Stephanie Gilman

Unfortunately, many young women today can talk about their mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. But it’s still a pretty rare thing to say that your father has received this treatment. Stephanie Gilman is one of those daughters, and her dad, Todd Herzog, has participated in the Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers for many years, working hard to support the cancer centre that took such good care of him. This year his passion for the cause of conquering breast cancer has taken on a much greater sense of urgency as Stephanie received a diagnosis of Her2-positive invasive breast cancer. Now, father, daughter and sisters are on a crusade to drive awareness that this is not just a disease of older women and to help raise the funds needed for more research.
 
Stephanie also maintains a blog which you can read at: passmeanothercupcake.com
 
The Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers has been an important cause for my family, as my father is a breast cancer survivor. At this exact time one year ago, I stood with my family, listening to the closing ceremonies speech, while I buried my face in my husband’s chest so no one could see my tears. I was crying because I knew the woman speaking on the stage would soon be me. I was waiting for the results of a biopsy for a lump I had found on my breast, a couple weeks earlier. And sure enough, two days after the walk, and less than a month after my 28th birthday, I learned that indeed, I had breast cancer. I had been married less than one year, and was busy thinking about career goals and places I wanted to travel. This was not part of the plan.
 
As is often the case with younger women, my cancer was an aggressive form. Her2-positive, ER-positive, Grade 3, invasive breast cancer. And unlike my days of being a student, where the higher the grade, the better – I learned that the opposite rang true in this case. Because of my young age and the nature of my tumor, I had an aggressive treatment plan to match: a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, sentinel node biopsy, 6 rounds of chemo, 25 days of radiation, 1 year of Herceptin which I will complete in January, and many years of hormone therapy that will follow. While most people my age are busy getting promotions or starting a family, I have been busy being a full-time cancer fighter. Not really a job I ever thought I’d have, but as it turns out, I’m pretty good at it.
 
Although I wish that I could have bypassed this particular experience, I am glad that I have been asked to share it with you, and that I can bring a face to the many women and men whom you have helped by participating in this walk. I am your proof that cancer does not discriminate. It found its way into my otherwise healthy, young body, threatening to take away everything that I had hoped for and dreamt about. And unfortunately, I am not a unique case. There are many other beautiful women in this room who have been right there with me, and walked the same path. Clearly, something needs to be done, and there is no time to sit around and wait while the next unsuspecting 28 year-old finds a lump in her breast.
 
Although we have come so far, there is still so much more to do. This is why this weekend is so important. This is why we need to keep pushing, keep raising money, and keep funding ground-breaking research. I am so grateful to the Princess Margaret for all that they have done for me, and everything they continue to do to put an end to women’s cancers.
 
This year, I received a pink lanyard in place of the typical blue, signifying that I am now a survivor. I wear it around my neck proudly today, as a reminder of the challenges I overcame to get me to this moment, and as a symbol of hope that the day will come when there are no more walks, no need for fundraising, and no young women, standing up here, sharing their stories of surviving cancer.
 
I have been called a hero numerous times in the past year, but all of you who support this important cause, all of you who are keeping this hope alive, you are heroes – for not turning a blind eye and not letting cancer win. On behalf of myself, and everyone who wears a pink lanyard around their neck… Thank you.
Reviewed: October 2013