Lisa Kurpel

I was 44 years old when I found a lump in my right breast after experiencing some pain after a golf game. The thought of cancer never crossed my mind as I am an active, healthy person who doesn’t smoke or drink, and who follows a healthy diet. Less than a year earlier, my doctor had done a breast exam as part of my physical and everything seemed fine. I asked about a mammogram, but my longtime family doctor reassured me that I didn’t need one until I was 50 years old. After I felt the lump, I had 2 mammograms, an ultrasound and a biopsy and was ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer on August 26, 2013. The diagnosis came by telephone while en-route to my doctor’s office and fortunately a coworker had convinced me to bring a support person. My husband was with me and I will never forget hearing that I had cancer – I was in shock, physically and emotionally.

The endless appointments that followed the diagnosis felt unreal, like I was on ‘autopilot’, filled with terror that I had cancer and might die. I had surgery in September, followed by chemotherapy, the loss of my long hair, a week long admission to hospital over New Year’s, radiation therapy and am now in followup care.

I was introduced to the BRIGHT RUN by Nancy McMillan, who had a booth set up in the lobby of Juravinski Cancer Centre. I stopped by after a radiation treatment and she told me her cancer story, and I told her mine. She told me I could get through this and survive, even when I didn’t believe it. I saw Nancy again at a booth at the Peach Festival in Winona in August 2014. Despite the fact that my hair had started to grow back, I couldn’t look at it. I had worn a bandana 24/7 since it fell out. Nancy told me to walk around the fairgrounds without it, and feel the warm August air, even if just for a few minutes.

She is a difficult person to say no to, because she is inspirational and her hope is infectious. I took my bandana off that evening, and never put it back on. I put together a small team, raised some money, and the next month, I participated in my first BRIGHT RUN. My favourite thing about the BRIGHT RUN is seeing the community of survivors. Cancer can be so isolating your family, friends, and coworkers have no idea how you are feeling and what you are going through. Seeing the sea of pink t-shirts of the survivors at the BRIGHT RUN was a comfort as these were people that understood completely.

The most important thing I would want people to know about the BRIGHT RUN is something that Nancy explained to me 100% of the money raised goes back to Juravinski for research. The treatment I received at Juravinski was world class. Everyone I met there has only one goal

– to try to improve some aspect of your life, as you go through the worst time of it.