SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — As a long-time member – now chair – of Rays of Hope, Anna Symington believes her involvement in the organization is the reason she found her breast cancer so early.
“I found it, I found the lump,” says Anna. “Had I not had that education, I may have just passed it off as, it’s not really — it’s nothing to be alarmed about.”
But it was something.
Two years later, her sister Donna Rounds learned she had something to be alarmed about too.
“I was scared to death,” says Donna. “You hear the word cancer and right away you’ve got your mortality looking you in the face.”
Referring to her sister Anna, Donna adds, “Right away, I did call her because she was a huge support, she’d been through it before.”
Donna’s cancer was different from Anna’s — more aggressive. She needed a mastectomy to remove the tumor, and chemotherapy to kill the cancer.
“The hardest part was that I wanted to have it, not my children,” says Filomena. “But it worked out different.”
At least it did for a while.
As Donna was finishing up chemo — just as her hair was starting to grow back — her mother Filomena received some all-too-familiar news.
“She brought me aside one day and said, ‘I just wanted to let you know I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer,’” says Donna. “I looked at her and said, ‘Of all the things you wanted to share with us mom, this? Of all the things, this is what you want to share?’”
But just like her daughters, Filomena beat the disease.
“I thought I wouldn’t be here to see my grandchildren, but sure enough I saw great grandchildren too,” says Filomena.
Today, all three women are in remission: Anna, 10 years, Donna, 8 years, and Filomena, 7 years.
Suspicious genetics played a role in their cancers, the family underwent the BRCA gene test. Surprisingly, none of them are carriers.
“I think the intriguing and fascinating — which seem strange words to use to describe this — is that within a span of 4 years, I get diagnosed, my youngest sister and then my mom, who’s the eldest,” says Anna. “It just seemed rather strange, so we still don’t know.”
The family says it’s those unanswered questions that inspire them to walk and raise money for Rays of Hope every year.
“Any research done, iterative, year-after-year, it’s just that much closer to understanding it, and hopefully a way to treat it, and maybe some day prevent it,” says Anna.
This year, Rays of Hope is celebrating its 20th anniversary with walks in Springfield and Greenfield on October 20th. To register or donate, click here.