Meet the Models, New England: Lilly Beck

Lilly Beck was in second grade when her mom, Noreen, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After finding a lump, a subsequent mammogram revealed the diagnosis. Though certain aspects of Lilly’s life remained normal, she was aware her mom was sick in some ways: “my mom was in between telling us nothing and telling us everything. I was only in second grade, my brother in preschool, so she did everything possible to keep our lives normal, but it was hard to ignore that she wore a wig sometimes and had to get her femur replaced. I was really lucky and fortunate though and not everyone is.” 

Lilly’s mom went on to “kick breast cancer’s butt” for ten years. In the process, she began Just Cause, a breast cancer organization that primarily focused on a yearly walk from Bolton to Concord. Eventually, Lilly’s mom got more sick and even when hospitalized, Lilly still believed her mom would rebound: “I remember Lance Armstrong was on tv in her hospital room and I thought oh that’ll be her- a cancer survivor. She always just bounces back.” Unfortunately, five days later, Noreen Beck passed away. Lilly was just 18, a senior in high school at the time. Her brother was a freshman and when prompted about how difficult a time that is for children, she notes “It wasn’t perfect timing, but at least we were at the same school at the time.” 

After Noreen’s passing, Lilly jumped right into college: “I thought the good way to deal with it was to not think of it, so I sort of threw myself into athletics and academics. I pushed all my energy into other things.” She acknowledges how amazing her mom was to set up a care network saying, “she arranged great support- she set up the walk that I could do to memorize her through every year. We buried my mom’s ashes by our summer home- a place that smelled and reminded me of her. She really put things in place to make sure my brother and I had a happy life after her passing. She still is so present.” 

Today, Lilly is working with a geneticist to arrange genetic testing to better understand her own risk. Though her next steps are unclear, she feels more powerful knowing she may have access to a greater understanding of her risks than her mom did in 1997. Even more exciting is that she is set to wed her fiancé in September. It’s a milestone she will certainly miss her mother’s presence at, but as is the trickiness of grief, she most feels her mother’s absence during these months of planning: “I know I’ll miss her a lot on the day, but it’s really the planning where I miss her. We would have bonded and done it together and laughed over all the small things. She would have crushed it.” Fitting perhaps then that shortly after her wedding, Lilly will take to the runway to honor her mother’s spirit, one that so clearly remains alive and thriving through her spectacular daughter.