By 2008, Jo-Ann Fleming was a 10-year breast cancer survivor. And she was the BRIGHT RUN’s first survivor spokesperson, telling her story to the first group of walkers and runners who participated in the fledgling fundraising effort.
“Dr. (Mark) Levine asked me to attend the BRIGHT RUN inaugural event in 2008 and I was honoured,” Jo-Ann wrote in her BRIGHT story a few years ago. “I was picked up in a limousine and gave a speech. I was more than thrilled to do this, as the care that I received at the Juravinski Cancer Centre was, and is, beyond compare.”
Heading into its 10th anniversary celebration, the annual BRIGHT RUN has raised about $2.8 million and supported 15 important breast cancer research projects. Over the next 10 months, we will profile the courageous folks who have been our survivor spokespeople through the years.
Diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma at 37, single mom Jo-Ann underwent a mastectomy and aggressive chemotherapy. Genetic testing indicated she has the BRCA2 gene and at age 39, she had a full hysterectomy because of her increased risk of cancer.
“I tried to go about my life as normally as possible, caring for and loving my young son,” Jo-Ann said of that period in her life. “I didn’t have much family or support, but I did the best I could, cooking meals in advance and trying to maintain my son’s normal schedule. We still did normal stuff, like skating in the winter.”
After 17 years cancer free, Jo-Ann had a cyst develop on her left breast in 2013. A biopsy led to a diagnosis of recurrent breast cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation followed and this time around was tougher on Jo-Ann, who landed in hospital for seven days when she developed neutropenia.
A flight attendant with Air Canada, Jo-Ann has not been able to attend every BRIGHT RUN, but she says she is always there in spirit. Through her employer’s employee giving program, she requests a donation each year of two flights in North American, which are the premier prize the in the annual Planes Trains and Automobiles raffle.
“I am so proud to be able to contribute in this way and Air Canada has been incredibly supportive,” she said.
Jo-Ann is a strong supporter of the Juravinski Cancer Centre, noting that “…because of research, treatments and the quick, attentive and compassionate care given at the Juravinski Cancer Centre, I feel very fortunate to be a 20-year survivor in 2017.”