Lee Prokaska is a 14-year breast cancer survivor and the mother of two adult daughters and a son-in-law. She happily retired from The Hamilton Spectator in 2015 after 35 years as a news reporter, copy editor, editorial writer and letters editor. She is an avid reader, writer, crafter and traveller.
When, how and why did you get involved in the BRIGHT Run?
I walked in the first BRIGHT Run, which took place a couple of years after I finished my treatment. I also wrote a handful of survivor profiles for the BRIGHT Run website and encouraged my employer, The Hamilton Spectator, to work toward increasing breast cancer awareness among its readership.
How does your work for the BRIGHT Run fit with your job, if it does?
I have always been a writer and I was lucky to land in a profession that paid me to write, which comes almost as naturally to me as breathing. While I was working, I was able to offer suggestions about how the BRIGHT Run could increase its community profile. As a retiree, I have more time to devote to BRIGHT Run activities, which has significantly reduced my frustration over trying to cram too much stuff into too little time.
What do you do for the BRIGHT Run?
I am a member of the executive committee and I enjoy having input into the BRIGHT Run operation.
As well, I coordinate the monthly eNewsletter, write BRIGHT Run-related stories for area community newspapers and do whatever other writing is needed for the BRIGHT Run.
And I manage the annual Silent Auction on event day, gathering auction items, publicizing the auction and coordinating the auction’s event-day volunteer team.
Do you have any personal/family connections to breast cancer?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2004 and underwent surgery that December. I began chemotherapy in January 2005 and underwent radiation therapy through the summer of 2005.
Two years later, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, believed to be a side-effect of one of my chemo drugs, and was off work for four months to recover from that episode.
Two of my aunts died as a result of breast cancer.
What are your feelings about the BRIGHT Run?
I have participated in other similar breast cancer fundraising events and the BRIGHT Run is the best. The atmosphere on event day is stunning and palpable and the feeling of being part of such a large and caring family is overwhelming. There is joy and sorrow, laughter and tears – all in one big beautiful morning, rain or shine.
I love that the BRIGHT Run is so local, that the money stays in our community to support breast cancer research at our own facilities. I also love that it is operated by volunteers and paid for through community partnerships. I know the donations I receive from friends and family go directly to research, not to paying for postage or prizes or whatever. That gives the BRIGHT Run a level of credibility that is second to none.