Elissa McMahon, known to all as Lissy, 46, died December 4, 2016, at home after
a long and courageous fight against leiomyosarcoma. Lissy was a social worker at
Sommerville-Cambridge Elder Services until her diagnosis, and they were among her most
gracious and generous supporters during her illness.
Lissy was born and raised in a small town, Mendham, New Jersey, which at the time had one
traffic light and lots of fertile farmland and forested hills. On warm summer nights the
backyard would fill with lightning bugs, and there would be a happy, thick sound of crickets thatLissy remembered hearing through her bedroom window as she fell asleep. During her illness,she often spoke of how free and happy her childhood was in Mendham, growing up with her two sisters, and how much she appreciated that time in her life. Lissy attended Mendham’s public schools and was an avid athlete, playing soccer and softball most seriously; for a period of some years, she almost always had some kind of ball in her hands or at her feet and was ready to play. She lived outdoors in the fresh air on the run or on her bike and always returned home with a good story.
Lissy attended college at Fordham University in NYC, receiving a B.A. in History in 1993, and
made some of her closest, lifelong friends there. In the summertime during those years, she
worked as a lifeguard at the Mountain Club in Morris Plains with her dearest childhood friend,
Mary, and there met her future husband, Glen Arentowicz. Lissy and Glen married in 1994, and
they moved a few years later to Swampscott on the north shore of Massachusetts for Glen’s
work. Lissy so enjoyed the beauty of that coastal town. Her love of the beach and coastlines,
the ocean and the sun was a touchstone her whole life, and she relished vacations and holidays at the beach, especially Fire Island, NY, where she and Jack would spend a few weeks every summer visiting her sister Jenny and her family.
In 1997, Lissy took a job at Staples Corporate Headquarters in Framingham, MA, working in
communications in their Human Resources Department and moved in 1999 to the lovely town
of Needham, MA, where they settled. Their son Jack was born in December 2000, and now 15,
attends Needham High School.
After Jack was born, Lissy took on her most cherished job, motherhood, and fell into the rhythms
of snacks and naps and walks and groceries. Her famous sense of humor found a well-spring of material in the constant large and small challenges of motherhood and later single
motherhood, after an amicable divorce in 2006. Glen and his wife Kate were among Lissy’s
Lissy created a happy life for her and Jack while he grew up in Needham, and eventually, after
Jack started school, she took real pleasure in working part-time at the downtown Needham
Closet Exchange, a charming clothing store steps from her home, which allowed her to still be
home to meet Jack after school. The proprietors, Brenda and Bob Stark, were like surrogate
parents to Lis during those years, and she made many good friends among the staff. At the
Closet Exchange Lis found she was a born stylist (having always had a flare for fashion and a
wonderful sense of style) and her genuinely warm personality was so disarming that it always
put people at ease. She loved talking to her customers and hearing about their lives and
helping to make them feel beautiful or confident in a new outfit or dress.
These were strong strains running through Lissy’s life from a young age: her disarming warmth, how much she loved helping people and how she loved hearing a good story. Even more, what was so special about being with her was a native gift of being the storyteller herself, mining material usually out of the regular stuff of life but finding the pathos, seeing the beauty, delighting in the absurd, and sometimes having a very honed and fabulously bold edge to her insights. Her sense of humor had a pluck and fearlessness that kept people waiting and smiling to see what was next; and usually her word would be the last on a send-up because it was simply the smartest and the funniest. At family gatherings, her beloved nieces and nephews, in-laws and most of all her friends knew to gather nearby Lissy because where she was, that was where the party was. Her laughter and humor, which ministered to people so directly and revealed a deep wisdom about life and people and the human condition, will be one of the things we will miss about her most dearly and most often.
Lissy felt a pull to return to work full-time when Jack was nearing middle school and completed a Masters in Gerontology at UMass, later taking the job in Cambridge that she had until the autumn of 2014. Lissy’s diagnosis came a little over a year after she at Sommerville-Cambridge, cutting short what was both a promising career and a calling. Our hearts do sorely ache for all the milestones in Lissy’s life and her career and even more so, in Jack’s that she will miss. There are too many to name.
Lissy is survived by her beloved and devoted son, Jack Arentowicz, whom she loved with the
whole fullness of her heart; two sisters with whom she enjoyed the deepest friendship all their
lives, Jennifer McMahon, of Hong Kong, and Kara Cross, of New York City; two nieces and three nephews in whom she delighted daily: Maeve and Neala Sweeney, and James, Peter and John Cross. In addition, she is survived by two brothers-in- law, James Sweeney and James Cross. She is survived as well by her precious and close friends Glen Arentowicz and Katherine Hanaway, M.D. and their son Eli, of Needham, as well as Henry Roque, M.D., her boyfriend and the love of her life, also of Needham, and his parents, Montserrat and Enrique Roque, of New York City, who so adored her. She is pre-deceased by her father, John Thomas McMahon, and mother, Mary Denise McMahon.
If you would like to make a donation in honor of Elissa McMahon go to the the boxes to the right.
Please note: your online receipt will not have the honoree’s name – however your name with the honoree will be listed in the THANK YOU DONORS page for the family to see.
About Leiomyosarcoma Support & Direct Research Foundation (LMSDR)
This fund was created out of love for Lissy to help others win their battle with leiomyosarcoma by funding LMS specific research. Leiomyosarcoma Support & Direct Research Foundation (LMSDR) raises donations for Leiomyosarcoma research and patient support. We advocate directly with sarcoma researchers to study leiomyosarcoma. We offer the largest moderated support group online for leiomyosarcoma, where patients and loved ones get the latest LMS news and personal support. The LMSDR’s website offers local support groups, details of what we do, the research we have funded and many resources for the Leiomyosarcoma community. The LMSe Alerts is our monthly newsletter, offering more updated clinical trials, news and community events. The Leiomyosarcoma Lifeline is our new blog, featuring patient stories and our well-known Long Term Thriver stories.
We collaborate with researchers and other organization to reach our mission and vision of finding treatments that will work. We have created the Leiomyosarcoma Tissue Bank for researchers to study our disease, the Leiomyosarcoma website for education and support at our leiomyosarcoma patient conferences, in Denver, Colorado, San Francisco, California, New York City, New York, and Maui, Hawaii. Please stay in touch with our website for more upcoming events sponsored by Leiomyosarcoma Support & Direct Research Foundation.
Leiomyosarcoma Support & Direct Research is an all volunteer organization which Lissy supported. We are proud to have Patient Registry to collect data, and ran successful blood collections for study. We have brought patients and loved ones together from all over the minimal amount of expenses as possible, to ensure your money goes directly to funding promising research for leiomyosarcoma specifically. You can volunteer, put on fundraisers, promote LMS awareness and ask your employer for matched funds. Please consider making a donation and helping us Work, not wish, for treatments that will work for us. We have been a 501(C) (3) since 2006 and a tax-free charity.