Cooking up Funds to Fight Breast Cancer

Her mother had it, also her grandmother. Janice Stompro not only feared breast cancer, she fully expected to get it She had regular mammograms. She routinely examined herself. She even visited a surgeon, just to be sure. Still, nothing showed up until that evening one year ago, after dinner with her husband, a celebration of their 25 years as a couple. The San Ramon woman was undressing in front of the mirror when she noticed an odd dimpling on her skin. An exam the next morning validated her deepest dread – it was an ugly, tenacious case of breast cancer. Rather than the more common ductal variety, it was lobular with slender fingers grasping throughout the tissues. And it had eluded all the standard screening methods. “I had no lump. There was no lump,” says Stompro, now 40. “I think the awareness has to come with women, you can’t just feel around for those lumps.”

Treatment was the typical hell: a double mastectomy, months of chemotherapy, and regular doses of tamoxifen for several years. It’s a story that has become painfully common, with one woman in eight destined to battle this disease, and the rate of occurrence in the Bay Area is among the highest in the nation. But here’s where Stompro’s story takes a soaring upward turn. Determined that her 7-year-old daughter, Sia, should never have to go through what three generations of her family have been through, she is funneling as much money as she can into breast-cancer research.
Her tool is a cookbook called “Recipes for Research,” a compilation of favorite dishes contributed by friends and famous locals, such as Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher and author Terry McMillan. It’s got the big pink ribbon on the front and a forward by Dr. Balazs Bodai, creator of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp. It costs $15, and 100 percent of the proceeds go for breast-cancer research. Listening to Stompro talk about it, you know she’s going to make a dent in this monster. We sat in her living room as workers installed a door, and her kids—she also has two sons, 9-year-old Bo and 12-year-old Stone—wandered in asking for ice cream of help rounded up the runaway dog Bubbly and frank, she’s the kind of person who makes things happen by the sheer force of her personality. And watch out, Oprah and Rosie—she’s got your phone numbers.

Stompro paid $2,500 herself for the book’s first printing. In less than two weeks, the 500 copies are almost gone, with a second batch ordered. They’re being distributed through local doctor’s offices, coffee houses and hair salons, with a network of friends bringing them to Colorado, Nevada, Delaware and Georgia. Stompro wants everyone who discovers the book to sell it to 10 people, building a pyramid of cancer-busting cash. For your money you’ll find the secret to Tauscher’s English Trifle Dessert, and McMilllan’s Peach Schnapps Cake. Stompro’s sons contributed Oatmeal Surprise, a comfort-food mixture of oatmeal, maple syrup and vanilla ice cream. My favorite is the recipe for Mood Altering Cabbage Rolls, which begins with these instructions: “Arrange flowers, light candles, turn on music and dress with lights dimmed.”

She is still deciding exactly which organization will get the money, and is in the process of building a Web site. She wants to hook up with a publisher, and is hopeful about making inroads with Rosie O’Donnell, whose mother died of breast cancer. And recipes are piling up for a second edition. Seeing this kind of momentum, it’s hard to believe she was diagnosed just one year ago—Stompro says her oncologist considers her now cured, but there is still a 12 percent chance her cancer could recur. “I’m not going to wait for somebody else to do something,” she says. “It’s killing and it can kill the mothers of this world.”

Originally published in the Contra Costa Times.

2 comments:

  1. Cassandra, San Ramon, CAAugust 8, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    This is such a heartbreaking story. Three generations of breast cancer is a scary thing, especially for Stompro's young fourth generation. Its amazing how Brett and Janice Stompro put so much time and effort into this cause. They are truely great members in their community and deserve to be recognized.

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  2. Janice and Dr. Stompro: you are both amazing, strong, compassionate and loving people! I feel blessed to know you both. :) What a successful outcome. The cookbooks are amazing! Such a wonderful idea!

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