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Tina Marie Vucci: The Spirited Face of a Survivor & Race Volunteer
Walking through a grocery store in Leland, North Carolina, Tina Marie Vucci saw her photo on the 2014 Susan G. Komen® Wilmington Race for the Cure poster hanging on the wall. It prompted her to recall her own breast cancer journey and where she gets her spirit for participating in the Race.
Thirteen years ago, Tina was living in her hometown of Damascus, Maryland. She was 33 years-old, going through what she describes as a difficult time in her life and was diagnosed with stage three estrogen-positive breast cancer.
“I originally felt a small lump the size of a pea and ignored it for two years. It grew into three tumors each the size of golf balls. I think part of the reason why I’m still here is that I’m supposed to talk to people, share my cancer journey and tell women that if you think you feel a lump, go get it checked and don’t let anything go undetected,” said Tina.
Treatment for Tina included a modified radical mastectomy, the removal of all of her lymph nodes under her arm, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. After there being no evidence of disease for eight years, Tina was looking for a new start, so she moved south to Wilmington in 2009.
In 2013, Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast held its inaugural Race for the Cure in Wilmington. Tina was a volunteer and Race participant. While she was familiar with Komen as a national organization, this was her first involvement with a Race event.
“I like that the Race encourages you to bring your spirit. It hits every emotion – crying, laughter and smiling. I meet so many people, hear inspiring stories and everyone is wearing pink. I’ve always loved pink, but now it’s become my signature color and it means so much more to me,” she said.
At the 2013 Race, Tina remembers seeing a woman in a wheelchair and then saw her again at the next year’s Race grinning, happy and walking on her own. She says stories like this make you want to come back each year.
When talking with Tina, it doesn’t take you long to feel her genuine passion for helping others who have been touched by breast cancer and her lively spirit dedicated to finding a cure. She says breast cancer changed her life and the Race is a way for all people touched by breast cancer – survivors, caretakers, family and friends – to come together.
“Everyone who attends the Race has their own personal reasons, but the common foundation is breast cancer. To me, the Race means that I’m showing up for life,” said Tina. “I want to help and inspire others and be there for them while they walk. It’s fun to show my spirit and know that I’m doing my part with so many others to find a cure for breast cancer.”