As the event’s communication coordinator, Sally Haysom is currently prepping a breast cancer survivor to address the walkers and runners with an inspiring motivational speech.
But just in case that scenario doesn’t pan out, Haysom has her own speech ready, as backup.
“A lot of time, survivors have a tough time getting on up on stage and speaking in front of thousands of people.”
Haysom doesn’t mind telling her own story.
Nine years ago, a small lump was found in her right breast.
It was benign in a biopsy, but the doctor found what were described as unusual cells, and she was advised to monitor it closely.
She had already lost a sister and four aunts – one of them before 50 – to breast cancer, so it seemed to Haysom that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.
Three month later, a self-exam supported her worst fears.
“It had gotten to the point where I could feel it.”
The grandmother of 13 was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 52.
“We decided as a family – it was a group decision – that we would go with a bilateral mastectomy.”
The surgery was on March 18, 2008.
“I ended up having 10 surgeries in four years. It just kept going and wouldn’t heal, and things were not going well. I kept having to go back for surgery again and again and again…”
Although the healing was slow and painful, Haysom has been cancer-free for eight years and six months.
Although the surgery in March 2008 wasn’t to be her last, she still celebrates that milestone.
The following year, on March 18, she and her family began to hold Pink Balloon Release Day.
Now every year, her whole family gathers to bring good wishes, inflate balloons and attach positive messages to them.
The balloons are released at 2:18 p.m., the same time as the surgery.
Even one of her sons has a simultaneous ceremony with his family of eight in Alberta. (They send her videos.)
“It’s a release of all the stress we go through,” she says.
After her first surgery, while recuperating on her couch, Haysom saw a commercial on TV for the CIBC Run for the Cure in Vancouver.
“I struggled to make 5K, but we made it.”
She re-joined every year, and as the event began in Surrey in 2012, she began taking a more active part in the event, from participant to committee member to survivor coordinator to communications coordinator.
Photo: Last year’s run at Bear Creek Park.
“As I made the transition from helpless victim to activist, one of the most important realizations (I made) was that if you accept your condition and hold self-pity at bay, others won’t feel sorry for you,” she says.
“If you can discuss your disease and medical therapy in a matter-of-fact manner, they’ll respond in kind without fear or awkwardness. You are in charge.”
No relatives of Haysom survived more than five years after a cancer diagnosis.
Haysom says her family gave her great strength and inspiration to survive past that five-year mark.
“Whatever season I’m in with this disease, I take it one day at a time and one hour at a time.”
Married for 38 years, she remains active with her family: Vacations, hiking, fishing and more.
She now has five more grandchildren since the first surgery, a total of 18 – plus a new great-grandchild.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure takes place Oct. 2 at 10 a.m. at Bear Creek Park, 13750 88 Ave. There are both 1K and 5K routes. To donate or register as a team, call 604-443-6956, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://bit.ly/2bM4wls