Raising awareness: From rare cancer diagnosis to activist

[Editor’s Note: Post originally appeared on SILive.com, where I was a breaking news intern from January to August 2016.]

What would happen if you were diagnosed with an illness you had never heard of and couldn’t even pronounce?

That’s what happened to Gladys Faccini, of Arrochar, last August when she found out she had leiomyosarcoma (LMS).

LMS is a rare soft tissue cancer that attacks the smooth muscle cells found in the human body’s involuntary muscles, such as the uterus, stomach and intestines, according to LeioMyoSarcoma.info.

Faccini said she was devastated when she learned she had LMS.

“You always feel like an alien, like you’re the only one who has it,” she said.

However, today she finds comfort in Zumba, and shares that with others. On Sunday morning she planned a charity fundraiser at Hips & Salsa Fitness in Great Kills. Owners Denyse and Eric Flynn donated their space for the first annual event.

About 30 people showed up to enjoy a Zumba class, which was like a dance party.

FIGHTING LMS

Ten months after surgery, Faccini says she is healthy, but every four months she has to undergo scans to make sure the LMS hasn’t reached any one of those involuntary muscles.

“I’ll never forget the look on the surgeon’s face after when he had to tell us the results, and he hadn’t seen the pathology report until he sat down with us,” said Donnie Joynes, Faccini’s husband.

“It drained him (The Surgeon) and totally took him by surprise that the operation and procedure went well. It was a bit of a shock,” he added.

Faccini said each scan can be a life changer, so in those four month intervals she tries to do something significant for herself. This time around she’s raising awareness about LMS, and aside from her own personal journey with the disease, she noticed there isn’t any support of any kind on Staten Island.

“Hopefully in those four months nothing comes up because if you feel pain you think,” said Faccini. “I just try to keep a positive outlook, but my objective now is to raise awareness.”

FINDING COMFORT IN ZUMBA

Faccini plans to have another gathering like the one held Sunday on Friday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m., at Intoxx Fitness, 3295 Amboy Road in Oakwood.

“Mentally and physically I’m able to do it,” Faccini said. “It took a lot out of me emotionally to be diagnosed with LMS, so it took my awhile to get it together to be able to face it and really get out there and raise awareness and funds for research.”

She has been doing Zumba for five years, three of those as an instructor.

“It’s really my one hour, whether I’m teaching or a student, of not having to think and just having fun. And from a physical perspective, it helps me amazingly,” said Faccini.

“Support of my friends, family and Zumba family has been amazing. These last 10 months have been much harder mentally and emotionally to get through, but they’ve really been my backbone. And, of course, Donnie has had to go through all of this. But I’m here today because they’ve given me the strength,” she added.

For more information regarding LMS, visit the LMS Research Foundation website

About Jonathan Reyes

I joined the Daly Dose Of Hoops staff in the fall of 2016 and am the beat writer for Wagner College and the Northeast Conference. I’m also the editor of this here website, WerdyNerdy Space, and a contributor to The GWW. My background in journalism started as a sports intern for the Riverdale Press and News 12 The Bronx/Brooklyn and as a breaking news intern at the Staten Island Advance/SILive.com.

I graduated in 2016 from Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications, concentration in journalism. While in Riverdale, I wrote for Manhattan’s student newspaper, The Quadrangle, where I began as a staff writer before becoming assistant sports editor, sports editor and senior writer. During my time at the Quad, I earned Manhattan’s Excellence in Journalism, Best Sports News Article and Most Prolific awards, including nominations for eight similar awards in my four years.

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