Regina Rocca so appreciated the care and support her mother received at the Northeast Cancer Centre that she was inspired to give back to the organization in a tangible way.
“My family has been directly impacted by the disease,” said Rocca, whose mother lost three siblings to cancer.
Being the primary caregiver during her mom’s own treatment for cancer really brought home to Rocca just how vital the treatment centre is to patients and their loved ones.
“I wanted to make a meaningful difference to others facing the same challenges,” she said. “That’s when I made a solemn promise to myself to become a cancer volunteer when I could dedicate significant time and effort to the organization.”
Rocca and her husband Jack have three adult children, Natalie, Gregory and Marty.
Growing up, the boys were in karate and hockey, while their daughter took dance. They all played musical instruments.
“For years Jack and I scheduled our free time around driving the kids to music lessons and festivals, sports practices and tournaments, and to dance classes and recitals,” she said.
Raising a young family was a wonderfully busy time for these working parents; at the time, Rocca was a high school teacher, while Jack is a local realtor.
When the kids were elementary school age, Rocca became very involved with Our Lady of Hope Parish, preparing children for first communion and confession. She has remained an active church volunteer for well over 20 years.
“I think that especially as a teacher you get very involved working with people. Teachers are committed to improving students’ lives through education and after-school activities,” she said. “I know so many teachers who are volunteers in our community. Giving back is a natural by-product of that profession.”
Once Rocca retired from teaching at Lockerby Composite School, she was ready to fulfill the promise she had made to herself several years before to become a dedicated cancer volunteer. The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) Sudbury and District welcomed her with open arms and a broad job description.
Over more than a decade at the CCS, Rocca has worn many hats, handling everything from administrative tasks and making phone calls to conducting training for volunteer drivers and helping organize fundraisers.
“I’ve particularly enjoyed taking part in annual events like CIBC’s Run for the Cure, Relay for Life where I run the boutique, the 5K Mudmoiselle obstacle run, and the Teddy Bear Picnic in partnership with Cambrian College’s police foundations program,” she said.
In more recent years, Rocca’s extensive knowledge and positive attitude have evolved into more of a public relations role. She has disseminated information at numerous CCS events and given inspiring presentations at places of business in order to enhance awareness about cancer and the essential programs offered by the Cancer Society.
She brings such a clear message of hope: “People tend to be terrified of the word ‘cancer’ but it’s no longer something to be afraid of,” Rocca said. “The CCS funds significant research that has generated so many positive outcomes.”
She added that, in the last decade alone, there has been incredible progress achieved in research, discoveries and cures. “Today’s survival rates are so encouraging. Some childhood and breast cancers now have significantly higher success rates.”
“Positive results like this help people feel much less afraid and more confident they can survive cancer,” Rocca said, adding, “I meet people every day who have overcome the disease.”
Rocca’s words of wisdom reflect her commitment to increasing public awareness about topics like breast health, tobacco cessation, sun sense and healthy eating: “Cancer truly can be beaten. What we all need to do is educate ourselves about the disease and the signs, be dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle, eat well and have regular health check-ups.”
Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and occasional contributor to Sudbury.com.