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Courageous cancer fighters

Survivors step up to push awarenes for fundraiser

  • Aug. 23, 2010 6:57 p.m.

Red Deer resident Cheryl Riley never expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

And although her mother and aunt had battled the disease, it was still a shock when the doctor called Riley, 59, with the news in the winter of 2008.

“We’ve always been really diligent about having the mammograms and so forth. So I went for my normal check-up. They called me back and I knew. I said to my husband I think we have a problem, and he said ‘Well, we’ll deal with it’.

There was a tiny little lump that had already gone into the lymph glands.

“You’re whole body goes into shock and you start to discover ‘Why. Why me?’ But you carry on,” she said. “It’s always on your mind. It’s darn scary no matter how much you want to say you’re dealing with this. It’s hard.”

She underwent a mastectomy within five weeks. Chemotherapy treatments followed for 27 weeks, and thankfully she didn’t get sick. But she did lose all her hair.

“2008 for me is a blur. When the doctors told me ‘You’re going to do this’, I did it. I didn’t question,” she says of the myriad of concerns and questions that immediately spring to mind when hearing one has cancer. “I was very blessed with my doctors.”

She’s also intent on building awareness about breast cancer and of course fundraising for further research. Thus her willingness to lend a hand to spreading the word about this year’s Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure set for Oct. 3. For more information about Run for the Cure or volunteer opportunities, visit www.runforthecure.com or call 403-340-3959.

Meanwhile, life is different now for Riley. Perspective shifts when faced with a life-threatening disease and today she counts the support she received from friends and family as critical to her healing journey. “They were there through it all,” she says, describing her mother as her ‘rock’. I was very blessed. You’ve got to fight it and say this is not going to get me. It helps knowing people care about you.”

She also said she has two daughters so “I’m very diligent on that part to make sure they’re okay.”

Participants are asked to show up at 8 a.m. for final registration/donation drop-offs.

The opening ceremonies kick off at 9:30 a.m. at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School. Warm-up is at 9:50 a.m. and the run’s start time is set for 10 a.m. An awards celebration follows at 11 a.m. Last year, $189,000 was raised for the cause in Red Deer.

Meanwhile, Riley forges ahead, looking tremendously healthy with healthy lymph glands as well. She’s spirited as she chats about life, her 10-year-old grandson and a promising future.

“I don’t like not having both of my ‘parts’, but you know what? I’m me. I’m healthy, and I feel good.”

She now feels like it’s important that she share her experience with women who are facing the same ordeal, or who hesitate to be tested for breast cancer. “Don’t be afraid. Talk about it.”

The event’s coordinator, Lorraine Shellito, has been with the Run for the Cure for the past 10 years.

“What got me involved is that I went to Calgary with a group of friends for the Run, and we thought why can’t we have this in Red Deer. As well, there is a history of breast cancer in my family, so the cause is near and dear to my heart and important to me.

“What’s also really exciting is that this is our 10th anniversary in Red Deer,” she said. “Ten years ago we had 300 participants and we raised $45,000. This year, we’re hoping for 1,000 participants and to raise $200,000. That’s our goal.”

Vern Cey, associate vice president with the event’s title sponsor CIBC, said the fundraiser fits well with the organization. “This is our fourteenth run as title sponsor, and our tenth run in Red Deer,” he said. “We’re also one of the largest employers of women nationally, so (breast cancer) really affects many of our employees directly, or family members and friends.

“Their stories, and those of our clients, remind each of us in a very heartfelt way that we are helping to make a difference.”

Early registration and deadline to order team T-shirts is Sept. 17 (10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the CIBC south branch (#4, 5111 – 22nd St. Teams and individuals can pick up their information kits Oct. 1 at the CIBC south branch as well.

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