May 26, 2011 in Washington Voices

Cancer didn’t stop Margaret Clarke’s drive

By The Spokesman-Review
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Margaret Clarke needed the flexible schedule that Barker High School offered to allow her to succeed after being diagnosed with cancer in her junior year. While she loves the tall pines of the Northwest, she plans to attend college in Florida to pursue a liberal arts degree next year.
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Margaret Clarke is independent; the Barker High School student said it makes her unique. But it’s also a quality that would prove necessary for her to finish high school while she battled a rare cancer – a battle that she won.

At 16, Clarke was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer, after she began experiencing hip pain. After the diagnosis, Clarke needed a flexible schedule because she would miss three and sometimes four days of school a week due to sickness from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It was then that she enrolled at Barker, in the I-TRACC program, where she was able to complete her high school classes at her own pace, independently. After extensive treatment, Clarke is virtually cured; the cancer is gone.

Even though she didn’t spend much time at the school, Clarke cares a lot about Barker and what it did for her. “I love Barker,” she said. “Once I came here, I could accomplish all of the things I wanted to do. It gave me the chance to graduate, the chance I would never have had with any ordinary high school.”

Done with treatment and with a clean bill of health, Clarke decided to get a taste of college life and enrolled in the Running Start program at Spokane Community College. “I thought it was time to get out of the house,” she said.

Clarke has a number of ideas when it comes to her future. Her plans after high school include moving to Florida and attending Florida Gulf Coast University or Edison State College. “I wanted to be a doctor, but then I spent way too much time in hospitals, so I don’t want to do that anymore,” she said.

Clarke has also thought about becoming a TV screenwriter, a psychiatrist or an environmentalist.

“I wanted to be an environmentalist because I wanted to change the way people viewed the Earth and how to take care of it,” she said. One thing Clark said she was sure of: “I’d rather do something I’m passionate about.”

Her confidence and strength come from her experiences and her large, far-flung family. Clarke has three brothers, a sister, a brother-in-law, her mother, Natalie, her stepfather, Lowell, and her stepmother, Vic. Her father, Brian, died of melanoma just six months before doctors discovered she had cancer.

Clarke said that her parents were always there for her and her siblings.

“Even though my parents were divorced, they were the best parents,” she said. “They did so much for us.” She said that her parents helped shaped who she is; her dad demanded respect, she said, and her mom is the strongest woman she knows.

Whatever comes her way in the future, Clarke doesn’t really see any challenges. “I want to think all the hard parts are over. A lot of things in life are hard to deal with, I try not to be pessimistic,” she said. “I’m very proud of myself.”

And Clarke should be proud of herself. She is working as a sales associate at Kohl’s, is making college plans and on June 9, she will graduate with the rest of her class, healthy and happy.

Rainey Coffin can be reached at (509) 927-2166 or via email at

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