Nancy Daly never met Elizabeth McFarland. But 13 years ago, she put an ad in a local newspaper looking for volunteers to help organize an event in memory of McFarland, a friend’s sister, who battled breast cancer before dying in 1999 at the age of 42.
“We had a meeting and about 50 people showed up. A man wrote a check for $500 for us to start with,” said Daly, 54, of Floral Park and a nurse in the women’s health department at North Shore-LIJ Health System. “And we’ve just been going ever since.”
On Saturday, decked out in pink, she smiled proudly while watching the 14th annual Liz’s Day unfold before her eyes at the Floral Park Recreational Center. It has now become a much-anticipated community event, drawing bigger crowds each year and so far has raised more than $500,000, which has been donated to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory specifically for breast cancer research.
While Daly never could have predicted the event’s success when they started, she also never imagined that one day she, too, would be diagnosed with the disease.
“There’s nothing worse than getting a call and hearing they found a lump,” she said, her eyes growing moist.
Daly was diagnosed last year when the cancer was spotted on her annual, routine mammogram. After undergoing treatment, she is now on her way to remission, but must continue to take oral medication for the next five years.
“It’s a little closer to my heart,” she said of the event, which includes sports tournaments, a Chinese auction, used book sale and kids activities. “Thank goodness for Liz’s Day. It encouraged me to continue getting my mammograms. Because how can I encourage other people to keep going for mammograms if I don’t go myself?”
This year’s event also remembered and honored a former Liz’s Day volunteer, Lydia Krawec, who lost her battle with breast cancer in March at the age of 42.
Lydia’s husband, Dan Krawec, said while the loss is still difficult, he is happy to see his wife’s name and story used to help spread the word and raise more money for research.
“If they could find a cure in my lifetime, that is what I want,” he said.
Pointing to his 21-year-old daughter, Danielle, who shares her mother’s green eyes, he added, “I don’t want her to have to worry about this.”
Sara Parise, 34, of Floral Park, knows all too well the importance of awareness and how shocking a diagnosis can be. As a breast cancer patient navigator, she helps women every day try to understand, cope with and get through the often-difficult treatment process.
Despite her experience in the field, she was stunned when her 26-year-old sister-in-law was diagnosed.
“Even though it [breast cancer] is all over the newspapers and TV, some people still just don’t think about it,” she said while watching her twin kindergarteners play in the bounce houses at the event. “They don’t think it is going to happen to them. Who does?”
Above: Floral Park resident Lydia Krawec, who died of breast cancer last March, was recognized at the annual Liz's Day breast cancer awareness event. Lydia's husband, Dan Krawec, and daughter, Danielle Krawec, posed with a photo of her at the event. (Sept. 29, 2012)