Carin's Story

Carin MacLean was born and raised in the Portland, ME area.  Growing up she had a wonderful group of family and friends and loved to spend time with them skiing and at the beach.  Sports were a big part of her life – from Little League and basketball as a youngster to being one of the field hockey captains in high school and playing tennis competitively in college.  She was a fierce competitor.  Wrecking her knee while skiing moguls put a bit of a damper on that, although it did allow her to joke about setting off metal detectors at the airport!  After high school, she moved to Boston to attend college at Wentworth Institute of Technology, studying Interior Design. After graduation, she worked for a few different architectural firms and lived in various towns outside of Boston.  Around this time she began to change musical tastes from grunge to country and would later get her future husband to also come around on country music.

 



Carin loved Jimmy Buffett concert parties (not so much his music) and big backyard barbecue bashes with her friends.  Carin and Dan met in 2002, both working for the same company – she in the facilities department – he in IT.  They began looking at houses some 9 months later (crazy, right?) and settled into an old Dutch Colonial in Pawtucket, RI.  Carin put her design talents to good use and took down more wallpaper and faux wood paneling than any house should ever have!  She was even known to mow the lawn a time or two, or as Dan would prefer not to admit, much more often than him.

 

A few years later there was a very fun wedding on the coast of Maine and a certain raucous party afterward.  In 2006, she adopted a crazy little Aussie pup named Lincoln who would incessantly shower her with love and licks and leave her covered with fur.  Even though she swore she would never do this, she would gladly move over in bed, and sleep in uncomfortably twisted positions so Lincoln could curl up at the foot of the bed. By then she had her dream job working at Picerne Military Housing and was flying all across the country to middle-of-nowhere Army bases, choosing fabrics and colors and furniture for military homes and community centers.

 

Carin hadn’t thought much about kids, but there must have been some magic in that old house because her daughter Elisabeth was born in July of 2007.  It only took a day or two for Carin to realize she wasn’t going back to work as she’d initially planned.  She soon joined a local Moms’ group with a great bunch of women and kids. Before long her days were filled with driving her minivan (gasp!) all over Rhode Island to playdates, birthday parties, and weekend barbecues.  Andrew was born in September of 2009 and the next year was filled with joy and laughter.

 

During the summer of 2010, Carin had come to notice some discomfort in her side while lying down or while driving.  As we sometimes all do, she dismissed it as “nothing.”  She finally decided to visit her doctor after she discovered a strange bump under her ribcage.  Her doctor had her get an ultrasound the same day and that was followed by a CT scan the next morning.  The scan was on a Friday and her doctor called that afternoon, even though she was on vacation.  The news was that there was something in or on her liver – she (the doctor) wouldn’t say what – and she lined up an appointment for Carin with an oncologist the following week.  That weekend seemed longer and yet shorter than any weekend ever had.

 

The oncologist seemed concerned but hopeful.  After a battery of further tests and a biopsy, the result was worse than anyone could have imagined.  Carin was diagnosed with liver cancer - intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma - that had spread throughout her lymphatic system and to her lungs.  The bump she had felt under her ribs was the primary tumor which was already the size of a tennis ball.  There were treatments available but there was really no hope for a cure.  The news shook her to the core.  One day you're enjoying your son's first birthday, and a month later you find out you have a terminal illness.

 

Her oncologist had recommended she start treatment as soon as possible, but for not the first or last time, Carin decided her kids would come first.  She put off the treatment for a week; Halloween was only a few days away and she wouldn’t let cancer get in the way of their celebration.  Carin’s first chemotherapy treatment was on November 5th, 2010.  For 2 and a half years she went through treatment after procedure after treatment and dealt with all the side effects we hear about – nausea, fatigue, hair loss (then regrowth then loss again) – and many we don’t.  Her spirit was shaken but never broken.  She continued to do the everyday things we take for granted – watching your kids grow up; taking them to play dates and birthday parties; having nights out with your girlfriends.  As the disease began to take its toll, she reluctantly agreed to take Elisabeth and Andrew to daycare a few days a week so she could rest during the day.

 

Though cancer would claim her life it would never take her grace.  Rarely did she complain or ask why.  Life was too short to wallow in misery.  Along the way she participated in two clinical trials for experimental drugs, and was one of the first patients to receive a new radiation treatment. She ran a leg of the Maine Tri for a Cure, brought her kids to Disneyworld twice, watched her baby grow into a handsome little boy, and saw her little girl go to Kindergarten.  She never stopped being a grateful daughter, a wonderful friend, a caring spouse, or a loving mother.  She never stopped being Carin.


Carin passed away on Memorial Day 2013.  The cancer ravaged nearly her entire body but with the help of the New England Organ Bank, her corneas were donated so that two recipients might regain their sight.  Through her family and friends, her spirit lives on.

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