Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM Walking out of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute five years ago, Danielle Veronesi-Polastry of Agawam saw an advertisement for the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.
She had just been fitted for a prosthetic her 2002 breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 22 had left her with only a quarter of one of her breasts.
In an interview with Reminder Publications, Veronesi-Polastry recalled that day as a difficult one. She explained that for the year after her diagnosis she was in a "funk" emotionally and wondered if any man could love her and what her body had become.
"What guy is going to want me knowing that I could get sick?" she recalled asking herself, adding that she could no longer look at herself in the mirror.
Five years later she is married, cancer-free and about to participate in her fifth Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on Sept. 21.
Veronesi-Polastry said upon seeing the advertisement five years ago she knew the walk would help her to heal physically and emotionally after losing her aunt, Agawam resident Barbara Peterson to cancer in 2001. So far, Team Barbara Peterson has raised over $2,000 toward their $6,000 goal.
Veronesi-Polastry along with 7,000 others will participate in the walk that is projected to raise $7.2 million for cancer research. Over $51 million has been raised throughout the past two decades, providing funding for better treatments and services for those receiving treatment.
"It's a hospital without walls," Veronesi-Polastry said of Dana-Farber. "As soon as you walk in the door you're family.
"Dana Farber meant hope and gave me a sense of security," she continued. "You always think when you are younger that there is no hope and you will not be able to get through it."
Veronesi-Polastry said the walk helps to keep the memory of her aunt alive and also "reminds me that if I do get sick I will survive it and I will be healthy." She also continues to advocate for the cause as a member of the Jimmy Fund Western Massachusetts Council, which coordinates five annual fundraising events for the cause.
Agawam resident Diane Iannuzzi, a member of Team Barbara Peterson, also the president of the Jimmy Fund Western Massachusetts Council, explained that while she did not know Barbara Peterson she is walking for her parents and other loved ones battling cancer.
She said that Veronesi-Polastry has also provided her with inspiration.
"She is a bubbly, youthful, amazing woman and you'd never know she had it [cancer]," Iannuzzi said.
Iannuzzi added that her loved ones will help to get her through the 13-mile course. Walkers have the option to participate in a 26.2-mile, 13.1-mile, five-mile or three-mile course. Those unable to make it to the event can also become virtual walkers.
For more information about the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk call (866) JF-1-WALK or go to www.jimmyfund.org.
Donations can be mailed to Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, 10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor, Brookline, MA 02445.