‘I didn’t want cancer again’
Sisters Jodi Walsh and Jennifer Stark are taking no chances with breast cancer.
Testing last year revealed they both have a mutated ATM gene. Inherited mutations in the ATM (Ataxia-Telangiesctasia mutated) gene are associated with increased risk of certain cancers. Walsh said it means their risk of getting breast cancer is 70 per cent by age 70.
The sisters were tested because their mother, Josie Stark, is a twotime breast cancer survivor and Jennifer a leukemia survivor.
“I didn’t want cancer again,” Jennifer said.
So, both women are planning to have double mastectomies and reconstructive surgery, Stark later in the fall, and Walsh early next year.
“The decision actually wasn’t difficult,” said Walsh. “I know what it was like when my mom had cancer. I can’t make my kids go through that.”
Walsh and Stark brought about 30 members of their family and friends to Sunday’s CIBC Run for the Cure at Simcoe Composite School. About 500 participants were expected to walk or run one-kilometre and five-kilometre courses, leaving and returning to the school.
Last year’s event raised about $100,000. Over the past 19 years since it was established, the local run has raised more than $2.5 million, said Carol Mummery, codirector of the run, along with Gail Catherwood.
The national Run for the Cure began in 1997 as a partnership between the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, CIBC, and communities across the country. Last year, the foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society joined forces under the society banner.
The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest charitable funder of breast cancer research in the country.
About one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.
Walsh and her team, who called themselves Josie’s Walkers for Knockers, all wore decorated white crinolines with their pink Run for the Cure T-shirts. The mesh undergarments were taken from old wedding dresses Josie collects to make “angel gowns” for babies who die in hospital.
Walsh’s niece, Chelsey Geier, attached all the crinoline embellishments and made pink capes for everyone, in keeping with the superhero theme of this year’s run.
Team members collected more than $2,100 in pledges.
Mummery said the committee behind the Simcoe run also organizes other fundraising events throughout the year, including Invasion of the Dragons, the dragon boat festival in Waterford; and fashion shows.
She said the money they raise is much greater than that raised in other communities of Simcoe’s size, partly because cancer is “very prevalent” in the area.
There were many cancer survivors among Sunday’s run participants.
“There are lots of returning teams and lots of new ones,” said Mummery. “If someone in the family is afflicted with cancer it often generates a new team.”
Heidi VanDyk, who was one of the event hosts, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago just after her 40th birthday. She had no family history of cancer and was considered a “random case,” she said.
“The doctors haven’t been able to say why I got breast cancer,” she said. “We need to continue to walk, run and talk about (the disease).”
Participants head out from the start line at the CIBC Run for the Cure on Sunday at Simcoe Composite School in Simcoe.