News / Ottawa

A family history of cancer fighters and survivors

Run for the Cure Ottawa co-director shares her and her family’s story ahead of Oct. 2 run.

Barrhaven resident Susan Enns stands in front of the Wall of Hope at last year’s CIBC Run for the Cure in Ottawa. She shared a bit of her and her family’s cancer story ahead of this year’s run, taking place Oct. 2.

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Barrhaven resident Susan Enns stands in front of the Wall of Hope at last year’s CIBC Run for the Cure in Ottawa. She shared a bit of her and her family’s cancer story ahead of this year’s run, taking place Oct. 2.

Susan Enns says she remembers it perfectly: Aug. 13, 2013. That was the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I won’t lie to you – your heart skips a beat. Probably two,” she said.

You might think the diagnosis would have been even more terrible for the Barrhaven resident, given that her family has a long history of breast cancer.

“One in nine Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime,” said Enns. “In my family, it’s about one in two – a virtual coin-toss.”

But she says it has taught her how to deal with it better.

Enns has been a volunteer for the CIBC Run for the Cure for eight years now, surrounded by survivors, supporters and their families at the event, which draws tens of thousands of participants across the country.

In addition to that, Enns’ family history meant that she has known for many years she was at high risk of a cancer diagnosis. All that support has given her strength, she said.

“It was a scary thing (to be diagnosed) but the whole idea for us was always, ‘OK, yeah, we’ve been thrown a curve ball. Let’s dig in the back foot and swing for the fence and hope for the best.’”

Enns has seen and felt personally the positive effects of research into breast cancer.

Just a few weeks ago, Enns was shopping and wearing a Run for the Cure t-shirt, which another woman asked her about. It turned out she was a 10-year survivor, said Enns, and “was part of the clinical trial of the same treatment that is now standard and that saved my life.”

Similarly, Enns’ youngest cousin in Vancouver, who is dealing with breast cancer as well, was put on another treatment of which Enns was part of the clinical trial. Her cousin has had to fight cancer off multiple times, and will be participating in the run in Vancouver.

“We’ve seen huge advances,” said Enns. “She wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be here … I’m living proof that research saves lives.”

But more research is needed. For instance, Enns and her family have tested negative for all known genetic mutations that can give rise to breast cancer, and yet they know it runs in their family.

Enns is proud to say that she is a breast cancer survivor, and said she is buoyed every year by the thousands of runners in pink who take part. But she said she hopes her story encourages more women to get tested.

The run takes place across the country on Oct. 2. Enns women in four different time zones will be participating.

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