COVENTRY — Rebecca Nero believes in making the best out of a situation and making tough decisions but believes that also make a person stronger.
Nero was be one of the 15,000 walkers expected to take part in yesterday’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Providence.
She has taken part in the event for many years because the cause is very dear to her heart. Breast cancer has taken such a huge toll on her family including her mother-in-law, two aunts and a sister-in-law along with many friends and acquaintances.
This year, the event is even more personal for her because after since being diagnosed in May, she is fighting her own battle with the disease.
“After a sketchy mammogram in December and an immediate retake that determined I was all clear for another year, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something still wasn’t right,” she explained.
“Things just didn’t look or feel right when I looked in the mirror. Still, I kept telling myself that everything must be fine....the mammogram said so but my heart told me otherwise.”
She had it checked out further and those instincts and fears were confirmed. The next step was a lumpectomy, only to find that a mastectomy would be needed after chemo. Because of this experience, she advises every woman to pay attention to their body and if something doesn’t feel or look right, get an answer until they are satisfied and trust instincts because they are usually right.
When she started treatment in May, she also started getting reminders in the mail about Making Strides. “I said to myself, “how ironic!” And, I can’t do it this year, I’m too sick and tired, how will I walk, and who has time to fundraise? I resigned myself for about 5 minutes before coming back to my senses. And then I realized that now, more than ever was my presence important,” said the 45-year-old mother of two.
Her best friend formed Team Becky so she began fundraising.
“It turns out you have a lot of down time during chemo,” she joked. “Plus there is this wonderful invention called the internet so between Facebook, twitter and email, I have personally raised $2,315 without even leaving the house.”
As participants raise funds and get to certain levels, they become pacesetters. Through her efforts, she will become a pacesetter for the walk and Team Becky is in 2nd place.
“My competitive streak to beat the crap out of cancer and see my team rise above the others has helped my spirits and has given me something other than chemo to focus on, instead of ticking off the days until my next treatment,” Nero said. “The Making Strides walk has given me a greater purpose to focus my energy on and that is to one day see a world without breast cancer.”
The walk, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, takes place in various areas throughout the state and more than 300 communities nationwide to celebrate breast cancer survivors, educate people about the importance of prevention and early detection and raise funds to continue research.
The non-competitive, three-mile event starts and ends in downtown Providence and was expected to raise $1 million to help the Society finish the fight against breast cancer.
Nero is scheduled to have a bilateral mastectomy later this month in an effort to further prevent the spread of this disease.
“I don’t want to go through any of this again,” she said. “I know many do it and I’m not doing it to be trendy; I’m doing it to save my life so I can be around for my family.”
When asked about her support system, she let out a big sigh and said everyone has been absolutely amazing.
“Support has been near and far and wide,” she said. “Neighbors, family, friends, co-workers – everyone has been bringing me food and doing everything they can. It’s amazing how loved you can feel even while you’re going through this. I can’t imagine how someone does this alone or how our grandmothers got through this because it was such taboo to talk about it years ago.”
Because this disease affects the whole family, Nero encourages parents to get kids involved in the process with lemonade stands, making homemade bookmarks and lollipops and school fundraisers because kids love to help and be a part of something bigger.
She said just being able to take part in the walk, though, is a form of therapy.
“These are others who are going through the same things you are,” Nero said. “When you meet someone, you shake their hand typically, but here, when you meet someone, you’re sisters and you hug right off. We speak the same language and have a bond that no one else understands. You feel uplifted.”