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It was 2008. Jashpreet Dhesy was 31 and had just given birth to her second son when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
And so began two rounds of chemo, a mastectomy, and reconstructive surgeries, as well as radiation therapy that caused serious burns. Jash, who turns 40 this month, was also in the midst of a tough divorce.
“Yes, it was a difficult time,” acknowledged Jash, a registered nurse and patient care coordinator with Mississauga’s Trillium Health Centre. “But I really think having breast cancer saved me. It happened at a time when my two boys were the only positive things in my life and I knew I had to survive for them. Surviving cancer made me know I could survive leaving my relationship,” she said. “I have a new attitude, a positive outlook. I’m in a much better place.”
When Jash was asked to be the survivor spokesperson at the fifth BRIGHT Run, she delayed the decision because she doesn’t like public speaking and her life was in turmoil. Despite the hesitation, she says it was an honour to share her story with the BRIGHT crowd. “I was scared – I really hate speaking in public,” she said. “But it also provided a really good release for me. My boys were with me on stage and my family was in the audience. It was good.”
Heading into its 10th-anniversary celebration, the BRIGHT Run has raised about $2.8 million and supported 15 important breast cancer research projects. Between now and Sept. 9, we will profile the courageous folks who have been our survivor spokespeople through the years. When Jash showed up at the Juravinski Cancer Centre for treatment, her face was already familiar to staff, and not just because her oldest sister Bindi is a JCC oncologist.
Their mother had been diagnosed the year prior and Jash was recognized as the young pregnant woman who brought her mom for treatment. Jash was diagnosed with Stage 3 ductal carcinoma in situ. The tumour was large, so her treatment began with chemotherapy. She then had a mastectomy, more chemo then radiation therapy and reconstructive surgery.
In 2011, Jash underwent a mastectomy on the other side, where serious dysplasia was discovered, although it was benign. She also had reconstructive surgery on that side. Jash credits her large family – her parents, four sisters, brother and extended family members – with providing ongoing support.
Each year, the family’s team, Cancer Busters, holds garage sales and other fundraisers. The Dhesy family participated in the first BRIGHT Run, three months after their mom’s breast cancer diagnosis. The next year, Jash participated while on chemo. Cancer Busters has continued to participate each year. “The BRIGHT Run is wonderfull,” Jash said. DzThere are many big fundraising events and you know the money doesn’t trickle down to where it’s needed. With the BRIGHT Run, we know exactly where the money is going – to research right here.”