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Elgin cancer fighter shares hope at Walk & Roll event

Michelle Zimmerman connectis with her husbMark after she addressed crowd ACS Walk   Roll just before participants started their

Michelle Zimmerman connectis with her husband Mark after she addressed the crowd at ACS Walk & Roll, just before the participants started their warmup. | Romi Herron ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 14, 2013 6:15AM

ELGIN — Less than two weeks after her second brain surgery for terminal cancer, Michelle Morgano-Zimmerman of Elgin spoke to nearly 1,000 supporters Saturday at American Cancer Society’s Walk & Roll fundraiser.

The event was held at Festival Park downtown and brought together walkers, runners and guests to raise money for cancer research and support.

“I found the need to advocate for cancer awareness for all types of cancer,” said Zimmerman, 29. She was diagnosed last year with a form of cancer that has no known cure or treatment, aside from surgeries to remove growths as they recur.

“Being a young married female with a young daughter, people assumed I have breast cancer ... there are so many cancers that we know so little about.”

Wearing an awareness bracelet in the color gray to represent brain cancer, Zimmerman was surrounded by family and friends at the event, including her 19-month-old daughter Layla and her husband Mark.

Their fundraising team, “Miracles for Michelle” included 18 members, many rallied by Zimmerman’s mother, Ruth Morgano, a teacher at Evergreen Elementary in Carol Stream and a resident of Batavia.

Walkers and runners raised funds through pledges, and “Miracles for Michelle” had raised $4,720 according to the ACS website Saturday afternoon.

“I want to help make more people aware that we’re not just fighting ‘the pink cause’ (breast cancer) — we’re fighting the colors of the rainbow cause,” Zimmerman said.

“I really enjoy the American Cancer Society so much because they have evenly distributed (funds) to all cancers.”

Zimmerman emphasized she hopes breast cancer “will be obliterated” but that she remains concerned about other forms of cancer that have not received as much marketing and awareness.

A registered nurse, Zimmerman opted to leave her nursing profession behind when she married Mark three years ago. She had her sights set on family and became a nanny, planning to dedicate her life as wife and mother.

Her diagnosis turned her life upside down, she said, as surgery, radiation and chemo must be balanced alongside her time with family.

Doctors are unable to give her a time estimate of when the cancer may take her life, she said, but despite the looming prognosis, her faith gives her hope.

“I’m considered terminal because of the level of pathology they found. (Doctors) told me to enjoy my family and live my life,” she said. “I have faith and I have hope, and I know it is not in my hands anymore. It is in God’s hands, and the researchers’ hands.”

Typically, those affected with Zimmerman’s type of cancer live from 12 months to several years, she explained.

“We need the research and development for other cancers where we are not finding ways to kick it like they are with prostate cancers and breast cancers,” she said. “The treatments have really advanced in those areas, and it is saving lives.”

Zimmerman’s surgeries have presented risks including paralysis, but so far she’s experienced no impairments, she said.

“God has given me the peace that I can wake up every day and be with my daughter and not sit in a deep, dark depression,” she said. “Whether I’m here for 50 years or five years, my core verse that I go back to is ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.’ ”

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