When Joe and Fran Mercolino celebrated their 60th anniversary this year, they told their guests the best gift would be a donation to the Endowment for Cancer Research, named in honor of their daughter, who lost her 10-year battle with breast cancer in July 2004.
      "I'd watched Dianne fight so bravely," says Joe, who accompanied his daughter to her treatments. Dianne was an inspiration to many others, a fact that fills her parents with pride. "People would ask to see her," says Joe. "She gave them hope; that was my girl."
     Little did Joe know he'd face his own breast cancer battle less than year after Dianne's passing. "I saw a blister on my breast, and showed Fran," recalls Joe. His doctor told him to get it biopsied right away, and learned he had cancer. Within days, he had a mastectomy.
     Joe isn't the only one in his family to have battled breast cancer. Just months after his own diagnosis, his wife Fran was also told she had the disease. In addition,. His mother, sister and aunt, along with other close relatives have also had breast cancer.
    Although the road has not been easy, Joe is comforted by the belief that his daughter Dianne is his guardian angel. "After my doctor found my cancer, he told me that the blister on my breast--which was the reason I went to get checked--had nothing to do with the cancer itself. He said, 'I think it was a sign from your daughter so you'd get to a doctor quickly.' I told him, 'You are right my friend.' She saved me. I know it."