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They both had breast cancer: How a mother, daughter-in-law honour Terry Fox in his hometown of Port Coquitlam

On the day Erin Danielle was diagnosed with breast cancer, she never felt more alive.

On the day Erin Danielle was diagnosed with breast cancer, she never felt more alive.

The then-single parent was fit, eating well and had a healthy mindset about life.

On Oct. 3, 2016, Danielle picked up her son from elementary school and drove a bit before pulling over to share the bad news.

His response stunned her.

"Oh, like Terry Fox!" Jackson said.

"He said it in such a positive way," Danielle recalled. "It allowed my son to think of me as a hero. But he wasn't naive to what cancer was."

After her lumpectomy, a surgery to remove her double-negative cancer, Danielle was rushed into 16 rounds of chemotherapy over six months at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre.

That was followed by a double mastectomy, a surgery to remove the breasts, and three reconstructive operations. The last one was in March.

Danielle’s cancer discovery also opened her up to another world: advocacy.

The Langley resident spoke at schools, including when she had very little hair, and at Terry Fox Runs. She also encouraged others to get checked out by their doctor.

Two years ago, those reminders prompted Danielle’s mother-in-law, Mary Ness, to get a mammogram.

A longtime Terry Fox Hometown Run participant with her family, as well as the run’s volunteer coordinator for 15 years, the 31-year Port Coquitlam resident walked in for her check and was soon told she, too, had breast cancer — only hers was double positive.

Luckily, it was small enough to contain.

She had a lumpectomy, followed by radiation, but no chemotherapy and since then, Ness has been clear of the disease although she takes hormone replacement therapy, sees her physician every six months and has a diagnostic mammogram (an X-ray of the breast) at Royal Columbian Hospital each year.

Had Ness not gone in for her mammogram two years ago, the cancer likely "would have been way worse in six months," she said.

Today, the pair is speaking out about the disease and urging women to get tested regularly, as neither has a history of breast cancer in their families.

For the 42nd annual Terry Fox Hometown Run, which takes place on Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. from Hyde Creek Recreation Centre in Port Coquitlam, Ness is continuing in her role as volunteer coordinator while Danielle is the social media coordinator.

As in 2017, Danielle will also be the guest speaker before the Hometown Run begins, and she will talk about her journey and the need to raise money to beat cancer; proceeds will go to the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research.

Ness said she's got a solid team for the first full return of the community run since the pandemic; among her volunteers is Michele Reid, principal at Blakeburn Elementary School, as stage manager.

Ness said it's important to remember Fox's legacy.

"I followed Terry Fox from when he became well known on his Marathon of Hope," she said.

"I remember the day he had to quit in Thunder Bay. I remember the day he died. I have, and will, always support Terry Fox."

As for Danielle, she chooses to honour the Canadian hero in Port Coquitlam "because that's where he's from. This is for cancer research, so that one day we can make someone else safe from cancer."

Road closures

  • Temporary road closure from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
    • 1300-block of Laurier Avenue, from Hyde Creek Recreation Centre to Coast Meridian Road
  • Temporary road closures from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
    • Both southbound lanes of 2500–3500 block of Coast Meridian Road
      • Detour southbound traffic on Coast Meridian Road at Patricia Avenue to Oxford Avenue
    • Full closure of Coast Meridian Overpass. Detour east/west onto Lougheed Highway
    • Full closure of the 1700–2100 block of Kingsway Avenue from Kelly Avenue to Broadway Avenue
  • No parking on both sides of Kingsway Avenue, from Wilson to Broadway, and in the 1300-block of Laurier Avenue
  • Residents are encouraged to avoid driving in the above noted areas on Sunday morning
  • Remove vehicles parked in these areas before 8 a.m. to allow run volunteers to set up
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