RALEIGH — Against the backdrop of a cheering crowd and the squeak of sneakers on hardwood floors, Charlene Torrest wiped away tears.
Minutes before, Torrest, 68, of Raleigh had been one of about 120 breast-cancer survivors recognized at halftime Sunday during North Carolina State University’s Hoops 4 Hope women’s basketball game against Georgia Tech.
Ten months ago, Torrest said, she couldn’t manage to stand, much less walk across a room.
“It’s like a war,” she said. “You’re sick. You’re vomiting. You just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. You just keep going through the pain.”
Through game ticket proceeds, merchandise sales, a silent auction and donations, the Hoops 4 Hope event raised more than $38,000 for the Kay Yow Fund to be used for cancer research and prevention. The cancer fund is special for N.C. State students and fans because it bears the name of former NCSU women’s basketball coach Kay Yow, who died of the disease in 2009.
This year’s game wasn’t Torrest’s first Hoops 4 Hope game. But it was her first as a cancer survivor.
During the past year, Torrest has gone through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to fight stage II breast cancer. She was diagnosed at age 67 through a mammogram during her annual gynecologist visit. She tells all her friends and women she meets to make sure never to skip their annual exams.
Now Torrest said she is still going through chemotherapy, but feels healthier and more energetic. She’s even started playing tennis again. Watching the other breast-cancer survivors gathered during halftime was inspiring, especially those with 15 years or more in the fight or in remission, Torrest said.
N.C. State lost the game 70-79.
“A disappointing loss for the Wolfpack, but a victory for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund,” said Sue Donohoe, executive director of the Kay Yow Foundation.
“Every dollar we raise is a dollar closer to a cure,” she said.
Since the fund started in 2007, it has given $2.5 million in grants for scientific research and related programs all over the country. Rex Healthcare Foundation won a grant in 2012 for its new mobile mammography unit, and the University of Colorado’s Cancer Center won a grant for its research into the prevention of postpartum and pregnancy-associated cancers.
Finding a cure gives hope to survivors like Joyce Yeager, 56, of Raleigh who after eight years of being cancer-free found out in September that an escaped cell from her breast cancer had spread to her colon.
“The awareness this event brings is really important. Because I want there to be a cure soon,” she said. “The only way there’s going to be a cure is if we can fund the research. And the way to fund the research is through donations.”