Passionate advocate leads Pink Ribbon fundraiser

When Flight Sergeant Gail Blizzard was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in 2019, she was not ready to leave her nine-year-old son without a mother.

CAPTION: Flight Sergeant Gail Blizzard is a breast cancer survivor who is passionate about raising funds for cancer research. She organised the Pink Ribbon drive-through breakfast event held at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW. Story and photo by Corporal Melina Young.

After two removal surgeries, five weeks of radiation and three reconstructive surgeries, Flight Sergeant Blizzard has been in remission for three years, and is vocal about educating women that early detection is the key to survival.

During an unrelated trip to medical, she asked for a mammogram and the next day was advised to make an appointment at the breast cancer clinic.

When cancer came crashing into her life, the first question everyone asked was ‘Did you find a lump?’.

The answer was ‘no’. Flight Sergeant Blizzard, who was 48 years old at the time, had no symptoms or family history of cancer.

“I knew about seven Air Force females that had been diagnosed, all younger than I was,” she said.

“A good friend at Williamtown had just been diagnosed for a second time, so I have her to thank for being diagnosed early.”

Flight Sergeant Blizzard shared her survival story at a RAAF Williamtown breast cancer awareness seminar and encouraged women to have mammograms from age 40.

“It’s free from 40 years old at the National Breast Cancer Foundation; don’t wait until you’re 50,” she said.

CAPTION: Sergeant Michelle Keune from 29 Squadron collects a breakfast bag from the Pink Ribbon drive through event held at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW. Photo by Wing Commander Susan Yates.

Wanting to contribute to breast cancer research, Flight Sergeant Blizzard has run four Pink Ribbon events at RAAF Base Williamtown, and for the second time, organised a drive through breakfast on October 25.

“I want to support this fund raiser every year in the hope of finding a cure and I want to live long enough to see it,” she said.

Volunteers donned pink fluoro vests as they exchanged breakfast bags filled with a bacon and egg roll, muffin, juice, and coffee, for donations.

Flight Sergeant Blizzard said the event could not happen without the support of our Defence partners.

About 140 bags were handed out raising $1640 including funds raised from the RAAF Base Williamtown online fundraising page. The total so far is about $3500.

“It is very sobering to be told that if I had waited until I turned 50 – 14 months after my diagnosis – to have a mammogram, I may not have been here to run the breakfast this year,” Flight Sergeant Blizzard said.

“Please book your appointments ladies, and men, be aware of symptoms.

“I want to be here to watch my son grow up and have his own children, which will hopefully be in a breast cancer-free world.”

Breast cancer affects one in seven Australian women and one in 600 men, with nine dying from the disease every day.

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