When Wendy Tarlow her partner, Claudia Patino Tarlow, welcomed their son Logan into the world in the spring of 2009, life was never more perfect for the Sag Harbor couple. A few months later, however, life would become all the more precious.
After battling with medical issues for the better part of three years, in July of 2009 Wendy was diagnosed with Follicular Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“Everything went from being perfect — living in Sag Harbor, buying a house from my dad, being a mother, exactly where I had always wanted to be — to boom, cancer,” said Wendy.
So she began a slew of grueling treatments in an effort to beat her cancer, drawing on the support of her family including her young son during her battle.
“I don’t think I would have made it through the last three years without him,” said Wendy. “He is a constant source of strength.”
Wendy has also found strength in fighting for other cancer survivors — not only in a quest for a cure, but for less toxic treatments as well to fight the disease in its many facets.
An advocate and administrator of the Beautiful and Bald Barbie movement, which successfully lobbied for the creation of bald Bratz and Moxie Girl “True Hope” dolls as a source of inspiration for children with cancer, Wendy also became involved with the Sag Harbor not-for-profit, Fighting Chance. Founded by Duncan Darrow in 2002, Fighting Chance was the first free cancer counseling and resource center on the East End and it provided Wendy with support during her battle with cancer. Fighting Chance also proved to be a source of inspiration for the former fitness trainer with a knack for website development.
While at the not-for-profit, Wendy happened across a poster promoting the first “Hamptons Swim to Fight Cancer,” a Swim Across America event organized by the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad.
Because Wendy was still reeling from treatment and unable to compete, Claudia quickly jumped at the opportunity to swim on her partner’s behalf and Team Tarlow was born.
“What is great about Swim Across America is it is the huge national organization with a number of events across the country and all of the money goes directly to research,” said Wendy.
The swim, which will be held this year on July 7 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. starting at Fresh Pond in Amagansett, offers swimmers the chance to compete in 3 mile, 1 mile and ½ mile courses. Swimmers fundraise by collecting pledges from residents and businesses and swimmers under age 18 must raise $300 to compete, while those over 19 are required to raise $500. Beneficiaries of the swim include Fighting Chance, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital Montefiore, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Team Tarlow raised about $7,000 its first year, adding to an overall fundraising goal of close to $100,000. Team Tarlow continued to grow in 2011. This year, Wendy and fellow Sag Harbor resident Melissa Ann Mitchell built a website for the event as well as a fan page and have been marketing Swim Across America through social media sites like Facebook.
Team Tarlow has also evolved into Team Tarlow & Hand, with Sag Harbor native Thomas Hand throwing his support behind the group.
“Tommy and I grew up together,” said Wendy. “I was a summer person from across the street, but we were both diagnosed with cancer at the same time.”
While Hand lives in Florida, he frequently visits the East End and has dedicated himself to helping fundraise for the “Hamptons Swim to Fight Cancer,” said Wendy. “The weight of his support is palpable.”
Wendy is hoping this year she is strong enough to complete the swim herself, but knows if she is not she will have an army of friends, family and community members behind her.
“We have 45 swimmers on our team right now,” said Wendy. “Last year we had seven. I owe a large part of this to Tommy.”
The event has already raised $55,079 of a $125,000 goal, with Team Tarlow & Hand raising over $26,000 on their own. But for Wendy, there is no end in how large this fundraiser could become and certainly no end to the kind of critical cancer research it supports.
“What I love about this and why I am involved is because almost 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to cancer research and everyone involved is a volunteer,” said Wendy. “For me, this is looking for a drug that can save lives.”
Team Tarlow & Hand will host a fundraiser at B. Smith’s in Sag Harbor on June 14 from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information on the swim, to sign up, donate or volunteer, visit http://www.teamtarlowsaa.com.