When Margaret Flowers learned her mother was facing metastatic breast cancer, she made the decision to be with her. She loaded up her van and drove across the country from Arizona to her mother’s home in Wilmington, DE.
“I remember how small she looked standing at the doorstep,” Margaret said recalling that day in 1991 when she arrived at her mother’s home. “She’d had some rough days before with chemotherapy and would usually rebound. As weeks went on, it became harder to believe that she was going to get well again.”
Margaret’s mother passed away four months later. During that time, she cared for her.
“Not only did it give me the opportunity to share what may have been the most intimate time in my mother’s life, but it changed who I am,” she said.
After her mother’s passing, Flowers returned to Tucson and continued her career as a chef. However, while working at the Canyon Ranch Resort & Spa, the resort’s emphasis on whole body wellness reignited her lifelong interest in health. At age 40, nearly a decade after her mother’s death, she decided to return to college to follow her passion in health and nutrition.
There, she was inspired by one of her professors to pursue cancer research.
“A light bulb went off in my head during one of his lectures. He was talking about how tamoxifen had changed the treatment of ER positive disease,” she said. “At that moment, I felt a sense of empowerment that really counteracted the helplessness I felt when I was taking care of my mother.”
Margaret completed her PhD in Nutritional Science and Cancer Biology at age 49 followed by a two-year postdoctoral fellowship. Realizing her dream of a career in academic cancer research was probably unrealistic, she entered the nonprofit space which eventually brought her to BCRF.
Today Margaret is BCRF’s Director of Scientific Communications and Grants where she oversees BCRF’s $59.5 million grants program and helps bridge the gap between the investigators and the BCRF community by providing timely content on the latest advancements in breast cancer research.
“I have the unique privilege of working with some of the best minds in breast cancer research,” she said. Following their research projects keeps her up to date with the latest scientific discoveries in the field.
“I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of breast cancer research. That really is one of the highlights of my job and my life,” she says.
Margaret remains driven by the memory of her mother. A photo of her sits at her desk.
“My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984. She was treated with the tools they had. And they worked for a time. But they ultimately failed her,” she says.
“My hope – and the hope of all of the scientists who we fund – is that the story will change.”