Deanna Behnke-Cook’s says her “cancer adventure” changed everything, absolutely everything.

“The way you see yourself, your life, the things that you think about, how you see the world, the way that people around you see you, and sometimes how they treat you, changes,” she said. “And having had the experience I have had, I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Deanna was diagnosed in March 2012, after a mammogram and ultrasound led to a biopsy. She had five rounds of chemotherapy, followed by a double mastectomy in August 2012, then 25 radiation treatments. She rode her bike up the Escarpment from her home downtown for each radiation appointment at the JCC.

The University of Guelph sociology prof and married mom of five was the survivor spokesperson at the 2015 BRIGHT Run, sharing her story with an avid crowd. Each month as we approach the BRIGHT Run’s 10th anniversary, we are profiling those who have taken on the role of survivor spokesperson at past events. It’s a diverse and dynamic group of women whose willingness to share their breast cancer stories is both inspiring and thought-provoking.

Some of you may not have actually met Deanna face-to-face, but chances are you know her. With her white-blonde hair and boundless energy, Deanna is a strong presence at the BRIGHT Run each year and has led the children’s parade before the walkers and runners take off on the trail.

Deanna says the “cancer adventure” has had a lasting impact.

“It shifted my focus from what wasn’t important – and frankly a major waste of time – to living with purpose every day,” she said.

Long involved with young people and the author of risk interventions for youth in middle and secondary schools, Deanna has launched a new initiative as an inspirational and motivational speaker. She offers a series on building resiliency in young people, offering school parent and student groups insights and strategies. Take a look at her website www.professordeanna.com .

“The cancer experience has changed me in so many ways,” she said. “The thing that used to seem out of reach? Not anymore. I’m in, all in.”

Deanna sees the BRIGHT Run as a not-to-be-missed annual event that not only raises much-needed money for breast cancer research but also brings people together for a common cause.

“I have met wonderful people,” she said. “And it doesn’t get better than that!”