When participants step off in the Shelter Island 5K Run/Walk Saturday, it will be with the excitement and camaraderie that always marks this event. But it will also be with special memories of those who have succumbed to cancer.
Race day traditionally falls just days before the anniversary of a terrible time for Townsend “Towny” Montant — October 27, 2011, when his wife Teresa died to metastatic triple negative breast cancer at Southampton Hospital.
It had been a little more than a year since her diagnosis and she spent much time sounding a clarion call for improved tests, since women with dense breast tissue were getting routine mammograms that were failing to pick up the early presence of cancer.
Teresa Montant in a Reporter profile in September 2010 said she thought of herself as “completely healthy … walking five miles a day and drinking water and eating right and all that kind of stuff” prior to her diagnosis.
That all changed rapidly with a double mastectomy and removal of lymph nodes followed by radiation and chemotherapy.
But she was driven to make her diagnosis and struggle into something positive for others by carrying out a campaign for improved testing for those with dense breast tissue.
Finding a tiny lump in dense breast tissue is “like trying to see a golf ball in a snow storm,” Mr. Montant said.
People always say “every day is a gift,” but until it hits home, no one realizes what that means, he added.
Six years later, Towny thinks about the life he and Teresa had together, the plans they made and how fast the 12 years they had as a married couple flew by. He didn’t bury himself in grief, he said, but has carried forward Teresa’s “Real Men Wear Pink” campaign and continued to push for improved diagnoses.
No doubt, there are women cured today because they heard the Montants’ words and demanded improved testing instead of getting that “happy letter” telling them they were fine after a routine mammogram that was incapable of catching a growing tumor at an early stage.
Looking back on his life as Teresa’s husband, Towny is calling for better counseling for spouses of cancer patients to help them cope and learn to provide better support for their stricken loved one.
While most breast cancer patients are women, Towny said, men have also been diagnosed.
On Saturday, Mr. Montant will be leading one of the largest groups of runners and walkers — the Pink Flamingos.
Last year, his persistence paid off when the Flamingos surpassed the perennial winners, the Eastern Long Island Hospital contingent, to take top honors. He hopes his team will repeat as the largest contingent this year.
Race Director Mary Ellen Adipietro and her team of talented volunteers organize the event, now in its 18th year and are making a special effort this year to honor those were who lost to cancer.
As of the beginning of the week, 400 people were registered to participate, according to Ms. Adipietro.
Sunny skies are promised with the temperature around 70 degrees for the race that starts and finishes at Crescent Beach.
The race is run during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and benefits the North Fork Breast Health Coalition and the Coalition for Women’s Breast Health at Southampton Hospital. All money goes directly to patient care through these organizations.
In addition, Lucia’s Angels, created in memory of Lucia T. Bagan, raises money at the race through the sale of raffle tickets for a raft of prizes.
Ms. Bagan was known to her family and friends as a giving person whose wish was that women and their families could have the love and support she received during her fight with cancer.
As a result of fundraising and in tribute to Ms. Bagan, Southampton Hospital unveiled a new patient room designed for patients suffering from late-term women’s cancers and their families. Lucia’s Room is modeled after the rooms at Hospice Inn in Huntington, where Ms. Bagan spent her final days.
To register for Saturday’s race, visit shelterislandfall5k.com.
After the race, Mr. Montant will head to the Real Men Wear Pink Cocktail Party at the Maidstone Club Tennis House in East Hampton. The fundraiser starts at 5:30 p.m. and benefits the Coalition for Women’s Cancers at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, Lucia’s Angels and the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center.
Tickets are $100 and available by calling (631) 324-0803.