Twenty-five years ago, Antoinette Molinaro found a lump in her breast. A trip to the doctor confirmed her worst fear — the lump was malignant.
A busy mother of three teenage children, Molinaro was shocked by the diagnosis.
“It was quite a journey for us because no one in my family had ever had any kind of cancer at that time. I had a great doctor who explained everything to me and my husband. I had a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy,” Molinaro said.
Although everything turned out well and today Molinaro is cancer-free, it was a long, painful and scary process.
Her biggest worry throughout the ordeal was her family — husband Michael; daughter Rosamaria and sons Anthony and Michael.
Antoinette Molinaro tried her best to hide the effects of the chemotherapy from her children. She would leave long before dawn to receive the treatments so she could make it back in time to cook breakfast for the family. But despite her efforts, the children were still aware of how sick their mother was.
Michael was 14 at the time, and he is still visibly shaken when he discusses his mother’s illness.
“Chemotherapy has come a long way in 25 years, but it was the worst thing I’ve ever seen ... She never wavered from what she did for us, but it was tough. You just have to be strong,” Michael Molinaro said.
Although it was horrible at the time, the experience made him realize how lucky his family was.
“It made us realize how good we had it and gave us all a better appreciation for the sick and those in need,” Michael Molinaro said.
Antoinette credits the support from family and friends, and the power of prayer, for her recovery.
“I still have all the cards people sent me 25 years ago. I had so many people helping me and supporting me,” Antoinette said.
“I enjoy life more today than ever. We were very fortunate because we had friends and family supporting us, but I know not everyone is so lucky,” Antoinette said.
So when the Molinaro family decided to start an Italian Festival in Lockport, it was just natural that they would want to give back to the community and hospital that did so much for them.
“We wanted to have the festival benefit a cause, and what better cause than breast cancer research,” Michael Molinaro said.
The first year, proceeds raised at the festival went to solely to breast cancer research, but since then, the funds have gone to Roswell Park Cancer Institute for all types of cancer research.
The Molinaros also donate some of the proceeds to local families in need who are undergoing cancer treatments.
“If we know of anyone who is in need, we help out. We have a screening process, and we try to help families that don’t have the strong support that we had,” Antoinette said.
In the 14 years of the festival, they have raised more than $100,000.
Since her bout with breast cancer, Antoinette has had two sisters-in-law who have survived breast cancer, as well as a number of other family members who have battled different types of cancer.
More than anything, Antoinette wants to let people know that they should be screened for the disease.
“I hope and pray that people get themselves checked for (cancer) prevention. It’s so important,” Antoinette said.