MAYWOOD, Ill. - When Caitlin Garvey was on the Oak Park River Forest High School swim team, her biggest fan was her mom.
Denise Garvey never missed her daughter's meets, even while being treated for breast cancer.
Denise Garvey of Oak Park died June 8 at age 52. On Saturday, July 19, Caitlin will be swimming in her mom's memory at the annual Swim Across America fundraiser at Ohio Street Beach. Caitlin's goal was to raise $13,000. She already has raised more than $20,000.
The event will benefit the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center at Loyola Unversity Hospital in Maywood, where Denise Garvey was treated.
Caitlin Garvey, 19, recently finished her freshman year at Notre Dame University, where she played water polo. She still swims 3,000 yards (1.7 miles) four days a week. At the Swim Across America event, Caitlin 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 donations have funded a novel drug study Albain and colleagues are doing. The experimental drug potentially could improve cure rates for women in the future. "I am honored her daughter's swimming efforts will bring more funds into our cancer research program," Albain said. Albain is a professor in the division of hematology/oncology, Department of Medicine, at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
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."
Denise also is survived by her husband, Edward, and two other daughters, Meaghan and Sarah. "She always supported us," Caitlin said. "She was always there for us."
Swim Across America is a non-competitive event. At 8 a.m., more than 160 swimmers will begin swimming one of four distances: ½- mile, 1 mile, 1.5 miles and 3 miles. Events in prior years have raised a total of $500,000 for the Bernardin Center. Organizers expect to raise about $200,000 this year.
Other swimmers include Phil Dodson of Wilmette, who has survived four cancers, and Heidi Musser of Chicago, who is blind. Musser will be guided by Swim Across America executive director Janel Jorgensen, a former Olympic swimmer who won a silver medal in 1988.
Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus and 22 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 570-licensed bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Health & Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 250-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Health & Fitness Center and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.