When Carol Surtel’s 37-year-old daughter showed up on her doorstep after work and said she had the worst day ever, Surtel’s first thought was that she’d been fired.
“I wished that’s what it was,” she said.
Her daughter, Jenny Olsen, had come to tell her she’d just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had gone to a walk-in clinic after experiencing pain and trouble lying on her side. A mammogram showed she had cancer in her right breast and 11 lymph nodes.
“Jen and I were very close. We lived in the same neighbourhood [in Abbotsford]…” she said. “I just kind of hugged her and said we’ll get through this. I know lots of people that have gone through it. I know survivors. And she said I know I will, but she was really scared.”
After an 18-month battle with cancer and just days after her 39th birthday, Olsen died. It’s in her memory that Surtel will be lacing up for Nanaimo’s CIBC Run for the Cure on Sunday (Oct. 5).
It will be the fourth year a team has run for her daughter. A friend organized the first group of Breast Friends in Abbotsford in 2011 when Olsen first lost her hair to cancer. By the time she participated in the second run and after being declared cancer-free, she was dealing with a new diagnosis. This time cancer had spread to her lungs, brain and bones.
“I still don’t understand how someone so young could just get so sick, so quick and just never recover from it,” Surtel said. “To me, I just want them to find a cure. I think it’s out there and they need the money for research and I want to do my part to help us get there.”
Surtel, a resident and business owner in the Harbour City, will run under the banner Jenny’s Mom and Breast Friends.
Nanaimo’s 15th annual CIBC Run for the Cure at Beban Park aims to raise money for breast cancer research and generate awareness and advocacy for breast health. Last year more than 900 people took part in the event, raising upwards of $118,000.
There will be speeches, breast cancer information and a survivors’ parade. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m and the run/walk kicks off at 10 a.m. Volunteers are still needed and can register online at www.runforthecure.com.