She created a team to raise money to fight breast cancer in honor of her friend

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor columnist

Published: 10-16-2023 10:44 AM

The skills that made Lois Brodsky a great teammate were painful to learn.

She turned a lonely, abusive childhood into empathy, learning to care so others would not have to experience what she did during the first eight years of her life. That’s why there was a new team participating in the 31st edition of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k walk Sunday at Memorial Field.

She founded a team this year dedicated to her friend, Carys McAvoy, who completed radiation treatment in July for breast cancer and is on the road to a full recovery.

While this was the first time she started her own team, Brodsky has been walking for years. She used to participate on a team honoring Tracey Tierney, who had breast cancer and died eight years ago.

Team Tracey still exists, and in fact, Brodsky’s son, Mike Tierney, remains a member and walked for his grandmother Sunday. He was there for the first one as well, hitching a ride with his pregnant mother, and he’s missed just one since that team’s birth.

Brodsky unveiled her own new team Sunday, recruiting 15 walkers for a crew that, like Team Tracey, could last as long as the walk does.

McAvoy appreciates her friend’s support.

“What she went through, that’s why she’s caring,” said the 37-year-old McAvoy, an academic adviser for nursing at Southern New Hampshire University. “That’s why she looks after people. Everything you go through forms you as a person one way or another, and this is how it formed her.”

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Brodsky’s youth included more twists and turns than Sunday’s 5k course around Concord. Her mother was deemed unfit to care for her. Brodsky began living in foster homes and she said her life was miserable through her early years in grade school.

“During that time, there were not a lot of standards in place for the foster care system,” said Brodsky, 41, a skin care consultant from Bedford. “Unfortunately, there are foster parents out there who take the money given to them and they don’t use it to take care of the kids. When they have seven or eight (foster) kids, you live in squalor.”

She turned her wounds into love for others.

“I didn’t have a support system,” she said. “I was abused at foster homes and I have no regrets because they built who I am today.”

She supported Tracey Tierney for the first time two decades ago, shortly after Tierney had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She walked with Tracey while pregnant, then brought Mike back over the ensuing years, pushing him in a stroller when he was a baby. Tracey’s grandson never left.

They were close. They went to the zoo, museums, the playground. “They did everything a grandma does with her grandson,” Brodsky said.

“I was at her house every weekend, sometimes during the week,” Mike said before Sunday’s walk. “We watched movies together on the couch.”

McAvoy said Brodsky’s effort to build a team in her name meant a lot.

“She gathered the team and rallied everyone and did what she could to promote it,” McAvoy said. “She made cookie treats for donors. She was really wonderful. She reached out.”

Mike stuck with his grandmother’s team Sunday, bypassing the new team his mother had created. He said he was torn. Brodsky had made the decision hard by supporting her friend.

“I was tempted to see if I could write both teams on the back of my shirt,” Mike said. “I had to think about it. Maybe next year.”

The event again proved to be a big fundraiser, raising $ 489,390 this year with the help of hundreds of walkers. 

Editor’s note: This article has been changed to clarify this year was the first time that Brodsky had created a team.