Time moves more quickly than even the cliché can capture. For Stacy Quarty, sometimes it is hard to believe it’s been more than a decade and a half since her dear friend Lucia Terzi Bagan was in her year-and-a-half long battle with breast cancer, or that it was all the way back in 2006 that Lucia’s passing led to the founding of the Hamptons-based nonprofit that bears her name.
When Lucia became ill with breast cancer, the South Fork Breast Health Coalition offered emotional and some financial support, recalls Quarty, President of Lucia’s Angels, and she went into somewhat of a remission. “Immediately she was like gangbusters. ‘Okay, what can I do to support the coalition?’ She became a very active volunteer, dove right into it, was collecting donations for fundraisers and things like that, and then when she became ill again and was no longer able to get out there into the community, she said to me, ‘Well, you have to go around town asking for donations—and you tell them that I can’t do it and you have to collect for me and they better give big this year, because I’m dying.’”
Quarty chuckles at the memory, the joy of recalling her friend’s passion. “She really put herself out there. Her generous nature was contagious, and that’s how Lucia’s Angels was formed, because we wanted to continue her dream of helping others and supporting others the way she was supported by her own group of friends.”
Lucia’s Angels remains committed to supporting women and families on the East End in the battle with stage four women’s cancers, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer and uterine cancer. The needs facing these individuals range from physical and emotional to financial, and Lucia’s Angels has offered aid in helping relieve the stress on patients and their families in such ways as gasoline gift cards, grocery gift cards, heating bills, dental work, housecleaning, rent, eyeglasses, food trains, babysitting, heating bills, health insurance premiums, automobile repair, ambulatory trips, therapeutic massage, transportation, salon services and wigs.
As they expanded their mission over the years, Lucia’s Angels also became united with the Coalition for Women’s Cancers at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, of which Quarty is vice president. Now these two sister organizations work hand-in-hand. “The Coalition’s primary use is to educate people about early detection, help new people who are diagnosed through treatment, and give physical, emotional and some financial support,” offers Quarty. “Lucia’s Angels is for stage four breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine cancer treatment, and their needs are unique, because they have all kinds of emotional needs, and also financial needs that are so different than just ‘Can you pay my rent because I can’t work this week because I’m getting chemo.’”
The age of COVID-19 has presented challenges, of course, to Lucia’s Angels volunteers as they work stay connected to those they aid. In addition to private, invitation only, online support group on Facebook, these days Lucia’s Angels has been hosting a number of support groups and wellness programs via Zoom, including their boxing program for cancer survivors with a pro boxer from Gotham Gym. “That has helped our survivors stay together, see each other and thrive.”
The chance to bring people together, to offer special moments, remains a key aspect of the group’s mission. “When Lucia was sick, she had so many really close friends surrounding her and her family in her final days. She was able to get a lot of love and support,” Quarty says. “And one of things that we did do for her was we hired an ambulance to take her to the beach one more time, so she could just stick her toes in the sand, and that was well worth the investment.”
The idea of making such special moments possible. “We had one woman who had a daughter in Portugal and she couldn’t afford to come see her mother before she died, so we paid for her ticket and her hotel stay and had her come see her mom, which was beautiful. There are so many examples of things we’ve been able to do as last wishes, and it’s a really nice thing.
“A lot of people are afraid to ask for too much,” she continues. “They say ‘No, somebody else needs it more than me,’ and we have to insist. That’s what we’re here for, that’s why we get donations, please let us spend some money on you.”