Amy Richard made gingerbread houses with her children Owen and Olivia in their home in Hebron shortly before Christmas. Richard died Monday. She was 43. Sun Journal file photo
LEWISTON — Amy Richard, the beloved local nurse who worked with lung cancer patients before her own lung cancer diagnosis, died Monday. She was 43.
“There’s so many things I could say, but I can’t put anything into (words),” said her husband, Chris Richard. “There are so many things I want to say, but I want to say it all to her and I can’t.”
Richard was 41, a nonsmoker with no known exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in January 2018. Doctors later said her cancer was caused by a genetic mutation.
Months after her diagnosis, Richard shared her story with the Sun Journal, hoping to raise awareness that lung cancer can happen to anyone, even young nonsmokers. It was a fact she said she had never fully realized until her diagnosis, even though she was a nurse who worked for years with lung cancer patients at Central Maine Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery in Lewiston.
In the year and a half since Richard’s diagnosis, the community rallied around her, her husband and their children Olivia, 7, and Owen, 3. Richard was the focus of a number of local fundraisers, including the 2018 Celebration of Courage Co-ed Hockey Tournament. Her co-workers adopted the family at Christmas, complete with gifts for the kids.
At work at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, nurse Amy Richard, center, chatted last year with Danielle George, a physician assistant, and Dr. Carmine Frumiento, a cardiothoracic surgeon. Sun Journal file photo
“My co-workers are amazing,” Richard told the Sun Journal in December. “I swear, it was like a Hallmark Christmas movie.”
She said the abundance of community support — emotional and financial — was “overwhelming in a good way.”
Richard was taking a new gene-targeting therapy and while she was tired, in pain and not sleeping well, her condition seemed stable. Then, in February, her husband said, she started to cough up blood.
In April, the family-run Facebook page dedicated to Richard — Fight Like a Mother — updated her condition. Doctors found tumors in her airway and the cancer had mutated, the post said. Richard began radiation and chemotherapy.
“Things were OK. I mean, she made us think they were,” her husband said. “She didn’t tell us everything, I think.”
In July, the Facebook page gave a new update: The cancer had spread to her hip and spine.
Richard spent her last days as a patient at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, the hospital she knew well as a nurse. On Sunday, when it became apparent Richard would not be there to see her sister, Lori Ventimiglia, get married in September, CMMC’s nursing staff pulled together a wedding ceremony for her in the solarium down the hall.
“(Amy) had a smile. She didn’t have many words the past few days. Just a smile. And she clapped,” her husband said. “Twelve hours later, she was gone.”
Funeral arrangements were being finalized Tuesday. The family expects a scholarship fund will be established in her children’s names.
Chris Richard sat with his wife, Amy, at their home in Hebron shortly after her diagnosis last year. Sun Journal file photo
“She made some phenomenal babies,” he husband said. “These kids are so impressive. They’re holding all of us together. They’ve made a lot of heartbroken people laugh, and that’s a huge thing. It’s all about the kids and what they need.”
He said he was especially grateful for the support of friends, family and the community. That support is there, he said, because of his wife.
“I will always love her,” he said.
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