Sorita Averill-Fitzgerald defines herself as an athlete. In addition to training and running multiple half marathons, marathons and triathlons, she also owns a Fleet Feet running store and participates in several running groups in her hometown of West Reading, Pennsylvania. Her athleticism, however, doesn’t just lie in the races, but also in her preparation for them.
“I love setting big goals and then attaining them,” said Sorita. “I like the whole process of getting there and the friends that I train with.”
In 2011, Sorita was celebrating her two-year wedding anniversary, with cancer nowhere on her radar or on her mind… until it was. Headed on a ski trip, she received a call that her routine mammogram showed something abnormal. Determined to make the most of how little or how much life she had left, Sorita went on her vacation anyways. She decided right then that if it was breast cancer, she wasn’t going to let it keep her from enjoying her life – not then and not ever.
Following her trip, a biopsy confirmed her doctor’s concerns: she had Stage 2B breast cancer and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – a curable, pre-invasive breast cancer.
“If I hadn’t seen some of my friends beat breast cancer, I think I would have been scared to death. But my friends had already set the path, and I knew they were OK, so I would be too,” Sorita said.
Sorita built a strong support team through her husband and her girlfriends to help her through her diagnosis and treatment. She required one thing of her team – to keep her laughing no matter what.
Her girlfriends were able to provide another level of support because they had suffered through the same diagnosis. Because she met her doctors during her friend’s treatment, Sorita was also very confident in the medical team behind her. She immediately chose to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction, wanting to avoid radiation, if possible, knowing the toll it takes on the human body.
Prior to surgery, she proved to herself just how strong her body was, running 13 miles two days before surgery and biking another 66 miles – the farthest she’d ever biked – in 40 mile-per-hour winds.
The double mastectomy is a serious surgery and will put even the most accomplished and serious athletes on rest, but it couldn’t keep Sorita – or her will to succeed – at bay for long. Sorita was back on her feet the very next weekend going for a five-mile walk with family and friends. Her recovery caused her to put off training and exercising – something very unnatural for someone with her athletic and willful personality. The double mastectomy proved to be worth the sacrifice as Sorita has been cancer-free and in remission for the past seven years.
Now, Sorita finds solace in encouraging other women affected by the disease through her running store by reminding women to have routine mammograms and by partnering with causes like Project Zero.
“Owning a running store, I meet women all the time that have had breast cancer or are going through it,” said Sorita. “So, I think we’re all surviving from something. I think my contribution is by helping the women who come into my running store.”
Sorita along with other breast cancer survivors and supporters partnered with Mizuno and Fleet Feet for Project Zero to share their stories of perseverance in hopes of turning one in eight women who will be diagnosed in her lifetime to zero in eight.
For the second year in a row, Project Zero will raise funds to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the largest non-profit organization in the world that funds breakthrough research for breast cancer treatments and prevention. This year, Mizuno has designed a special-edition BCRF running shoe for Project Zero where $10 dollars from each shoe will go directly toward funding BCRF’s life-saving research. The running shoes, along with other inspiring stories of survivors and supporters, are available at Fleet Feet stores nationwide or online at MizunoUSA.com/ProjectZero.
Share your story of inspiration or support using hashtag #projectzero.