Mother battling cancer honoured for courage
Lieutenant-governor presents Harbour Grace’s Erin Follett with Fortitude Medal
It was a day Second Lt. Erin Follett of the Harbour Grace Church Lads Brigade (CLB) will likely never forget.
Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan, with his wife Patricia, honoured the 35-year-old mother of three with a prestigious medal on Tuesday, Nov. 25.
The Fortitude Medal is an award bestowed upon those who have continued their hard work and dedication, demonstrating mental and emotional strength through pain or adversity. Erin, now battling an aggressive form of breast cancer, is only the second person in the province to receive it.
The presentation meant a lot to the Fagans, the couple told The Compass. They lost their son, Dr. Richard Fagan, to cancer in 2012 when he was only 25.
With a a pink bandana on her head and dressed in her CLB uniform, Erin graciously let Patricia Fagan pin the medal to her chest.
For a moment, Erin’s eyes welled up with tears, but once her kids and husband Wal ly joined her, she smiled.
“I can’t describe the feeling of everybody coming up here, a service just for (me),” Erin told The Compass after the presentation. “It’s surreal.”
On April 30 of this year Erin was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer — an aggressive type of cancer.
Since being diagnosed, she has remained in high spirits, not letting the news bring her down. She is in stage four, with the cancer having spread to other organs.
She didn’t let her illness interfere with her life, or the lives of her family members.
In fact, only two week after getting diagnosed, Erin took part in her oldest daughter Alexandra’s Junior High graduation, followed by a joint birthday party for her two youngest children, Matthew and Abigale.
She has stood by her kids, supporting everything they have chosen to do. Alexandra decided to shave her head to raise money for cancer research, although Erin was against it at first. In the end, she said yes, and Alexandra raised $1,400.
Her children have helped encourage her, and she kept fighting for them. She began chemotherapy on May 22.
Erin’s determination only grew. As treatments continued, so did her dedication to her family, but also to the different organizations and groups.
She took part in the Relay for Life in June, had her children involved in different sports and maintained her membership in the CLB.
The CLB has been a big part of Erin’s life, and the lives of her children. She is an officer with the company, and her children are members. Even battling an illness, Erin worked hard to be a part of all events the CLB was involved in.
For Memorial Day, July 1, she wasn’t well enough to march in the parade, but Erin made sure she was there. If she wasn’t in the hospital for Remembrance Day, she would have been at the ceremony in Harbour Grace as well.
Erin learned in October she would receive the Fortitude Medal from Lt.-Gov. Fagan. She was too ill to make it to an earlier ceremony, so her father accepted the medal on her behalf. However, he didn’t come home with it.
The Fagans decided to hold off on giving out the medal, instead making an extra trip to Harbour Grace last week to present it to Erin in person.
Some 75 people gathered at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Harbour Grace to watch Erin receive her medal.
Although the day was positive, Erin was still fighting her battle. She began a new round of a different chemotherapy drug that same morning.
“Today was rough,” she explained. “But I’m not ready to give up.”
Erin Follett (back left) received the prestigious Fortitude Medal last month after continuing to volunteer with the CLB and other organizations while battling breast cancer. Her family, her support system, stood by her side throughout the ceremony. Members of the Follett family are Matthew (front left), Abigale (front right), Erin (back left), Wally (back centre) and Alexandra.