Wilton cancer survivor runs to give back

On Saturday, April 29, Wilton resident Pam Rouleau will participate for the first time in the annual Whittingham Cancer Center Walk & Sally’s Run at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk to give back to the center that has given her so much.

When Rouleau was diagnosed with breast cancer this past summer, she decided to seek treatment at Norwalk Hospital’s Whittingham Cancer Center.

“The Whittingham Cancer Center has provided me with great medical care, along
with a terrific support system — whether it’s been through the incredible team of
doctors I have or the technicians, nurses and other staff members,” she said.

At the center, Rouleau said, she has never felt like “just the next person.”

“There has never been a missing link throughout the transitions in my treatment plan. I never felt I was dropped — not even an inch,” she said.

“Each time I leave the center, I feel gratitude for their knowledge and their treatment of me.”

Rouleau said she benefits from Whittingham’s Integrative Medicine Program offerings like weekly gentle chair yoga, where she leans breathing techniques that promote deeper healing by reducing stress and increasing relaxation.

“One of my favorite techniques helps get me back to sleep at night when I sometimes awaken due to side effects from my medications,” said Rouleau, noting that the program is offered to patients free of charge, thanks to money raised through events like Sally’s Run.

“I am also a regular at the center for acupuncture treatments,” she said. “The fee is quite nominal, and I feel comfortable knowing the licensed acupuncturist is knowledgeable about working with cancer survivors.”

Rouleau said there is also a counselor on staff at the Whittingham Cancer Center with whom she meets.

“Soon after my oncologist and I spoke of my treatment plan, I thought it might be a good idea to meet with the counselor because, frankly, I wanted to be prepared in case I hit a bump in the road and didn’t know how to deal with it,” she said.

“I didn’t know what emotions to expect. The counselor helped me come up
with a plan in case I had a tough go of it.”

An advanced practice registered nurse at the center put Rouleau in touch with Mary Ann Genuario, health and fitness director at the Wilton Family Y, for a cancer survivor fitness program.

“The Whittingham Cancer Center partners with local YMCAs giving cancer survivors a free three-month program to help improve energy, reduce fatigue, increase strength, and improve overall quality of life,” said Rouleau.

In late October, Rouleau found out she had beat cancer.

Sally’s Run

Rouleau said she didn’t know about Sally's Run before her diagnosis. The 5K is named for the late Sally Kalin of Wilton.

“A couple of months ago, I received a save-the-date card from the center about Sally’s Run, and because of my feelings about the Whittingham Cancer Center, I didn’t even hesitate about participating in the walk,” she said.

“I immediately put the date on my calendar and decided I was definitely going to walk, because I wanted to give back to the center for everything they do for me.”

While thinking about what she had read on the card, Rouleau said, she decided she wanted to do more than just be a Sally’s Run participant — she wanted to get more people involved.

“That’s when the idea of starting my own team popped into my head,” she said.

With the help of family members, Rouleau came up with a team name — Yes Mam-mogram & the Self-Checkers.

“The team name is a play on words to remind women to get mammograms and do routine self-exams — two very important components of a healthy regimen,” said Rouleau.

As of April 16, Rouleau said, the team has about 35 members, but she is hoping to grow the team even more.

“I’m hoping to get as many people as possible on our team,” she said.

“Of course, the more people who walk or run, the more registration fees we raise for the fund-raiser — but what I’ve noticed is that with every registrant we gained or with each
donation that came in, I felt so honored that people heard us.”

Rouleau said she has been “so touched” to find out that even people she hasn’t had communication with in years have signed up for the run.

“I’ve even had strangers ask if they could join our team,” she said. “For whatever
reason they have, people can resonate with this. We’ve reached them.”

Rouleau said she has been recruiting team members through social media and has made numerous trips to Whittingham to pick up stacks of the event’s promotional cards, which she has then customized with her team’s name and distributed to various businesses in town.

When it comes to raising funds for Sally’s Run, Rouleau’s team has already surpassed its $1,000 goal. As of April 17, the team had raised $4,710.

Click here to donate and learn more about Rouleau’s team.

To learn more about Sally’s Run, visit support.wchn.org.