Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Erin Howarth

'Cancer warrior' Erin Howarth loses a bravely fought battle

Erin Howarth lived thinking she would beat cancer. “Never in a million years did we believe this would get on top of us,” said her husband, Adam. “We believed we did too much research, too much work. We worked too hard.”

Erin Howarth (2010)

Erin Howarth lived thinking she would beat cancer. “Never in a million years did we believe this would get on top of us,” said her husband, Adam. “We believed we did too much research, too much work. We worked too hard.”

TAMPA — Carli Segelson knew her friend's radiant smile well.

But that day it was different.

Erin Howarth, a college student in Pennsylvania, had scheduled a trip to the dentist. When she came back, she flashed her roommate the smile. On one of her upper front teeth, a clear gemstone glistened back at her.

Segelson laughed.

"That was just her," she said. "She could pull off anything. She could put on a burlap sack and make it look good."

Or a sparkly tooth gem.

She had eclectic taste. She loved to travel, was infamously kind, notoriously messy. A worshiper of Lady Gaga. She drove a yellow-and-black Mini Cooper with a "bumblebee" vanity plate on the front.

She was also a "cancer warrior," in her words.

After she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in November 2008 at age 31, Mrs. Howarth, of Orlando, fought back. She underwent more than 100 chemotherapy sessions, going into remission twice. The cancer kept returning.

On Oct. 17, she lost her battle. She was 34.

The grave diagnosis never kept her from living. It fueled her.

"Cancer only got one day a week from us," said husband Adam, 35, who would drive her to H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa for treatment. "The other six days were for us."

They did a lot in those years.

They went to England and Spain to visit his family. Trekked to Las Vegas and Napa Valley, Los Angles and New York. Took road trips and went on cruises. She swam with Winter the dolphin at the Clearwater Aquarium.

Their biggest adventure came in May 2010. With the cancer in remission, the pair sojourned with family members and a host of close friends to Spain for their wedding. They exchanged vows in a 14th century palace.

"It was a fairy tale wedding," said Segelson, 34. "That's how she lived her life."

She was determined to do it right. That meant getting the right dress.

She applied for a chance to go on the TLC show Say Yes to the Dress. A broadcast communications major, she was a natural in front of the camera.

She had that smile.

The show liked her and her powerful story of survival. She appeared on an episode called "Dress Mates" in June 2010. She got her dream dress.

The Howarths lived thinking they'd beat cancer.

"Never in a million years did we believe this would get on top of us," Adam Howarth said. "We believed we did too much research, too much work. We worked too hard."

Both credited the widely debated drug Avastin for the extra years they got, he said.

In August 2010, the St. Petersburg Times profiled Mrs. Howarth and her use of the drug, which targets cancerous cells, starving them of the blood they need to grow. The Food and Drug Administration is poised to rescind approval of the drug for treating breast cancer.

Adam Howarth called the decision "a travesty."

"What about the women it does work for?" he asked.

She never hid from the disease, her husband said. She never let it stop her from experiencing the world.

"She wanted to live so much," Adam Howarth said.

Erin Howarth

Born: April 13, 1977

Died: Oct. 17, 2011

Survivors: husband, Adam; father and mother, Bob and Nora Painter; brother Daniel Painter.

'Cancer warrior' Erin Howarth loses a bravely fought battle 10/26/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 27, 2011 7:54am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.