WAYNE, NJ – Wayne resident Dayna Varano understands how a cancer diagnosis and treatment can affect a family, especially around the holidays. Her foundation, Dayna’s Pink Wishes was set up to help provide a sense of normalcy and positivity to the holiday season for families who are suffering because of cancer, though her organization has grown to help families throughout the year.
“We provide toys to children who have lost a parent to cancer or for families who are suffering the financial hardship as a result of a cancer diagnosis,” said Varano.
On Valentine’s Day, 2007, when Varano was thirty-nine, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. She was told that she had only a 50% chance of living five more years.
“I just couldn’t fathom that since my children were only one and four years old,” she said.
Her recovery journey was very rocky, starting with a double mastectomy, then discovering she had contracted c.diff (clostridium difficile) from her stay in the hospital. This is an extremely painful and potentially fatal infection that kept her in the hospital for two weeks while it was eventually successfully treated.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments followed.
“During the multiple treatments I distracted myself by fundraising for various breast cancer organizations as well as doing public speaking,” said Varano. “Shortly after treatments finished, I became an emergency point of contact person for newly diagnosed women in my area.”
Varano went to conferences and attended multiple educational forums to continue to educate herself in an effort to help others. She became a committee member and chair of fundraising for The Young Survival Coalition in New York City.
But, as her health continued to improve, Varano had another setback.
“Just as I was starting to feel like my old self, I learned that I needed to have a tumor removed from my brain,” she said.
She had surgery but the doctors told her that the tumor could not be completely removed, or she would have suffered vision loss. “We continue to monitor the area and I’m happy to say there has not been any substantial regrowth through to this time,” said Varano.
Through all of this, Varano developed many relationships and bonds with other survivors who impacted her in a multitude of ways.
“I couldn’t help but become aware of the financial burden that affected so many women and the heartache it caused them being unable to provide for their children,” she said. “I had already had a foundation of my own that began four years prior to my diagnosis where I collected and distributed toys to underprivileged children. Learning more and more about the financial hardship some women were facing, and the impact it had on their families, I knew immediately that this was the direction my foundation needed to go in.
In 2008, her foundation became Dayna’s Pink Wishes.
Through the years Varano has seen some horrors as well as modern day miracles. “I’ve had to witness deaths beyond anything I was prepared for: women younger than I, women with better prognoses than I, and women who’ve passed as a result of the side effects from treatment and/or chemotherapy-induced diseases,” she said. “My foundation helps me honor their bravery every single day and I will continue to do so for as long as I exist.
Dayna’s Pink Wishes has become Varano’s passion and purpose.
“I work for its expansion and growth in an effort to help as many people as I can,” she said. “Through the generosity of everyone that I am blessed to have around me, its growth continues. There are no words of gratitude that would adequately express my appreciation for the support for Dayna’s Pink Wishes. Without it we would not be able to help so many.”
Dayna’s Pink Wishes is a 501(c) (3) charity so donations are tax deductible and the good works of this organization are not just for the holidays. DPW also supports kids and/or families throughout the year with special requests. “We've provided back to school clothing and school supplies for anyone who needs it,” said Varano. “We assist with birthday parties and birthday wish lists. We have provided financing for children to attend summer camps.”
“I'd like families to know they can contact me for other needs, as well as letting people know their donations matter all year long and not just holiday season,” said Varano. “Whenever anyone suffers because of cancer, I want to be there for them.”
If you would like to donate toys for families stricken by cancer, or if you are aware of a specific family in need of support, please contact Dayna Varano directly at email@example.com or call her foundation here: 973-650-5390.
For more information or to make monetary donations, visit her website here: www.daynaspinkwishes.org/