Concord students walk to fight cancer

Last month under a bright, blue sky, Rosemary Goodman watched hundreds of teenagers walk the Concord High School track in her honor.

She knew most of them didn't know exactly who the woman was behind the Rosemary Goodman Walk for Hope, or that the $5 they paid to participate would go to Caring for the Community, a local nonprofit that helps cancer patients pay their medical bills.

"The kids are going to pay $5 to get out of class," said Goodman. "If I said $10, they would probably pay $10."

As they filtered out of the main building, down the asphalt path painted with bright yellow spiders - the school's mascot - that lead to the stadium, many students passed Goodman, who spent four years as a student at their school, then returned five years later to spend 40 more, in a variety of roles from treasurer to secretary to cheerleading coach.

When Goodman retired in 2007, she refused to have a retirement celebration or any fuss made about her departure. But when her colleagues approached her with the idea of the walk, she approved.

The walk continues to raise close to $4,500 each year.

Goodman knows the money raised during the annual walk will pay the cost of a mammogram for someone who can't afford it, or the cost of transportation to the hospital for a patient who is undergoing a cycle of radiation treatment. Anyone suffering from the disease who needs a little financial help can benefit.

To the kids, she knows the $5 is considered a bargain-price ticket out of class for the afternoon. That's OK. She understands. "See, they're young. They are like me. They don't think this could happen to them."

Goodman graduated in 1962, and 16 years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Even though her own mother died from the disease when Goodman was 20, breast cancer didn't concern her much when she was young.

"That's nothing I even thought about," she said. "I really did not think about it."

Back then, the hereditary ties of breast cancer were not well known.

The way the disease was treated has changed considerably since 1978, when Goodman first felt the lump in her breast and went into surgery not knowing if it was cancerous. "I woke up, and it was over," she said.

"Back then, you signed a paper that you will agree to anything necessary when you're asleep." When the anesthesia wore off, Goodman awoke to learn she did have cancer, and the surgeon had performed a radical mastectomy.

Today, suspicion of cancer is often confirmed by more than one test, and a team of specialists then work together to explain a patient's many options for treatment. Goodman, who didn't want to wait around for test results, then wait for treatment to begin, is OK with how her situation was handled back then. "Discover it and fix it and move on," she said.

"That's Rosemary," said Pat Woods, who has known Goodman for more than 35 years. Woods met the lady affectionately referred to at Concord High School as the queen spider while working as an assistant principal at the school.

"She knew something had to be done, so she did it. She's always been that way about anything she's had to do," said Woods. "She tackles it head on."

Goodman is pleased that the walk supports a local charity.

"I want it to be personal," said Goodman. "...I just like that it stays in Concord. If I have a friend who needs something, there is a place to go."