It was July 2009, and Morgan Thompson was 26 and living her dream, working for Redbook magazine in New York City, when a surgeon delivered shocking news.
A swollen lymph node, just above her left collarbone, had turned out to be malignant – Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Thompson burst into tears. Then she turned to her family and friends for support. She was told by doctors that, if she had to get cancer, this was the kind to get because the cure rate is high, 90 percent or better.
But after six months of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, her scans still showed the presence of cancer cells. Her disease was more aggressive than most, and four years later, she continues treatment, taking experimental drugs as part of a clinical trial.
Now 30, Thompson will tell her story Friday at a fundraiser for the Belva Wallace Greenage Cancer Foundation. The Charlotte-based group was created in 2010 by Belva Greenage, a two-time cancer survivor, former bank executive and publisher of Today’s Charlotte Woman.
Thompson’s mother, Linda Lockman-Brooks, a Charlotte marketing executive, became friends with Greenage when both worked at Bank of America. Lockman-Brooks admired the way Greenage handled her disease and turned to her for advice and comfort when her daughter was diagnosed.
“One of the first calls I made was to Belva,” Lockman-Brooks said. “She was really my safe place.”
This spring, when Greenage was planning her fifth annual “Coffee & Conversation” program, she invited Thompson to be a speaker. She wanted someone young to talk about “claiming your best life,” Lockman-Brooks said. Coincidentally, Thompson’s new job as associate merchandising director with Seventeen magazine would be bringing her to Raleigh this week. She accepted the invitation.
Other speakers will be Moira Quinn, also a cancer survivor and senior vice president for communications at Charlotte Center City Partners, and Dr. Russell Greenfield with Greenfield Integrative Healthcare.
“I want my daughter to live the best life she can live,” said Lockman-Brooks, who will be in the audience with her husband, Wil Brooks, a State Farm insurance agent.
“These are the cards she’s been dealt, but I’m so pleased that she’s living her best life, and she’s taking care of herself. That’s the best message for me.”
In an interview, Thompson acknowledged there have been times over the years when she felt defeated. But she refused to let cancer define her. A 2004 journalism graduate from UNC Chapel Hill, she continues to pursue her career goals and also married Ross Thompson on June 4, 2011, while in the midst of chemotherapy.
Cancer “is just a part of my life now,” Thompson said. “I think about it, but my life is so full that I don’t dwell on it.
“This is an awful thing that has happened to me, but I won’t let it keep me from reaching for my dreams.”
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