During her courageous and challenging eight-year battle with breast cancer, Nancy Anne Kane never forgot the most important thing in her life — how to be a good mom.

Ms. Kane, a 50-year-old single mother and longtime Gorham resident, died Thursday in Portland, surrounded by her family. She leaves behind a 17-year-old son, Ben.

“She had a deep, true love for her son. He was her rock. That’s what kept her going all these years,” said Ms. Kane’s sister, Colleen Swett Griffin of Gorham.

Griffin cared for her sister during the final months of her life, building an addition to her home for Ms. Kane and her son to live in.

Born in Portland, Ms. Kane grew up in Gorham and graduated from Gorham High School in 1979. She attended the University of Maine in Orono, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in art education.

After graduation, she began teaching special education classes in Gorham and Portland schools. From there, she went on to teach art at Auburn and Sanford middle schools.

Ms. Kane eventually left the public school system to work at the Sappi Fine Paper Technology Center and at Unum.

In 2003 she was forced to leave her job at Unum after being diagnosed with Stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer, an aggressive cancer that left her no other choice but to seek treatment.

Her son expressed his love for his mother, who began losing her hair, by shaving his head.

“Her doctor never gave her a time limit. She just kept fighting,” Griffin said.

In 2005, The Portland Press Herald published a column about her battle with cancer. It was written by a free-lance writer who met Ms. Kane and was inspired by her courage.

Ms. Kane told the writer that she went undiagnosed for a year, explaining that inflammatory breast cancer doesn’t present itself in a mammogram or ultrasound. By the time she had an MRI, the cancer had spread to her liver and bones.

She told the writer how she struggled to break the news to her son and her family.

“I’m putting on my boxing gloves,” Ms. Kane told her son. “He is my reason for fighting so hard. I can’t give up. Mentally and spiritually, I’m very strong. We can’t choose what we are dealt in life. We can only choose how we deal with it.”

Her sister said the Gorham community rallied behind Ms. Kane. People delivered meals to her home, sent her cards and money, did her grocery shopping and shoveled her driveway during the winter months.

“As a single parent, this meant the world. All my day-to-day responsibilities were eliminated, allowing me to focus on fighting my disease,” she told the paper.

Ms. Kane never got to see the milestone in her son’s life that she had hoped to witness — his graduation from Gorham High, where he is a junior. He is determined to pursue his college degree, “for her and for himself,” Griffin said.

In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can be made to the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine, 100 Campus Drive, Suite 108, Scarborough, ME 04074.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]