‘Her Fight is Our Fight’

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chatham-Kent council chambers were awash in pink last week in honour of colleague Melissa Harrigan.

Municipal council, staff and administration all donned T-shirts emblazoned with the message “Her Fight is Our Fight,” to support the West Kent councillor currently battling breast cancer.

“Melissa has been amazing around the horseshoe (council chambers) for the last four years and a bit,” Canniff said in his remarks to Harrigan, who attended the meeting virtually.

“We look forward to your speedy recovery,” Canniff said. “You are in our thoughts and prayers and we look forward to the day you’re sitting back in here.”

In a unanimous vote, council approved a three-month medical leave of absence for Harrigan from council with her duties temporarily redistributed to other council members.

In support of the motion, West Coun. Lauren Anderson called it a “no brainer” and offered a shout out to her fellow Ward 1 councillor.

 “We are all here with you, we’re all thinking of you and we just collectively ask that whoever, within Chatham-Kent and further, prays to, thinks about, talks to in their own private time, keep Melissa and her family in those thoughts as she fights through her battle,” Anderson said.

South Kent Coun. Anthony Ceccacci also chimed in, praising Harrigan for the “extraordinary value” she brings to council decisions.

In her comments to council, an upbeat Harrigan shared details of her battle. 

She will undergo chemotherapy until April, followed by surgery and further radiation treatment.

“I’m really dedicating my entire beginning of my treatment plan to being the healthiest I can be,” Harrigan told her fellow councillors, adding treatment is now her new “full time job.”

She added that while she is stepping away from official council duties, she wants to reassure constituents in Ward 1, she’s still ready to lend a listening ear. 

“While I am stepping away from formal obligations and meetings of council and council committee meetings, I am still your councillor,” Harrigan said. “I’m always up for a conversation about your hopes and dreams for our community.

“I feel strong. I feel supported and I feel ready to feel cancer free at the end of this road,” the veteran councillor added.

Harrigan said she wants to use her journey to raise funds and awareness about breast cancer. A total of 28,000 Canadian women and 270 men are diagnosed with the disease each year, but Harrigan stressed outcomes are good if the disease is detected early.

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