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Metro Detroiter spreads light 10 years into stage IV breast cancer fight

Posted at 5:41 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-16 16:31:57-04

WXYZ — More than 10 years ago a metro Detroit woman was told she only had three months to live. Fast forward to Friday, May 13, and Joanne Ortolan of Grosse Ile invited the community to join her to ‘Pink Out The Park’ at Comerica Park. It was the 10th anniversary of the theme night, which raises money for critical breast cancer research.

Joanne has been living with the most advanced stage of breast cancer for 10 years: stage four, also called metastatic. That means the disease has spread to other areas of her body. Joanne refuses to let the diagnosis steal her spirit.

“Just because you get a stage four diagnosis does not mean it is the end of the road for you. You need to come fighting and you need to keep living. Life is a blessing, and you want to treat every day like a gift.”

Joanne recently received a gift from Paws: a special pink bat that she packed for Friday night’s 4-2 victory over Baltimore. Before first pitch, Joanne took the field with hundreds of breast cancer survivors for a special ceremony. The women all have a common goal — they want to knock breast cancer out of the park. Karmanos Cancer Institute, McLaren Health Care and the Tigers invited the women to take center stage and spread awareness.

“Pink Out The Park has been going on for 10 years now. I started my breast cancer fight 10 years ago … Pink Out The Park is so important because it builds awareness for women. It builds awareness to make sure you get early detection and that you have those mammograms…”

Joanne says 'Pink Out The Park' also gives survivors a chance to meet each other and expand their support system.

The first 10,000 fans through the gate Friday night received a 'Pink Out The Park' pullover hoodie. Joanne hopes the freebie will serve as a reminder to never leave your breast health on the sidelines.

Karmanos recommends women with an average risk of breast cancer begin annual mammograms at age 40.

Joanne echoes that guidance, and encourages women to ask for more than a mammogram if they're not 100% confident with their result. Her advice stems from experience — the metro Detroiter had a clear mammogram 10 years ago, and not long after while on a cruise she noticed a lump developing on her breast.

“Mammograms are a start … if you don’t feel comfortable with your mammogram result, ask for an ultrasound. If you have fibrous tissue, ask the next step … make sure that you push and that you get the right care that makes you feel comfortable.”

A self-breast exam is another important step. Experts recommend giving yourself an exam at least once a month. If you notice any changes, don’t delay calling your doctor.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. According to Karmanos, 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Men are also at risk of getting breast cancer, but it’s far less common, accounting for about 1% of cases in the U.S.

If you couldn't make it to ‘Pink Out The Park’ Friday night — you can still be a diamond in the fight against breast cancer. Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure is one of several annual events in metro Detroit. If you have the means to help now, donations for breast cancer research are always welcome. Karmanos is just one of many reputable cancer organizations you can support.

As for Joanne, for 10 years now, she’s never been in remission. And she never plans on giving up hope.

“Breast cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It can be something that you take and embrace. Try to make sure that you live each day to the fullest and you enjoy it with your family and friends.”