January 22, 2013

Feature obituary: Theresa Sawyer, 49, defied cystic fibrosis

By Melanie Creamer mcreamer@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

LYMAN – Theresa Sawyer, one of Maine's oldest residents to have lived with cystic fibrosis, who defied the odds and competed numerous times in the Beach to Beacon 10K road race and the Trek Across Maine, died Monday at Maine Medical Center. She was 49.

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Theresa Sawyer

Family photo

PASSAGES

Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.

Ms. Sawyer was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 2 and a half years old. Doctors did not expect the girl to reach her 15th birthday.

"She wanted to prove everyone wrong," said her mother, Dolores Chase, of Harwich, Mass.

And she did.

Ms. Sawyer grew up in Harwich and graduated from Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in 1983. Soon after, she moved to the Biddeford area.

She worked briefly at McDonald's in Biddeford, then worked at Dunkin' Donuts for eight years.

Ms. Sawyer was a longtime patient at Maine Medical Center's Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program.

For several years, she competed in the popular Beach to Beacon 10K road race, a 6.2-mile course from Cape Elizabeth's Crescent Beach to Portland Head Light.

She last ran in 2010 with two other cystic fibrosis patients, and a team of doctors, nurses and therapists from the cystic fibrosis clinic.

Ms. Sawyer also competed in the annual Trek Across Maine, a 3-day, 180-mile bicycle tour across the state. She also participated in Mary's Walk.

Ms. Sawyer used a portable oxygen concentrator machine to help her compete in these events.

Karen Jarosz, program coordinator of Maine Medical Center's Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program, said the average life expectancy of someone with cystic fibrosis is 37.8 years old. In April, Ms. Sawyer would have celebrated her 50th birthday.

She was one of the state's oldest people living with cystic fibrosis.

The program is currently treating a small number of individuals in their 50s and 60s with the disease.

Ms. Sawyer was remembered by Jarosz on Tuesday as a determined and resilient woman who lived life to its fullest.

"She was a remarkable lady," Jarosz said. "She was very strong. She didn't let her disease affect the way she wanted to live her life."

Ms. Sawyer, formerly of Kennebunk, was an active member of St. Martha's Church. She volunteered as a server at its monthly community breakfast.

"I admired her love of people," her mother said. "She always thought of others before herself."

Ms. Sawyer enjoyed knitting and crocheting She also loved her three Chihuahuas: Star, Casper and Megan.

"She loved her dogs. They were her life," Jarosz said.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com

 

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