Nancy McGuire is a retired fraud investigator for the Los Angeles Unified School District who lives in Pasadena, California.
Nancy McGuire is a retired fraud investigator for the Los Angeles Unified School District who lives in Pasadena, California.

Nancy McGuire is living life as big as she can. 

And she’s living it with a diagnosis of Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC). A retired fraud investigator for the Los Angeles public schools, and a former manager of the West Coast office of the famous Pinkerton National Detective Agency, she beat breast cancer once, only to face it again in 2022 – this time with a grimmer diagnosis of two years to live.

“I was resigned,” she said. “I was preparing to live for two years. It was horrible. I was thinking, ‘It’s been a good ride.’ But I realized I want to keep riding. I wanted to stop thinking that I have to quit living and start thinking like I want to keep living.” She’s applied that thinking to everything she does, from spending time with her family (eight step-children, 27 step-grandchildren and 53 step-great-grandchildren and one step-great-great grandchild), to singing and performing with three different groups, to regular get-togethers with friends, to weekly meetings with her cancer support group, to a recent Mediterranean cruise with three of her closest friends. They call themselves the 'Three Widows and a Wife' club.

McGuire also found that some of the women in her support group had received similar diagnoses, but were living well beyond the 24 to 26 months that had been predicted. Since her first battle with cancer, she says, 'miracle combo' drugs have been developed that have been effective in treatment. She is grateful for her insurance which covers the cost of those treatments, which would be otherwise out of her reach at $15,000 a month.

“I thought to myself, ‘Why would I just lie here and die?’” she says. “Why not get up and live?”
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How does it feel to be 72?

"It really doesn’t feel any different than being 52 or 42. Or even 32. Were it not for mirrors and all those pesky milestone birthday parties, I might not cop to being 72. Oh, lots of things don’t work like they used to (What do you expect? All the parts ARE original) but it’s just a slowdown, not yet a stoppage."

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What do you look forward to?

"I’m trying to actually look forward and not think of this cancer as a death sentence. So, that said, my “normal answer” would be: Learning Stuff. Doing Music. Reading Books. And always: Finding and eating the perfect Caesar salad."

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What is your biggest concern?

"THE future? Or MY future? I fear for THE future – especially with regard to women. Watching abortion rights dissolve before my eyes after I fought so hard for them FIFTY years ago, was unbe-f**king-lievable. The ramifications will be mind-blowing – destroying progress we have made in civil rights, childrens’ programs and our education system. I loved growing up in the 50s but NOBODY wants to return to that era of repression. I’m concerned that the future looks like that. Already our (grand) kids have their heads so buried in their phones they won’t notice when their last constitutional right is gone."

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Life expectancy 2023

United States

About the photographer

Sara Terry


Sara Terry is an award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker, and a member of VII photo agency, who is best known for her work as a post-conflict storyteller.

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