In 2017, Stacy Hanson was diagnosed with stage IV triple negative metastatic breast cancer with five to 24 months left to live. More than 30 months later, Hanson celebrated her 50th birthday with a Cinco de Mayo party and fundraiser for the American Cancer Society at the Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas in Atlantic Beach.
The fundraiser is to support the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, a non-competitive 5K that will be held Oct. 19 at TIAA Bank Field in downtown Jacksonville. All funds go to the American Cancer Society to help with research and those struggling with breast cancer.
Guests mingled in and out of the Royal Palm to enjoy Mexican food and margaritas and had chances at raffle prizes ranging from custom coolers to Tiffany jewelry. A children’s area was prepared in the corner to ensure guests enjoyed themselves, no matter the age.
“We got an amazing turn out despite the rain and I thank everybody for being here,” Stacy Hanson said outside the Royal Palm. Rain drizzled over the restaurant, but that didn’t stop Hanson’s supporters from coming out.
According to Hanson and the Center of Disease Control, 40,000 women die from breast cancer every year and that number hasn’t changed since 1997. When Hanson was diagnosed, she not only discovered she had breast cancer, but that she also carried the BRCA 1 gene mutation that often leads to genetic alterations that cause cancer, according to Cancer.gov.
When Hanson was initially tested for the gene, doctors said not to worry. Her father’s side had a history of cancer, but it wasn’t breast cancer and the BRCA 1 gene couldn’t pass through the paternal line. However, this is not true. Cancer.gov states the gene can certainly pass through the paternal line, and in Hanson’s case, it did.
One of the three reasons for hosting the fundraiser was to spread awareness about getting tested for the BRCA 1 gene, which also has a 1 in 2 chance of being passed down to the next generation if a parent carries it.
“My 6-year-old daughter, Lucy has a 50/50 chance,” Hanson explained. “I want to be there to help her because you have to make very serious decisions about your body when you’re very young.”
Hanson learned that many who carry the BRCA 1 gene call themselves “previvors” because of all the preventative care they go through before they’re even at risk.
“They take out their ovaries and tubes, they freeze their eggs, they do everything they can to prevent cancer,” she said. “Previvors’ have a 70% chance of getting cancer in their lifetime.”
Hanson’s other two reasons to throw this event go hand-in-hand. She believes funding for cancer research is imperative for finding a cure, and doctors can’t find new medicine for a cure without clinical trials.
“For whatever reason, people are scared of them,” she said. “They think they’re like guinea pigs, but real clinical trials are different. We need real education of people on clinical trials.”
Hanson said that if she had chosen the regular standard of care, her chances of survival were 60%, not very convincing. When she chose to “venture the unknown,” not only did she gain access to cutting edge drugs, but was also looked after more closely as patient.
Her cancer reduced to nothing and is currently noted with no evidence of disease. As Hanson looks back on her journey, she would choose clinical trials all over again.
“It’s completely worth the risk,” she said. “It sucks, but you have to do your own research and ask your doctors the hard questions. I would do every clinical trial that is available to me before I would go standard of care.”
Hanson admires the American Cancer Society because it funds research for clinical trials, grants for those finding a cure and access to care for patients who can’t afford it. The ACS is also building a Hope Lodge in Jacksonville’s Mayo Clinic for patients who can’t afford a hospital stay.
Last year’s Making Strides walk by the ACS raised $570,000 and more than 12,000 people came out in support.
“This walk is a damn good event,” she said. “People are interested, or else we would not have had 12,000 walkers and 200 people at this random event today, you know? We sold 250 tickets at this event!”
And it shows. Walking back into the Royal Palm was a challenge in itself. A sea of supporters overflowed the restaurant. Hanson is beyond thankful for everyone who attended and believes that with enough help and support, a cure for cancer can finally be reached.
“It’s 2019,” she said. “We need a cure.”