Sisters to ride in fundraising bicycle 'Challenge'
Laura Brande, a healthy, athletic wife and mother of two young children, never imagined being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34.
In 2006, Ms. Brande found a lump in her right breast and immediately scheduled a doctor's appointment.
At first, doctors believed it to be a cyst, but after it did not go away, she obtained a biopsy and was found to have invasive breast cancer.
Her sister, Deborah Yolin Raley, of Wellesley, Mass., a physician assistant at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, knew, in order for her to have the best care possible, she needed to be seen at Dana-Farber.
Ms. Brande was completely unprepared when her doctor called to say she had cancer.
After all, she was an active person and avid runner.
She found out she had multiple tumors in one breast and underwent a bilateral mastectomy.
The immediate concern for Ms. Brande and her husband became caring for their young children while she traveled back and forth from her South Kent home to Boston for treatment.
Her life during much of the next year was chemotherapy and then radiation treatments in Boston, alternating with as much time with her family as possible.
Throughout it all, Ms. Brande had her sights set on getting healthy and one day riding in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, the annual bike-a-thon that raises funds for adult and pediatric cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund.
"At the time, my sons were 1 and 4 years old and I missed that time with them," says Ms. Brande. "My cancer diagnosis was harder on my family than it was on me because I did what I had to do to get healthy again."
"Because of the strong support from my family," she added, "I was able to keep everything as normal as possible for my children."
The next year, Ms. Brande achieved her goal when she celebrated her one-year mark of being cancer-free by participating in a triathlon with Ms. Yolin Raley's husband.
Just when the family thought they were clear of cancer, a month after the triathlon, the sisters' mother, Lee-Ann Yolin, was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram.
She had surgery to remove the tumor, followed by radiation treatments for six weeks.
Today, Ms. Brande, 40, has been cancer-free for almost six years.
To give back for her own successful treatment, next month she and Ms. Yolin Raley will ride 163 miles in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge.
Once again, the sisters will be by each other's side as they cycle Aug. 4 and 5 as part of Team WOW (Women's Oncology on Wheels).
In weeks leading up to the Challenge, the sisters are searching for donors to support their ride and their cause of fighting cancer.
The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge is an annual bike-a-thon that today raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the United States. The event tours through 46 towns across Massachusetts. Approximately 5,500 cyclists ride in the event.
The organization was founded in 1980 and has since raised $338 million for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.