Maria Luisa Bianchi – The Long Road to Hope

Through perseverance, determination and strength, a cancer fighter shares her story as she continues to walk for a cure

You have cancer.” It’s probably the most terrifying phrase an individual will ever hear. Unfortunately, that message is relayed to more than 500 Canadians on a daily basis. To say that the path to defeating cancer is overwhelming would be a significant understatement.

For Maria Luisa Bianchi, a thyroid cancer survivor, the keys to overcoming life-threatening illness (and a marathon) are hope and perseverance. “I’m sitting here at my desk right now and the first thing I see in front of me is a book that says the word ‘hope’ on it,” says Bianchi, an educational assistant at York Catholic District School Board. “That’s what keeps me going.” A tireless cancer fighter, Bianchi describes how the element of hope is what continues to drive her forward. “We need to be hopeful in everything that we do in life and not just in illness. It’s mind over matter.”

Despite being cancer-free for 10 years, Bianchi, alongside her daughter, Alessia, 17, will be participating in the Shoppers Drug Mart OneWalk to Conquer Cancer benefiting the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre on September 12, 2015.

The “Walking for a Cure in the Future with the PMCC” team will join the mother-daughter duo on the one-day, 25-kilometre walk through Toronto’s historical and cultural neighbourhoods near the waterfront.

This isn’t Bianchi’s first charity-related endeavour. In 2010, she took part in a walk supporting the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, traversing a distance of 32 km for an event that raised over $10 million for cancer research. Bianchi is also on the committee board of the annual Retro Gala – A Cure in the Future, which recently raised $500,000 for Princess Margaret’s research department. “The first time I walked was primarily for breast cancer and women’s cancers. [OneWalk to Conquer Cancer] got my attention because you can allocate your funds to a charity of your choice. You can choose to support lung cancer, breast cancer, gynecological cancer, testicular cancer … wherever you want.” Funds raised from OneWalk will benefit personalized cancer medicine at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, as well as help with the development of its first in-hospital survivorship program.

For over a decade, 50,000-plus walkers have raised over $148 million through cancer-walk events for PMCC. With each participant responsible for raising a minimum of $1,500 individually or by joining a team to raise the amount collectively, this year’s OneWalk will continue to raise vital funds for one of the world’s leading cancer research centres.

Reflecting on the support she’s received from her entire family over the years, Bianchi is both proud and emotional, especially when describing the first time she walked. “Their signs were up and they were rooting me on and everything else,” she says. “It was overwhelming. I broke down and started crying.” Bianchi will continue to have an unlimited amount of support from her family when she crosses the finish line this fall.

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