Thankful survivor takes active role in breast cancer fight

NEW BRITAIN - 2018 is the 15th year of the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer.

With the organization’s flagship Race in the Park about three months away, CTBHI is hoping to raise money and spread its message.

Board member Kaitlyn Clements recently told her breast cancer story - from diagnosis to recovery - and how CTBHI was there to help along the way.

Clements was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer on Sept. 24, 1999, at the age of 24. Clements said she remembers that day clearly and, at first, couldn’t believe the news.

“Twenty-four-year-olds don’t get diagnosed with breast cancer,” Clements remembered thinking. “I just remember screaming at him, ‘Am I going to die?’ ”

“It was a very traumatic day that I’ll never forget,” Clements said.

Being told may have been painful, but Clements said her doctor saved her life.

After receiving the diagnosis, Clements found an oncologist and began treatment. She had a lumpectomy and began chemotherapy.

She had just started as a teacher in the New Britain school system and remembered thinking, “How am I going to get through this?”

“Thankfully I had met some wonderful people through CTBHI and the Race in the Park and those people were there,” Clements said. “My family and the friends I met in CTBHI just rallied around me.”

Clements went through six months of chemotherapy. Her final day was March 17, 2000.

“On that day, with a couple of people from Race in the Park, we went out and we celebrated,” Clements said. “It was nice to celebrate something and to have that support and people around you who could relate.”

Clements said her involvement with CTBHI helped her put a positive spin on a negative situation.

“When I look back at having cancer, I can laugh because I remember the good times and the support. I don’t remember so much about the chemotherapy and radiation,” Clements said.

Almost a decade after being pronounced cancer-free, and after finding that she was still fertile after treatment, Clements decided she wanted a child. In 2007, Patrick Clements-Dolan was born.

“I always tell him that he’s a gift from God. And if I had to go through cancer all over again to get him, I would,” Clements said.

The love shared between Clements and her son is evident. The 10-year-old is student body president at Vance Elementary School and his mother’s influence on him is clear.

“I see a woman who has gone through one of the toughest times in her life and still had me. And then I see the beauty of her and how kind she is, how seriously kind she is,” Patrick said.

This year’s renewal of the Race in the Park is scheduled for May 12. The organization’s flagship event draws runners from all over the country to Walnut Hill Park on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. This year is the 15th anniversary of the first Race in the Park and organizers are expecting more than 4,000 participants.

The Connecticut Breast Health Initiative advocates through supporting education and research. Since 2005, CTBHI has awarded more than $3.6 million in grants to state breast cancer researchers and educators. As Clements said, the organization has helped her and countless others in their journeys as survivors, and the money it provides to researchers is crucial in advancing medical practices and technology.

CTBHI will benefit from a Pink in the Rink breast cancer awareness event during Saturday night’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers hockey game against the Providence Bruins at Webster Bank Arena. A special $30 ticket package is available that includes a seat, access to a pregame wine-tasting party and a souvenir wine glass. Ticket prices alone are $20, and proceeds will go to benefit CTBHI. Tickets can be bought at .

Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at [email protected]