Donna Stampone – Team “In It Together”
It was August 2009 when my journey began. We had just returned from a family vacation to Vegas. I was in a really happy time of my life, and probably in the best shape of my life. I remember receiving the phone call that they needed to repeat some images on my mammogram. I called my doctor and he reassured me that it happens all the time. In the back of my mind, I always knew I had a chance of developing breast cancer.
When I was 17, I underwent mantle radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s disease. I was told by my oncologist that because I had this type of radiation, I had an increased risk of breast cancer. But by now, 22 years later, cancer to me was a life time ago. That day when I went back in, I remember telling my dad to wait in the parking lot as it would be only a few minutes. Two hours later, and after additional images, ultrasounds and biopsies, I was told by the radiologist that it was most likely early stages of breast cancer. I could not catch my breath! All I remember thinking is, “My poor dad. I left him thinking it would be a few minutes.” This was the beginning of my whirlwind.
I left that day with an appointment to see the surgeon. I remember calling my husband and crying uncontrollably. I thought to myself, “This can’t be happening. I don’t deserve this. I beat it. It’s been 22 years. I have two young children.” Thoughts, images and fear raced through me. The next week, waiting for confirmation from the surgeon was the longest week of my life.
The day came when I had to meet the surgeon. The radiologist’s assumptions were confirmed. I had early stages of breast cancer. My choices were a mastectomy or double mastectomy. There was no option for me. I needed to do what I could to give myself the best possible chance. The weekend before my surgery, I attended the BRIGHTRun. I heard about this event at the Juravinski Cancer Centre, and because I was going through this ordeal I wanted to do everything I could to raise money for breast cancer research. I was amazed at how many nurses and oncologists spent so much of their own time making this event possible. Focusing my energy on this made me feel good and it took my mind off my upcoming surgery.
I put a team together of family and friends, and within two weeks of sending an initial email out we raised $5000. The support and the love I felt was overwhelming and it gave me such strength. Children that I taught, along with the local high-schools, all raised money and came out to volunteer and attend the event.
The day of the event was quite emotional for me. Seeing all the survivors and their families there to support them made me feel like I was not alone. It gave me tremendous strength and courage going into my surgery, and it was at that point I thought to myself, “I can do this. I can beat this and I will beat this.”
It’s been 6 years now that my family has been volunteering, participating and leading a team. My children have grown up around this event and know how important it is to our family. In those 6 years many things have happened. My mom was diagnosed a year later, and her sister a year after that. Just four months ago, my mom has had a reccurrence. It makes me angry and sad to see how this disease has affected my family and many others, but it makes me want to fight harder. To me, the BRIGHTRun is a family. When I go to appointments with my mom, I see all the amazing people who have spent timeless hours putting this event together and helping others. The BRIGHTRun has allowed us to focus our energy on one goal – beating breast cancer!