The winter 2015–16 issue of Wagner Magazine is full of amazing personal stories from alumni (Erik Unhjem ’72, Katherine Klimacek O’Connor Beiter ’62, and Susan Moffat ’98) who have been slammed by the school of hard knocks. Let me here present you with one more.
On October 2015, I received an email from Becky Giannatasio McCoy ’08, which began this way: “I’ve been very nostalgic since I realized it’s been 11 years since I was a freshman at Wagner. It seems like yesterday and a century ago all at the same time. My story is a unique and difficult one, but I feel like it began with the confidence I gained as a Wagner College student.”
‘Wonderful (even joyful) things come out of struggle.’
In 2007, Becky’s fiancé, Keith McCoy, battled anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. He went into remission, and they got married. After she completed a master’s in teaching physics and he finished medical school, they moved to Las Vegas for his family medicine residency at Nellis Air Force Base.
They were overjoyed when she became pregnant. Just a few months later, however, they found out her father had cancer. Her son, Caleb, was born on October 30, 2012, and her father died the next day.
The next year, Keith was assigned to Andrews Air Force Base, and they moved to the D.C. area. Becky deeply grieved the loss of her father, but the family was healing and thriving. Becky became pregnant again in the summer of 2014.
“A few months later,” Becky wrote, “Keith began experiencing drenching night sweats. After countless appointments and procedures, he was given a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of unknown primary — a different cancer than the one he battled while we were engaged in my senior year at Wagner. He was diagnosed the week before Christmas and passed away January 5, 2015, six days before his 33rd birthday.”
Their daughter, Libby, was born a month later, on February 4.
Becky and the children moved back to Connecticut, where she had grown up, to be near family. And then, encouraged by a friend, she decided to do something extraordinary: Even though she had never been a runner and was recovering from a caesarean section, she trained and ran the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon in memory of Keith, an avid runner. She and a team of friends raised funds to help medical missionaries in Bolivia and to give book scholarships to students at Keith’s medical school.
“The race itself was horrible, but I am thankful for all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way,” she wrote.
Becky has incredible, hard-won wisdom to share, which she does beautifully on her blog. I encourage you to read it. You can also hear her speak with guests about the topic of “grace during unexpected times” on her new podcast, Stories of Unfolding Grace. I hope that sharing her story and those of her fellow “Lifesavers” helps someone out there who, in Becky’s words, “needs to hear that grief is not the end and that wonderful (even joyful) things come out of struggle.”
— Laura Barlament, Editor, Wagner Magazine
Read more about Becky's podcast at The Day, a newspaper covering eastern Connecticut.