UC Berkeley Senior Had 'Passion to Live'

Photo: Danesha
McCoy
Danesha McCoy


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UC Berkeley senior Danesha McCoy died March 1 after a lengthy battle with the cancer that she had beaten once before in childhood. She was 22.

Friends described McCoy as a dedicated student and friend, a confident and nurturing individual, an artist, a writer, a tennis player and a computer whiz who did not let her illness define who she was or what she was capable of.

"She had goals in life and a passion to live," said friend and Alpha Omicron Pi sorority sister Denise Rodriguez in an e-mail. "Everyday she strived to get closer to reaching her dreams no matter what challenge life presented."

McCoy was dedicated to her sociology major and was involved in the department as a sociology peer adviser, as well as a member of the Berkeley Undergraduate Sociology Association.

"I think I saw her every day (last) spring semester on the fourth floor of Barrows," said Allison Hall, an undergraduate adviser in the department of sociology who worked closely with McCoy. "She was an integral part of our department."

A small gathering was held last Friday for the sociology peer advisers to reflect and share stories about McCoy. Hall and other members of the department said they also plan to attend McCoy's memorial service on Thursday.

At age 12, McCoy was first diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma - a rare cancer that affects children and young adults and usually manifests in the bone. After chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to remove the cancer in her right hip, McCoy lived a cancer-free life until it reappeared last summer.

She was again diagnosed after her doctors found carcinogenic cells during a surgery to correct a hip replacement she had received in October 2009. Her prosthetic hip was needed to replace bone lost in previous cancer treatments.

"Danesha always had a drive about her no matter what the adversity was," said her brother DeShaun McCoy. "Danesha wouldn't give up, no matter what, even when the cancer spread."

During her time at UC Berkeley, McCoy was president of a tennis club, technology chair for her sorority and treasurer of the Cal Pre-Law Association. According to family and friends, McCoy planned to attend law school on the East Coast after graduation and dreamed of eventually getting her MBA and starting her own business.

"She worked very hard at everything she did, and she wanted a lot out of life," said her mother Germaine McCoy, who described her daughter as determined and fun-loving.

Former roommate and sorority sister Gretchen Betzholtz said she marveled at McCoy's ability to explore her many interests while maintaining A's in her classes.

McCoy left school in October 2009 to receive her hip replacement and, despite being absent from class for most of the semester, studied during her recovery so that she was able to take her final exams. She returned to school in the spring of 2010, living with Rodriguez in the Alpha Omicron Pi house.

"Everyday I walked into our room she always turned around with a big smile on her face and asked me how my day was," Rodriguez said in an e-mail. "I definitely looked forward to seeing her after a horrible day or bad test because her positive attitude was infectious and she had a way of always making me feel better."

Sorority sisters Allyse Bacharach, an employee of The Daily Californian, and Tammy Gilden compiled a gift bag from the sorority with books, video games and a Snuggie that was delivered to McCoy's house last semester.

"Danesha is the reason I joined my sorority," Gilden said in an e-mail. "When I first met her, I was struck by her confidence, eloquence and warmth. I walked away thinking, 'She's the kind of woman that I want to be.'"

McCoy is survived by her parents and younger brother DeShaun. Her memorial service will be held Thursday March 10 at 1 p.m. at the Laurel Ridge Community Church in Oakley, Calif.

Tags: ALPHA OMICRON PI SORORITY, BERKELEY UNDERGRADUATE SOCIOLOGY ASSOCIATION, DANESHA MCCOY


Contact Kelsey Clark at [email protected]



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