Prior to 2009, Vonda Dickman had no personal connection with breast cancer.
There was no history of the deadly disease in her family and she didn’t have any friends who had been diagnosed.
That all changed when the active Ocean Park resident discovered a lump in her breast at age 41.
“It was a huge shock. I didn’t even know anyone who had breast cancer. Of course, I was aware that it was out there,” Dickman said. “Fortunately, I was very in-tune with my body, so I found the lump myself and got myself to a doctor right away.”
In one short month, Dickman underwent a mastectomy, followed by six months of chemotherapy and a year of targeted therapy, called Herceptin.
Throughout her journey with cancer, Dickman noticed a lack of support services specifically for younger women who had been diagnosed.
The few times she did go to a group, the average age was closer to 60 and above.
“I felt like I was going there with my mom. The women there were all 20 years older than me and couldn’t relate to necessarily what I was going through,” she recalled.
Knowing that there was a gap for women in her age group dealing with breast cancer was a catalyst for Dickman to join the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation this year.
After applying with the foundation, Dickman was named as the run director, logistics, for the CBCF CIBC Run for the Cure in Surrey, which is set for Oct. 5 at Bear Creek Park, at 88 Avenue and King George Boulevard.
In her position, Dickman will oversee the volunteer co-ordinators involved with all elements of making the event happen on run day. Her role is also to be the “face” of the CBCF to the community at large.
Her appointment to the position also coincides with her being nearly five years cancer-free.
“Five years is a big milestone for cancer survivors. Your chances of relapsing goes down after that five-year mark,” Dickman explained.
“This is my first year with CBCF and I felt I was ready. When you get a cancer diagnosis, you really have to focus on yourself and give yourself and your family the best you can.
“Now coming up to my five-year mark, I thought, I’m ready to give back and share with other women and talk with other women and do whatever I can do.”
Above all else, Dickman urges those who are diagnosed to stay positive.
Despite the shock of her diagnosis, Dickman, who at that time lived in Langley’s Walnut Grove community, took the opportunity to move to Ocean Park to be near the water – something she had always wanted to do – and begin a year-long renovation.
“It was such a phenomenal healing experience for us. Sometimes it takes a life event, like being diagnosed with cancer, to make you stop and really think about what you want to do,” she said. “I’ve always been a very positive person, I definitely had some really down days but I knew I had to stay positive and I needed to fight it.”
Dickman added that having the opportunity to meet fellow survivors at the Vancouver run had a huge positive impact.
She encouraged survivors to attend the Surrey run this weekend to connect and share their stories.
“A cancer diagnosis turns your life upside down. It’s really about one day at a time and putting one foot in front of the other and not looking too far ahead or you’ll drive yourself crazy with all the ‘what ifs,’” Dickman said.
“You meet people as you go through it and you won’t believe how many people have been touched by cancer.
“Now that I’m further out, I can talk about it and I hope I can help other women.”
Surrey’s event will kick off at 8 a.m. with opening ceremonies at 9:30 a.m.
The five-km run will start at 10 a.m. with the one-km walk starting shortly after at 10:10 a.m.
For further information, visit www.runforthecure.com