TORONTO — Breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine, vaginal, vulvar – these are all women’s cancers.
More than 3,100 participants gathered at Toronto’s Rogers Centre Sept. 6 for the 12th annual Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers, a two-day, 60-kilometre weekend walk. The 2014 Toronto walk raised more than $7.7 million for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PMCC).
The facts are staggering.
“This year in Canada, over 34,500 women with be diagnosed with a form of breast or gynecologic cancer, and over 8,000 will die from the disease,” said Paul Alofs, president and CEO of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
Randy Mellon, a Toronto mother of daughters Carly and Hailey and wife to Richard, has raised more than $250,000 since the Weekend Walk’s inception 12 years ago.
Mellon’s commitment to the cause began after her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and the earlier loss of her father to leukemia.
In February 2013, her reason for walking became even more personal when, after a routine mammogram, she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy, a sentinel node biopsy and chemotherapy at Princess Margaret.
“I was one of the lucky ones. I was diagnosed early. But my cancer was very aggressive. I ended up having six rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation and 17 herceptin treatments,” Mellon said.
At last year’s weekend walk, Mellon walked with her two daughters, after having just completed six rounds of chemotherapy.
“I called it my victory walk,” Mellon reflected.
In 12 years, the weekend walk has raised more than $148 million for Princess Margaret, bringing together communities of survivors and their supporters, who spend months fundraising and training in order to participate.
Mellon’s father was on an experimental drug called nupogen, now an approved drug in Canada.
“I was the next generation of that drug. I know my dad was an angel on my shoulder while I was going through treatment,” Mellon said.
A huge believer in cancer research and the dollars needed for research, Mellon said that “funds raised are critical, because you never know where that breakthrough is going to come from.”
Mellon was the co-captain of her team, Trade Secrets, this year, and walked alongside her younger daughter, Hailey.
Having raised a significant amount of money at the inaugural weekend walk, Mellon was fuelled by the knowledge that she could raise even more.
She set up a fundraising initiative company, called Think Pink Direct, a Canadian source for gifts and fundraising items to help end cancer, specializing in pink items for cancer awareness.
“One of the things my father always taught me is that we can do more together than we can individually, and it became a tzedakah-driven project for me and my family,” she said.
As the supplier of pink ribbons to beauty retailer Trade Secrets, Mellon gathered friends and joined their team as a Trade Secrets walker. The team raised over $71,000 for the this year’s weekend.
Until Sept. 26, Trade Secrets is spearheading a fundraising initiative for the weekend walk called Give and Take. Locations across Canada are encouraging customers to bring their gently used hairstyling appliances to their closest store. Trade Secrets will then donate five dollars per appliance to The Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers. The used products will be donated to women’s shelters throughout Canada.
“I was diagnosed because I went for my routine mammogram. If I can make a difference for a woman to go and get a mammogram, then my having had breast cancer makes it worth it,” Mellon said.
The weekend walk announced a historic transition of North America’s largest multi-day walk for women’s cancers into the Shoppers Drug Mart OneWalk to Conquer Cancer for 2015. The next generation of this fundraiser will consist of a 25-km, walk, and an inspiring festival experience in one day to raise vital funds for personalized cancer medicine at Princess Margaret.
“We are relaunching the weekend walk with a brand-new name and broader appeal so each walker can raise funds for the cancer type they care about the most,” Alofs said.
“Funds raised through OneWalk will continue to support the clinical enhancements, survivorship programs and research of Dr. Tak Mak and his team at the PMCC,” he added.