Run for the Cure: ‘It’s a full-time job having cancer’

Kelly Wade, centre, has breast cancer and is a single mother, who is taking part in Sunday’s Run for the Cure. Also pictured are her daughters, Cora, right, and Jazlyn. Photograph by: Jean Levac, Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia News

Kelly Wade’s family wanted to support her in her battle with breast cancer by creating a Run For the Cure team called Hakuna My Ta-Tas. By mid-week, the team had 150 members, Joanne Laucious writes.

When Brian Wade set out to create a CIBC Run For the Cure team to support his sister Kelly, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, he thought the team would attract 25 members and raise perhaps $3,000.

He was wrong.

The run is on Sunday at Tunney’s Pasture. By Tuesday, the team’s fundraising goal had been raised to $15,000 and it was heading north of 150 members. The email updates were coming so fast and furious that Kelly’s smart phone was buzzing incessantly. Her 14-year-old daughter Jazlyn’s entire soccer team has signed on. The Nepean Hotspurs have all been wearing pink arm bands in support. Kelly, 41, a single mother of two teenaged daughters, has been involved with soccer for 15 years and calls the Hotspurs “my second family.”

Meanwhile, many of Kelly’s colleagues at the Department of Justice, where she works as a legal assistant, plan to walk or run on Sunday. When she sent out an initial email to her work and soccer “families” there were $4,000 in donations within an hour.

“It’s so overwhelming,” says Kelly. “But it’s not just about me. Everyone knows someone — a sister, a mother, an aunt.”

The team is called Hakuna My Ta-Tas — Kelly’s idea — and it’s a reference to the “no worries” philosophy in Disney animated film The Lion King.

Brian says the team started out with the family and spread by word of mouth.

“And then it took on a life of its own.”

Kelly was the youngest of a family of six children — Brian, who is eight years older, was the closest to her in age — who grew up in Metcalfe, just south of Ottawa.

“She’s very social, very outgoing, very independent and very determined,” says Brian.

The team held silent auctions at family gatherings. And when a small gathering planned to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Kelly’s diagnosis ballooned to 150 people, the event moved to St. Anthony’s Soccer Club on Preston Street and had a fundraising component.

There is a history of breast cancer in the Wade family. Kelly’s mother, now 79, is a breast-cancer survivor. Two aunts died of the disease. Kelly’s older sister Bonnie had breast cancer, but has been cancer-free for a decade.

Kelly was diagnosed by a fluke. While golfing one day last August, an off-swing sent the ball ricocheting off a tree and right back at her, hitting her in the breast. By the next day, there was a bruise where the golf ball hit and also, a little higher, an odd oval-shaped six-centimetre lump. It was a hidden tumour raised by the injury.

Because of her family history, Kelly had her first mammogram at 35. But she didn’t have another one scheduled. If it hadn’t been for the errant golf ball, she would never have known about the tumour. She keeps the ball with her.

“The doctors all said that golf ball saved my life.”

The bad news came soon after that golf game — Kelly had Stage 2 breast cancer. She had three tumours in each breast — the ones on the left side were benign, and 13 tumours in the lymph nodes under her right arm. She had a mastectomy on Nov. 17.

But worse news was to come. After her surgery, she kept falling because her hip was giving out. An MRI revealed that the breast cancer had metastasized to her bones. She took a round of the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen, which discourages estrogen reception in the breast, but the three-month treatment was unsuccessful. She is now on a hormonal regimen.

By February, Kelly was at Stage 4, with tumours in her spine, pelvis and chest wall. She was in a trial for Premedrinate, a treatment to strengthen bones and prevent fractures, but the trial has been temporarily halted.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m 101 years old,” says Kelly. “The pain is quite severe in the morning. My daughter stands at the bottom of the stairs and applauds.”

Still, aside from her medical appointments, Kelly hasn’t missed a day at work. Her older daughter Cora, 19, returned from school in Toronto to help out at home.

“I love my job,” says Kelly. “I need to keep my focus. I have my days, but I’m still going to trials and court.”

She has always walked in Run For The Cure for her sister Bonnie. “But I couldn’t do it last year because I had just been diagnosed. It was too close for me.”

For Kelly, Sunday marks a one-year-anniversary. “I’ve made it a year, and now I’m in my second year. I’ll take it one year at a time.”

It’s also a way to thank all of her supporters. She regrets that sometimes the only way she has had to stay in touch with her many well-wishers is by texting and a blog she keeps at CaringBridge.com, a protected site that allows friends and family to keep up with her.

“It’s a full-time job having cancer.”

The run, now in its 21st year, is held in 60 communities Canada-wide. The funds benefit the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and are used for cancer research, education and awareness programs, early diagnosis and effective treatment and improved quality of life.

The run also offers a therapeutic avenue to rally around loved ones, says Brian.

“When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, you feel helpless, as you want to make everything better for them.”

jlaucius@ottawacitizen.com

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