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How Breast Cancer Changed Kathie’s Life

Kathie Ward’s life changed after her 1998 breast cancer diagnosis.

She joined a dragon boat team of breast cancer survivors, forming intense lifelong friendships. After years of intensive care nursing, she joined the chemotherapy team at the Juravinski Cancer Centre, caring for cancer patients every day.

And she became one of the founding members of the BRIGHT Run, which celebrates its 10th anniversary on Sept. 9 at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.

“The first year, we hoped for 500 participants,” said Kathie, the powerhouse who leads the team that pinks up the conservation area for the BRIGHT Run each year.

“We had 1,000 participants and $250,000 was raised,” she said. “It was amazing!”

Approaching its 10th anniversary celebration, the BRIGHT Run has raised about $2.8 million and supported 15 local breast cancer projects. Through the past nine months, we have profiled the courageous people who have been our survivor spokespeople over the years. Kathie will be on stage at BRIGHT Run 2017, telling her story as nine other survivor spokespeople have done before her.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to tell my story at the BRIGHT Run,” Kathie said.

Kathie was 44 when she found a lump in her breast while showering. She had surgery, then chemotherapy. She says that experience gave her a better understanding of the fear many chemo patients feel.

By 2000, Kathie had been an ICU nurse at the Henderson Hospital for 22 years. She switched to the cancer centre, working in the chemotherapy suite for several years before becoming a primary care nurse with two cancer physicians. She has been a member of the breast disease site team for more than 12 years.

The site team is made up of medical and radiation oncologists, nurses, radiologists, pathologists, a pharmacist and a social worker, all of whom meet once a week to discuss their patients’ cases.

In 2008, about half a dozen members of that team sat down to discuss their patients’ desire for an event in the city to raise money for local breast cancer research. And the BRIGHT Run was born.

“Our patients wanted to give back to the cancer centre in some way,” Kathie said. “They wanted an event in our city, rather than having to go elsewhere to do walks and fundraising. That’s how it started.”

Kathie sees the BRIGHT Run as her extended family. And while she loves the electric atmosphere, the happiness and the laughter of event day, it is also about remembering.

“We honour those who have passed,” she said. “They may not be with us in body, they are never gone. We will always remember them.”