Coventry resident Corey Calligano will be featured in the 2014 ‘Celebrate Hope, Celebrate Life’ Calendar, released annually by the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.
The theme for the latest calendar, which will be unveiled at the opening reception of the Flames of Hope: A Celebration of Life event in October, is women undergoing breast cancer treatment. 31-year-old Calligano received her breast cancer diagnosis in September 2012, shortly after noticing a lump.
“I went through chemotherapy for five months, had a lumpectomy with lymph nodes removed, spent six and a half weeks going to daily radiation treatments, and I am currently undergoing Herceptin treatments—a form of chemo—once every three weeks until this December,” explained Calligano, mother of three. “After that, I’m going to take Tamoxifen for five years.”
Ironically before Calligano’s diagnosis, she met another breast cancer survivor who at the time was undergoing treatment herself. “Mandy was my daughter’s preschool teacher and I noticed that she didn’t have much hair,” Calligano recalled about Mandy Zito, who is now the Young Survivors Program Coordinator at the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation. “At first, I didn’t know she had breast cancer.”
Calligano, originally from Cranston, added, “My kids liked Mandy a lot and so we kept in touch, occasionally meeting to catch up with each other even after she left teaching to go work for the Foundation.”
Calligano was a little hesitant when she was asked to be in the ‘Celebrate Hope, Celebrate Life’ Calendar.
“When Mandy approached me, I didn’t have much hair at the time,” said Calligano. “But I eventually agreed because I felt that it was important to let other women know that breast cancer is something that you can get through.”
Part of the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Rhode Islanders affected by breast cancer, an endeavor that includes emotional wellbeing—according to Maria Gemma, executive director of the Pawtucket-based nonprofit.
“Our ‘Celebrate Hope, Celebrate Life’ Calendar was created to reveal the unique spirit and beauty of people facing breast cancer during a time in their lives when they may not be feeling so beautiful," said Gemma.
“We are so pleased to have Corey model in this year’s calendar because she’s such a beautiful young woman inside and out who has a lot to look forward to,” she added. “For all of our calendar models, the entire experience is their ‘moment to shine’ and the unveiling ceremony is truly a special occasion.”
Calligano’s shining moment, however, was dulled temporarily by rain. Set against the backdrop of the New England coastline at Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, the photo shoot was conducted twice due to unfavorable weather conditions during the first go-round.
“I’m not a model by any means so it was challenging, but I was asked to ‘be natural’ so I tried my best,” said Calligano about her experience in front of the camera. “I think it’s great that the Foundation wants to help survivors feel as comfortable and beautiful as possible.”
Aside from her participation in some of the Young Survivors Program’s free programs and events, Calligano has found other avenues to cope with her journey with breast cancer.
“I decided to create a blog thinking at first that people wouldn’t read it, but surprisingly, a lot of people have reached out to me to let me know that they are going through the same challenges," she explained.
Calligano will be joined by thousands of others affected by breast cancer in the community—patients, survivors, family members, friends, and supporters—when she laces up her sneakers to walk in her first ever Gloria Gemma 5K.
“We have six people on ‘Team Calligano’ so far," she noted.
The Gloria Gemma 5K is one of four races collectively known as the Flames of Hope Run/Walk Series, all scheduled for Oct. 13.
The unveiling of the 2014 ‘Celebrate Hope, Celebrate Life’ Calendar and the Flames of Hope Run/Walk Series are part of Flames of Hope: A Celebration of Life, an annual three-day event organized by the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation to promote breast cancer awareness and education and to honor people living with breast cancer.
Now in its eighth year, the event has grown into one of the largest of its kind in the Northeast and will take place this year on October 11-13 in Downtown Providence.