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A whale of a walk

Nancy Taylor (right) and her daughter Alyssa during a recent visit to Bryce Canyon in Utah.
Nancy Taylor (right) and her daughter Alyssa during a recent visit to Bryce Canyon in Utah.
Photo courtesy / Nancy Taylor

The Taylors are going to be doing some heavy-duty hiking--and not only for the fun of it.

Nancy Taylor and her daughter Alyssa Taylor, who both work in MIT's Division of Comparative Medicine (DCM), will walk 275 miles from the south end of Wales to the north end to benefit the American Cancer Society's work to fight ovarian cancer.

The trek will be challenging; about half of the ancient route called the Cambrian Way is on private land with rights of way and has no trail markers, so the pair will rely on compass, maps and a GPS device much of the time. The route is a mountainous one and includes a climb over the 3,560-foot Mt. Snowdon, the second highest peak in the British Isles.

Nancy Taylor, a laboratory manager and researcher in DCM, is a cancer survivor herself, but that wasn't her original motivation for the trip. She and her husband lived in Wales back in the 1970s, so a year ago, she decided to give Alyssa (now an assistant animal technician in DCM) an unusual college graduation gift--a walking trip in that country for both mother and daughter. However, the trip got postponed for a year, and in the interim, "I thought I could turn this into something that could benefit someone," she said.

Taylor first thought of a benefit for research and treatment of breast cancer, with which she was diagnosed in 1991, but instead opted to direct funds to ovarian cancer, which claimed the life of her mother-in-law and which a friend in the Division of Comparative Medicine (DCM) is now battling.

"It's such a devastating disease," Taylor said, noting that the symptoms are often vague or even absent until it's too late. "Breast cancer is very public, but you don't hear much about ovarian cancer."

Thanks to better screening and treatment in recent years, survival rates for breast cancer have been improving, but the survival rates for ovarian cancer are much lower. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there will be 25,580 estimated new cases of ovarian cancer this year and 16,090 deaths. By comparison, there will be an estimated 217,440 new cases of breast cancer and 40,580 deaths in 2004.

The Taylors are looking for people to sponsor them with donations in any amount. All checks made out to the ACS and sent to Nancy Taylor in Room 16-869 will specifically benefit the organization's ovarian cancer work. For more information, contact her at

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