a single mom to her 9 year old daughter, Sandy.  Claritza had been working for many years as a manager in a fast food restaurant when she was diagnosed with advanced stage gastric cancer.  She continued to work as much as she could around her treatments until the pandemic hit.  She had to leave her job so as not to be exposed.  She has been receiving unemployment which is a fraction of her previous income.  She has been struggling to pay rent, utilities, food and for other necessities.  Claritza had been sending money to help support her mother who still lives in El Salvador.  Even though she has a lot less coming in now she still sends something when she can knowing that a little goes a lot further in her mother’s country.  Claritza is extremely grateful for the help your foundation has offered.

 - Resource Specialist

Dana Farber Cancer Institute-Satellites


Judith Iversen

Bradford, MA


Throughout my cancer journey, I’ve never written down how this has affected me.  Receiving my diagnosis the day after Thanksgiving, first surgery the day after Christmas and starting chemo the day after my birthday has soured me on holidays. I dreaded St. Patrick’s day but that was thankfully uneventful.  With my employer laying off, going out on medical leave wasn’t possible. I had to work to keep my health insurance.  Throw in a pandemic causing 3 teenage boys to home school, it’s just been a non-stop crazy train.  I have never had any downtime to process this journey. Cancer was just another thing I had to work into my schedule.  If you haven’t guessed yet, I am a Type A personnel.  Organized  proactive, I take care of everything.


So with a deep breath, I’ve worked through chemo, radiation, side effects, pandemic, etc., and have been surprised.  I am still me.  The body is beat up but I am still here.  I can still yell (nicely) at my boys to put their dirty clothes in the hamper, cuddle with my dog on the couch and laugh at my husband’s silly jokes. That makes me one of the lucky ones.


Now, I’m focusing on medication and monitoring.  Even though there are times when I worry if cancer still has me in it’s sights, I take my deep breath, and look at what’s in front and ahead for me.  My body is healing, the hair is growing, my husband makes me breakfast most mornings, my co-workers have been really supportive and my family and friends have been awesome.  This journey has been crazy, frustrating, and so many other things.  I have been very lucky and plan to keep it that way.

- Judith Iversen

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Tina Burns

Bangor, ME


My name is Tina Burns.  I am a homeschooling mom to my two daughters ages 10 and 5 and my 15 year old son.  I am a classically trained opera singer and voice teacher.  My husband and I are self employed studio music instructors and run a summer music camp program in our community.  I was diagnosed with triple negative ductal carcinoma in August. I have been through a lumpectomy, surgery to remove my gallbladder, a blocked bile duct and ERCP, a hospital stay for cholangitis, chemotherapy and radiation.  The Covid-19 pandemic hit right after I finished chemo and when I finished radiation in May, my sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Preventatively, I had my tubes and ovaries out where our cancers were potentially related.  The past year and half my life has truly turned upside down.  I am so thankful for my family, friends and community for lifting me up when I could not stand on my own. My husband and kids are everything to me and we fought together as a team through this horrific battle of cancer.  We are recovering together as we work to navigate cancer treatment recovery, online music teaching in the midst of a global pandemic and maintaining as much normalcy as we can.  I am grateful beyond words to be a recipient of support from the Carin MacLean Foundation.


Jacqueline Diaz

Brighton, MA


My name is Jacqueline Diaz and I am 38 years old, single mother of three children. My life had already been a challenge raising and supporting my three children while working to take care of my home and family.  


A few years ago I found myself in a situation that my children and I would be homeless in 2015. Thankfully my mother took me and my children into her home. My life began to be on a positive track with finding work to contribute to household bills and essentials to help my mother. 


Then one day in August 2019 I was feeling discomfort and pain in my female area. I attempted to schedule a Ob-Gyn appointment,  unfortunately I wasn't given an appointment until October 2019. The discomfort and pain made it difficult for me to perform my job so I had stopped working the beginning of October. I then went to have an exam October 4th and I was told by Ob-Gyn that she was unable to examine me and left exam room and returned with a Oncologist Ob-Gyn. When he examined me his response was I am sending you for a biopsy because I believe it may be cancer. After doing the biopsy I received a call telling me my results and I just froze hearing the Oncologist telling me I have vulva cancer and he is referring me to Dana Farber Cancer Institute located at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center which is close to my mother's home. I went to meet cancer doctors on October 10th and I was told I had stage 3 cancer and they want me to begin aggressive Chemotherapy treatment which would consist of receiving chemo 5 days a week. I did this for two weeks and then I began treatment with radiation 5 days a week because the cancer tumor on outside was advancing rapidly and Chemotherapy was done only once a week. 


A few weeks went by and one morning I had severe cramping in my left leg thinking it was a charley horse so I tried rubbing it to get relief.  When I got ready for radiation appointment I found it difficult to walk and was in severe pain. When I got to radiation appointment they looked at my leg and quickly took me to the Emergency Room. They said I had a large blood clot in my left lower leg and I was then admitted for seven days for treatment for blood clot and received radiation also. It was difficult knowing I am away from my children being hospitalized, unemployed and dealing with cancer and now to find out I have a blood clot.


I was discharged on Christmas Eve and my family was very happy to see me arrive home. I have a VNA who comes to see me 3 days a week and a PT person to help me get better moving around with the help of a cane.


As of January 17th, the blood clot is slowly shrinking while I am taking blood thinners. I continue to receive Radiation and Chemotherapy treatments at Dana Farber. I am still awaiting approval from SSI since I have had no income since October  2019 to help support my family, but I am so grateful for all the help my family and I have received from Dana Farber physicians and Susan the resource specialist for referring me to the Carin Maclean Foundation for the help they  provide to my family and I during my financial struggles. 


I know this diagnosis if cancer is a tough one but I know I will come out of this victorious with all my family by my side."

Phoung Sarkis

Stoughton, MA

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Danielle Pelland

Attleboro, MA

My name is Danielle, I am a 32 year old single mother to a beautiful 7 year old boy and on Oct 11th 2019 I recieved the most terrifying news that a young mom could ever hear from her doctor. I was diagnosed with breast cancer.


In late August I had found a painful lump on my right breast. I thought it could have been from my cycle starting or just another symptom from my IUD. I thought it was something that would just subside or go away, but over a few weeks it became so painful and tender. It even seemed to have grown! Being concerned I told my mother what was going on and she urged me to go get it checked out as soon as possible. After a mammogram and biopsy I finally had an appointment to get my results.


The morning of the appointment I was filled with anxiety and was praying for her to tell me that the mass inside of me was only benign but that was not the case. When the doctor came into the room she told me that I had Ductal Carcinoma. When she diagnosed me I thought I was going to pass out! I could hear her speaking but couldn't really register what she was saying, and didn't want to believe it was reality. My best friend let me cry hysterically on her shoulder and kept telling me that I would be okay.  Every thought ran through my mind, how could this be? Will I be able to work and provide for my son? Am I going to survive this battle with cancer? I then wiped my tears and realized that I had to find the strength to pull myself together and fight for my life. I had to make it through this not only for me but for my son and everyone that loves me.


My family and friends were shocked and devastated by the news. They all told me that I was strong and that I would get through this and that they would help me in any way that they could. My next step was to meet with my oncologist. She sat me down and explained to me my care plan. Dr. Latiff told me that in order to beat this cancer that I would have to undergo chemotherapy treatments before removing the tumor. As she was telling me all of the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs I felt so overwhelmed, I just started crying. I have always been fiercely independent and worked as a PCA taking care of the elderly and terminally ill in their homes. Being diagnosed I now realized that roles would be reversed. I had to accept the fact that my friends and family would possibly have to help me with simple everyday tasks, and that just killed me. I loved being outgoing and independent and soon the side effects would rob me of that. Dr.Latiff gave me a box of tissues and let me cry it out, but then she encouraged me to be optimistic and that she would be with me every step of the way. I put my life in her hands and just prayed that I would make it through this difficult time. 


So far I have undergone 4 AC treatments and 2 Taxol treatments. After a few treatments my pain had gone away and my oncologist was impressed with how fast the tumor was shrinking. My journey is not over yet. I still have 2 more taxol treatments and a few surgeries to overcome before I am cancer free. This journey has definitely been an emotional roller coaster. I have positive days and days where I just want to stay in bed. I couldn't have made it this far without my loved ones or without my compassionate nursing team that has been caring for me. I have laughed, cried and I even wanted to run out of the oncology unit on my first day of chemo! My nurses are with me through every emotion and obstacle that come my way. 


Before I had cancer I definitely took life for granted. Cancer was a nightmare that came true , but it has also taught me great lessons in life and has made me see things in a different perspective. Time is very precious and you never know what life will throw at you. It has taught me that you cannot always control things in life, but you can control the way that you deal with it. Staying positive and having faith is a big reason why I am still able to battle this disease. I will always appreciate the little things in life that we all tend to over look in our busy lives. My friends and family mean the world to me. Everyday I will let each one know that I love them and make lasting memories with them every chance that I get because cancer cannot take away my passion for life, or cripple love. It can not erode my faith or silence my courage! It has made me stronger and I didn't know my own strength until I was dealt this card. 


I would like to thank the Carin McLean Foundation for letting me share my story and for the support at this tough time . This foundation is amazing for helping all of us moms get through our journey. I would also like to thank my friends and family for always being there for me no matter what and keeping me sane through all of this chaos. Also my oncology team at Sturdy memorial and my oncologist Dr.Latiff. They provide care in such a professional yet loving way and have helped me get through the toughest part of my life. I am so grateful and blessed and will keep on fighting until the fight is over. I will pray for everyone on this page and for everyone that has been there for me. I love all of you and thank God for you! THANK YOU!



Additional Recipients 

Cynthia Gragg - Derry, NH

On Feb 3, 2018, I  was going to work running a workshop for kids at a library. I had driven there in a car full of computers.  When I got there, the librarian said she was having trouble understanding me. Not knowing that I was having a stroke, I called AAA so that I could unload my supplies.  In hindsight, I should  have called an ambulance. Eventually, I was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer despite never having smoked  in my life.


In the last two years, I have fought to learn to walk after each of three strokes.  After my last stroke which caused a brain bleed, I received a craniotomy and whole brain radiation which caused all of my hair to fall out and a need to always wear a helmet until I can get a cranioplasty to protect my brain.


The main lung  tumor spread to my bones and then to my brain . I have had multiple treatments, including targeted therapies, radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy. I am grateful for any assistance I receive, especially with transportation. It costs a hundred dollars for me to go to to each appointment.

 - Phuong Sarkis 

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