It’s a first in her family Elizabeth Anderson didn’t want.
The youngest of four siblings, Anderson, a Salmon Arm massage therapist, was the first in her family to have breast cancer.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few weeks shy of my 47th birthday and it was a shock,” said Anderson, the honoured survivor at Sunday’s annual Canadian Breast Cancer Federation CIBC Run For The Cure in Vernon at Fulton Secondary School.
“We don’t have breast cancer in our family. There is no history. I am the first, I hope I am the last.”
Approximately 620 people took part in Sunday’s walk/run at Grahame Park and raised $54,721.75 for breast cancer research and other initiatives, though organizers said Monday there are still more fundraising dollars coming in.
Sharing with the crowd, Anderson – decked out in a black Blitz For The Cure T-shirt with pink writing, black running pants and cool all-pink Asics runners –said her story is not a sad one.
In fact, her story is one of triumph, joy and humour.
“It’s joyous because I found out when I was diagnosed what a wonderful support team I have around me,” said Anderson. “It’s triumphant because I am cancer free. And it’s funny for a lot of reasons, but you’d have to know my friends to appreciate the sick sense of humour that we embraced during this journey.”
Anderson’s cancer was caught early after she underwent a mammogram, to which she pleaded to the crowd to encourage or nag every woman in their lives to have regular mammograms.
And she said she’s pleased to take part in fundraising events such as Run For The Cure because monies raised from such events helped her.
Following her surgery, doctors suggested Anderson have the full schedule of chemotherapy and radiation. Seeing the effect of such a schedule on friends and colleagues left Anderson disheartened.
But when she arrived at a cancer clinic, doctors asked her if she wanted to participate in a study, which she agreed. They sent a small part of Anderson’s tumour to a lab to be blasted with chemotherapy to see if there would be any effects on the tumour. There were none.
“My chance of reoccurrence was quite small to begin with and now I knew going through chemotherapy wasn’t going to change that,” said Anderson, who celebrated her 50th birthday two weeks ago with a trip to New York with her husband, Craig, and her siblings. “So I was able to make an informed, confident choice to not have chemo.
“Any of you who have gone through chemotherapy or nursed someone through chemo know how significant that is. What a gift it was to me and I thank you. That’s what your hard work is doing.”
Teams and participants were seen wearing pink- or neon-inspired T-shirts. Two women and a toddler were dressed in ballerina wear and dubbed themselves the Tutu Triplets. Pink balloons were everywhere and participants had their photo taken in front of Rolly Delange’s pink 1936 Chevy truck.
Siblings Sam and Sydnee Burke had been growing their hair for a couple of years to donate to cancer patients. Both had their ponytails cut off by Jasmine Ross of Trendy Tones.
Run For The Cure Sunday kicked off with more than 20 breast cancer survivors – including Anderson – being paraded to the starting line by members of the Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band.
“Run day is truly an inspiring day,” said event co-director Lindsay Smith, who has volunteered for five years. “Whether you are participating as a survivor, running for a loved one or friend or just there to support the cause, it’s an emotional and powerful event that brings people together with a common goal of a future without breast cancer.”
Donna Mounce is one such person.
A member of the Walkers For Knockers team, Mounce was taking part in Run For The Cure for the first time in honour of her aunt, a breast cancer survivor.
“She’s in Revelstoke and she had a mastectomy,” said Mounce, from Vernon. “Everything here is great and I’m looking forward to walking for my aunt.”
Run For The Cure has taken place annually in Vernon since 2008 and raised more than $429,000.
Nationally, participants in 60 communities have raised $30 million.
In Vernon on Sunday, the CIBC Corporate Spirit Award went to Team Tolko, who raised $2,157; Bosom and Buoyant Buddies won the Friends and Family Award for raising $2,545; and the Women’s Team Challenge Award went to Inner Circle, who garnered $,1591 in funds.
Crystal Sturgeon won the Determination Award, presented to the individual who raised the most donations by Oct. 4. Sturgeon collected $1,720 in pledges. Angela Hemming was second at $1,586.50 and Tara Limb was third with $860.
Organizers note that participant Deanna Novak brought in $4,000 Sunday.