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Event Aims to Raise Awareness, Funds for Breast-cancer Research

It’s a Pink Party

By any measure, Sandy Cassanelli is living the American success story at a young age, raising two daughters and serving as CEO of Greenough Packaging in West Springfield, the business she co-owns with her husband, Craig.

But she also understands that youth is no guarantee against cancer.

Cassanelli was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer in 2013, at age 37, well before women typically start regular mammograms. After a tough fight that included a bilateral mastectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy, and 28 days of radiation, doctors told her she was cured.

“I was fine for about two years,” she told BusinessWest. “Then, in April of this year, they told me my breast cancer had spread to my liver.”

It was a devastating blow, because, as she explained, once cancer metastasizes into other parts of the body, “you’re never cured. You can be treated, but not cured. I’m lucky enough to be at Dana Farber right now, being treated with a new medicine that was a trial and was recently approved by the FDA, in hopes it won’t metastasize further and spread to other parts of the body.”

Throughout her cancer fight, Cassanelli forged a bond with representatives of the Massachusetts and Connecticut chapters of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer. Impressed by the charity and its assurance that all money raised locally stays local, she wanted to do something to boost its profile. So, with the help of the Fathers & Sons auto group and Max Catering & Events, she’s throwing a party.

The purpose of the “Pink Party” — to be held Thursday, Oct. 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Fathers & Sons dealership at 989 Memorial Ave. in West Springfield — is to raise awareness of the mission of the Massachusetts affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and to raise funds to support the local fight against breast cancer.

There is no cost for admission, but donations are appreciated. Cocktails and hors d’ouevres will be provided by Max Catering and Events. Silent-auction items include Patriots tickets with club-level seating and premium parking. Guests are encouraged to wear pink in support of those fighting breast cancer. Anyone wishing to attend should RSVP to Cassanelli at [email protected] Those who cannot attend but wish to donate to the cause may do so at www.komenmass.org.

The Massachusetts affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure (Komen Mass) works with, and on behalf of, breast-cancer survivors and those who support them in local communities. The organization is dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable residents in Massachusetts from the impacts of breast cancer, particularly those who face barriers to care. Komen Mass sponsors various fund-raising events, including the Race for the Cure, and is a resource for information and education on breast health throughout the Commonwealth.

Cassanelli said she had met Fathers & Sons President Damon Cartelli at Komen events and was pleased that he offered to host the Pink Party. “We want to raise awareness of what Komen does for the people of Massachusetts, and encourage people to get their mammograms early,” she added. “Really, early detection is key, and we want to get the word out.”

Massachusetts has the second-highest incidence of breast cancer in the U.S. This year alone, more than 5,000 Massachusetts residents will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Seventy-five percent of funds raised by Komen Mass are invested back into Bay State communities through local grants that provide education, screening, and treatment services. The remaining 25% is invested into life-saving research.

To date, Komen Mass has invested over $68 million in Massachusetts-based organizations and an additional $26 million in research in the Commonwealth, and has contributed to numerous breast-cancer research breakthroughs over the past 30 years.

Cassanelli’s voice broke a little bit as she expressed hope that research funded by Komen and others may pave the way for a cure, and that she will be able to watch her daughters grow up. “People don’t realize this does affect young people. But it can happen to anybody.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

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