Red Deer’s Dorota Burghardt didn’t think she would survive after being diagnosed with leukemia nearly eight years ago.
“When I was diagnosed I was in complete shock – you don’t expect to hear that,” said Burghardt. “At the time my daughter was four and my son was 16 so my world was crushed.”
Burghardt, who is originally from Poland, but has lived in Red Deer for more than 25 years, was one of the dozens to participate in The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada’s Light the Night Community Walk at Bower Ponds in Red Deer Saturday night.
Burghardt, 45, began improving shortly after undergoing aggressive chemotherapy sessions.
“It was rough for the first week. They didn’t know if I would make it, but I did. My daughter and son were my main inspiration – I had to live for them,” she said.
About a year-and-a-half after feeling better, her cancer began making her ill again.
“After six more months of treatment I was OK, but since then I’m on chemo twice a day (during treatment cycles) and that’s for the rest of my life,” she said.
Light the Night walks across the country raise awareness and money for cancer research.
Burghardt said this event “means everything” to her.
“It’s emotional and special. I can’t describe how it feels to be here alive today, which I never thought would happen. It is absolutely amazing.
“Thanks to these people and their support I’m still here. They raise money so they can do research and find new medication,” she said.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada’s mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
Kate Holowaty, community communications and fund development assistant at the society, said she hopes the walk, which is in its third year in Red Deer, continues to grow.
“People can remember those who lost their battle and bring the community together to rally around those who are still fighting.
“It’s emotional to see the people you’re working day-in and day-out to help. It feels really good to know we’re able to make a difference,” Holowaty said.
Participants carried one of three illuminated lanterns during the walk: white for patients, red for supporters and gold to remember loved ones who lost their lives to cancer.