Stephanie McKinney always had a feeling that breast cancer was coming for her. It turns out that she was probably right.
McKinney's grandmother, a single mother of six and educator at the time, was diagnosed with the disease in her early 40s and lost her battle very quickly. And seven years ago, one of McKinney's aunts, Susie, learned that she had breast cancer too.
It turns out that the BRCA2 gene, which indicates a high probability of breast cancer, runs in McKinney's family. Somebody with the gene has an 87 percent chance of getting breast cancer, McKinney tells me, and a higher risk for ovarian cancer too.
And McKinney, like her mother and aunts, all have learned they are carriers. Family, friends raise money to walk 60 miles, fight breast cancer
The revelation launched McKinney, a north Raleigh mom, into action. With two young children, she said she wasn't about to let the disease take over her life. She signed up for a preventative mastectomy, which reduces her breast cancer risk to 10 percent. And while the decision was emotional and the recovery was painful, she hasn't looked back.
"I hate this disease and I was very happy to tell it where to go," she said.
But at the end of last year, as McKinney recovered from her own surgery and prepared for the next stage of breast reconstruction, her Aunt Susie found out that her breast cancer had recurred.
And that's when McKinney and others decided they'd help her do something she always wanted to do - participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, a 60-mile walk in Washington, D.C., in September.
Susie's Family Olympians is a twelve-member team made up of friends and family. They must each raise $2,300 to participate in the walk. So far the group is doing well. McKinney tells me that of the 550 teams signed up for the event, they are in the top ten when it comes to fundraising. But there's still more to do.
"We've just barely gotten started," she said. "We've been really thankful."
The team has organized a variety of fundraising events over the next several months. They're all family friendly and opportunities for some fun and to help out a great cause.
- On the first Tuesday of every month (including this month, April 5), Monkey Joe's, 6220 Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh, is giving 25 percent of the proceeds from sales of food and admission to the team. They also are giving a $2 discount off admission for kids three and up. The fundraiser is available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for preschoolers and toddlers and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for elementary school kids. Be sure to mention you are there for the breast cancer fundraiser.
- DeClutter for a Cause is May 7 at 9320 Palm Bay Circle in Raleigh. All proceeds will go towards the walk. Organizers also are happy to accept donations.
- The Strike Out Breast Cancer Bowling Tournament is May 21 at Buffaloe Lanes in North Raleigh. There will be prizes and the Rex Breast Cancer bus on site.
- The team also is selling cute, washable bags made by Mixed Bag Designs and KidStar Safety ID Kits. A silent auction also is in the works for later in the summer.
For more information about all of these events, check the team's website at www.sfowalk.com. And watch the video to hear more from McKinney.