Brock cancer survivor urges support for Rankin Run

‘Mommy’s not dying’ were the first words Jennifer Ritchie (BA ’00) told her children after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.It has been a difficult road for the administrative assistant in Brock’s Nursing department, but after nine months of treatment that promise has been fulfilled.She now considers herself cured.To mark the life-changing news, Ritchie will join dozens of University employees and students, in addition to more than 13,000 other participants, in the 13th annual Rankin Cancer Run on Saturday, May 26.She’ll walk among fellow cancer survivors, friends and family honouring loved ones they lost, as well as corporate and community teams like Brock’s.Ritchie was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2015 at the age of 38. “My doctor initially thought it was nothing but sent me for tests anyway. I knew it was something. I felt different. I felt a lump,” she said.After several rounds of testing, her intuition was proven right. The lump she felt was a malignant tumour and she would require radiation, chemotherapy and a mastectomy.After dealing with the initial shock, Ritchie told her children about the cancer and reassured them that she wasn’t going anywhere. Wyatt was nine. Aidan was six.“We kept everything as normal as we could,” she said. “Nothing really changed for them other than Mommy was bald and would wear a wig. My little one actually liked my new look.”Ritchie’s support network helped her through this turbulent time. Within days of her diagnosis, her parents moved in to take care of her children when she wasn’t feeling well enough. Her husband Dan accompanied her to every chemotherapy treatment and, despite a fear of needles, helped administrer two needles a day for six months. Ritchie’s colleagues were also supportive and understanding of her situation.The chemotherapy treatments were exhausting, but throughout her mind remained focused on battling the disease. After four months of chemotherapy, Ritchie had a mastectomy that removed her left breast.“I guess it was a bit shocking at first,” she said. “I remember taking off the bandages and noticing my missing breast. But for me, I wanted the cancer gone. No breast meant no cancer. “The surgery removed the whole tumor and lymph nodes. I was cured. The radiation that followed was an additional measure because they knew my body could handle it.”Ritchie is scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery in the fall, when doctors will build a new breast from her stomach tissue.“It’s a pretty tough operation, but I’m ready for it,” she said.Ritchie is taking that brave attitude to the starting line of the Rankin Cancer Run, an event she’s participated in for more than a decade. “I love that 100 per cent of the funds raised stay local,” she said. “It’s such a great atmosphere. Everyone is there to support each other. There are so many people, but it doesn’t feel crowded. More than anything, it’s inspiring to see all of the orange survivor shirts.”As a cancer survivor, the run now has new meaning for Ritchie, who has used the services of many of the organizations supported by the event, including Wellspring Niagara and the Walker Family Cancer Centre.She hopes to inspire others to support the worthy cause.Brock staff, faculty and students are still needed for this year’s Rankin Cancer Run. To receive a Brock team T-shirt, participants must register by Friday, May 11. Online registration will be accepted until May 23, however, shirts are not guaranteed.Registration is $20 for adults or $10 for students. Children aged five and under are free, but must have their name included in the family section of a parent’s registration form. Anyone who collects $100 or more in donations does not have to pay a registration fee. After the run, participants will be treated to a complimentary barbecue lunch.Questions about joining the Brock University Rankin Cancer Run team can be directed to Megan Brown at or x6671. To register or make a donation, visit

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