Cancer affects us all and today we feel compelled to support and share the story of a WiO veteran instructor and very dear friend, Miss Bachata and Barbells herself, Vanessa Checchio. 16 years ago, the C word came into her life when she least expected it. Vanessa was 12 years old, a super active child with nothing but sports and Spice Girls on her mind. Unfortunately, on one random day, some very serious and shocking news made its way into her life. CANCER - Hodgkin's lymphoma to be exact.

For this young energetic spirit, softball practice quickly turned into chemotherapy sessions and the hospital became her second home. Vanessa received 6 months of chemotherapy and 3 months of radiation treatment, which made her feel weaker than weak. It got to the point where it was so debilitating she could barely move off the couch because she felt so sick.

Luckily, Vanessa responded to treatment immediately and has been in remission for the past 16 years. When we asked her about her recovery, she gave credit to a few big contributors. Her age for one because at 12 years old, there was not a clear understanding of how sick she actually was. She feels that being naive played a role in her positive outlook, and a complete understanding may have affected her progress.

Another contributor was her new found home and family, The Valerie Organization at Overlook Hospital. She says without the support of The Valerie Fund and the treatment she received while being a patient there, she may not be here with us today. Throughout the duration of her treatment, the doctors, nurses and staff did everything in their power to make her feel like a kid still. Vanessa explains, “The reality is children with Cancer go through some pretty heavy stuff but at the end of the day, they are still children. The Valerie Fund made sure we still felt like kids and for that I am forever grateful.”

This brings us to the meat of this blog. Vanessa now feels her personal mantra and life’s mission lies in being as strong as she can be both physically and mentally, and most importantly, helping others to do the same. She is full of gratitude, appreciation and knows that giving back is the best way to thank them. Vanessa, along with her friend Rock Tate, (co-owner of Intrepid Gym in Montclair,) are trying to raise as much money as they possibly can to give back to this organization which motivated us to lend our hand as well. Sharing Vanessa’s story and educating people as to what The Valarie Organization actually does is the real mission. For over 30 years this organization has been caring and treating sick children with cancer and sickle cell anemia. Annually they host a 5K fundraising race to raise money for the organization and this year it falls on June 11th. Vanessa along with friends, family and supporters will run and ask for donations which will go to comprehensive health care for children with cancer and blood disorders, meaning the money goes straight to the source!

Wondering how to get involved?  Well luckily for you there are a few different ways!

WORK IT OUT

Sign up for a work out on May 22nd at Maxwell Place Pier in Hoboken.
Class begins at 12pm and will be followed by drinks at Pier 13.
Tickets are $10 and go directly to the Valerie Fund. Bring $10 cash on the day of the class OR

Purchase tickets here!

GIVE

Donate because every little kid deserves to have a worry free childhood and The Valerie Fund helps the ones that are affected do that. You can donate directly to Vanessa and Rock’s private fund through their GoFundMe page.

Click here to give! 

RUN

Sign up for the Walk/Run on June 11th at Verona Park. Registration begins at 7am and the race starts at 8:30am.

Click here to sign up!

If you'd like to read more about Vanessa's inspiring story visit her blog, I WAS A CANCER KID. We asked Vanessa to share some words of encouragement and wisdom for children, family and friends battling the C word and here’s what she had to say:

Scary is an understatement about what you’re going through, but it’s also going to make you one of the strongest human beings out there. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, don’t be ashamed when your body takes a toll against you, and don’t ever stop fighting.

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