The Voorheesville community came together to support a phenomenal woman who fought and won against a horrible beast

— Photo from Rebecca Tillou

Purple and proud of it: Eighty-eight people, many of them wearing purple, Voorheesville’s school color, participated in the 2018 Teal Ribbon Run/Walk in Albany in support of Voorheesville music teacher Mary Teresa Morgan. Congressman Paul Tonko is kneeling at center front.

— Photo from Rebecca Tillou

Dr. Mary Teresa Morgan, second from left, stands with her troupe — from left, Marilyn Noval; Morgan; Kristi Riccio; and Christina Noval, Marilyn’s daughter — at the 2017 Teal Ribbon Run/Walk.

To the Editor:

This is a story of an unrelenting spirit that fought and beat cancer, and the making of a village.

There is a saying, “It takes a village ….” When I became a parent, I finally understood what this meant. In order to be able to accomplish many of life’s events that your children and you have simultaneously, it takes the support of family and friends.

This saying “ran” through my head as I ran the 2018 Teal Ribbon Run/Walk in Albany on Sept. 9. The Teal Ribbon is a run/walk to support and bring awareness to ovarian cancer. It is held in September because September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.

What would make me think of the saying, “It takes a village,” as I am huffing and puffing my way through Washington Park, you may ask. Well, grab a few tissues, and pull up a seat.

Her name is Dr. Mary Teresa Morgan. She has been a teacher since 1986. In September of 1992, she began a music teaching career at Voorheesville Elementary School

Dr. Morgan is inspired by music. She loves music, and she adores teaching it.

In late July of 2006, Dr. Morgan’s life took an unpredicted turn, as life often does. This turn was down a dark and twisty road. She was diagnosed with Grade 3 aggressive ovarian cancer.

“I shouldn’t be here,” Dr. Morgan told me.

She fought, and she fought hard. She had the support of her students, family, and friends. She had her faith.

Dr. Morgan underwent surgery on Aug. 14, 2007 and then began six rigorous months of chemotherapy.  The odds were against her, but she pushed back hard, and won. She beat ovarian cancer.

Once the chemo treatments were over, Dr. Morgan had to take time to heal. It took two years after the last chemo treatment for her body to completely recover.

After she beat the cancer, she became an advocate for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. She started walking the Teal Ribbon Walk/Run in Albany. She would go with a friend or three, and show her support.

Prior to being diagnosed with cancer, Dr. Morgan was healthy, and active; she used to run 5K races.  Although the cancer and the surgery may have changed up her exercise routine, she is still out in the community, fighting to cure ovarian cancer.

Dr. Morgan explained to me that she only had a sizable team for the Teal Ribbon Run/Walk for three years following her surgery. The first year, she was home in a wheelchair recovering from surgery, but many Voorheesville community members went to the walk for her and they won the award for the largest team. The members of the varsity girls’ basketball team and the Voorheesville Elementary teachers were heavily involved in organizing the event.

At the 2017 Teal Ribbon Run/Walk, a Voorheesville mom and resident Jennifer Grant ran into Dr. Morgan. Jen was unaware Dr. Morgan was a survivor.  

Many of the families in Jen and my children’s generation in Voorheesville were not aware of Dr. Morgan’s story. So, when Jennifer Grant heard Dr. Morgan’s survivor story, she decided to bring the story to light again, and keep the fire burning.

At the end of the 2017-18 school year, every Voorheesville Elementary School student brought home an invitation for the 2018 Teal Ribbon Run/Walk. Jen took time to create and send out the invitation to all the students’ families.

Included was an invite to join her in a Couch-to-5K running program in Voorheesville to prepare for this run/walk. In the beginning paragraphs of the invitation were a first-person account of Dr. Morgan’s victorious battle with ovarian cancer.

The name of the group that runs and walks for Dr. Morgan is MT’s Troupe. Shirts were designed in Dr. Morgan’s honor.

Dr. Morgan stated to me that she thinks Jen “is an angel.” Jennifer Grant is most certainly an angel, I think many would agree.

I have known Jennifer Grant in passing over the past few years, but this summer and fall I got to know her as I ran with her, and she pushed me, and inspired me. She chatted away as we ran, to take our minds off the fatigue and pain of running.

Always with a you-can-do-it attitude, Jennifer Grant showed me I can achieve my goals. She has become a friend to me, and becomes a friend to all she meets.

Race day came, and I hate to admit to this, but I had never met Dr. Morgan in person. My oldest son is now a fifth-grader! Yet, I now had my chance, and I was so inspired by her story, I waited with extreme excitement.

Dr. Morgan is a picture of pure joy. Her radiant curly hair frames a face of beauty and her blue eyes sparkle with life and happiness. She smiles with her eyes.

I arrived at the race with a couple of other women. Dr. Morgan and one of the women embraced. Dr. Morgan thanked her for coming out to support her and the fight against ovarian cancer.

My other friend then walked up and hugged Dr. Morgan. As Dr. Morgan came over to me to express her gratitude, I watched as her face began to slowly contort to one of surprise, and genuine awe.

One by one, people waited patiently for their turn to hug the fighter, the survivor, the one and only Dr. Morgan. As Dr. Morgan turned to face the growing line of supporters, she placed her hands on her cheeks.

She explained how most other years only a handful of supporters would join her in her successful fight against ovarian cancer. This year? 88. This is the number of runners and walkers in the 2018 MT’s Troupe.

This is only the beginning. The look of awe, surprise, and gratitude on Dr. Morgan’s face was one that will always be etched in my memory. The Voorheesville community came together for a great cause — to support a phenomenal woman who fought and won against a horrible beast.

It really does take a village to accomplish great things. This time, the village of Voorheesville joined together to support Dr. Morgan in bringing awareness of this silent disease, and to support the fight for a cure.

The Voorheesville community will continue to march forward, moving to the music of Dr. Morgan’s inspiring story of fighting cancer to its end.

Rebecca Tillou


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