“Being a breast cancer survivor can make for a compelling story,” says Laurene Mitchell, donor relations co-ordinator at Calgary’s Heritage Park Historical Village. Mitchell has some first-hand knowledge. She was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 5, 2003, and had a mastectomy weeks later. “I was very fortunate,” she says. “I didn’t have to go through chemo or radiation.”
WALK STRONG: Laurene Mitchell (second from left) at the finish line of the Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers in 2012, with fellow participants.
Her experience with cancer got Mitchell sharing her story, then in 2005, raising funds for cancer research when the Weekend to End Breast Cancer made its first appearance in Calgary. Walking 60 kilometres every year for the event (renamed the Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers a few years in), Mitchell has personally raised $102,230 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, “to date,” she adds proudly, “and with very few corporate sponsors.”
For years, life went on as normally as possible for a mother of three boys and she hoped her cancer journey was over. But it wasn’t. In August 2011, Mitchell’s doctors discovered that she carries the breast cancer gene BRCA2. “I have up to a 50-per-cent chance of contracting ovarian cancer and a second breast cancer,” Mitchell says. She had a preventive surgery to remove both ovaries and fallopian tubes in May 2012. Now she has less than a five per cent chance of getting ovarian cancer – the same as rest of the female population. She has a preventive mastectomy of her other breast booked for January 2014.
When the final Weekend walk wrapped up in 2012, Mitchell wasn’t sure what she would do.
“I liked that it was big, bold and was a challenge,” she says. She also liked that the money raised stayed in the province. But then she heard about the Bust a Move fundraiser, structured around six hours of working out to zumba, aerobics and other fitness activities.
In just three weeks in 2013, Mitchell became a top fundraiser for Bust a Move, raising more than $8,500. “I think we all have a part in it because we all know somebody affected by cancer,” says Mitchell. “I have a three-year-old granddaughter and I would love for cancer to be a non-issue for her.”
For more information about Bust a Move visit bust-out-and-move.ca