SHARON, Ohio (WKBN) – A Sharon woman, well-known through her social media campaign and news coverage here at WKBN 27 First News on her battle with cancer, died less than one week before Christmas. Her death was the end of a long struggle that started in September 2012.
Adrienne Toth found out she was pregnant and had breast cancer in the same week. In November of that year, she found out she was cancer free, but by the next spring the cancer was back and had spread to her liver. She died on December 19 at just 34 years old.
Tears well up in the eyes of Adrienne’s father, John Litman, as he watches video of his daughter playing with her son Kellan. It’s the sound of Adrienne’s voice that is almost too much to bear. But another video puts a smile on his face – the two of them dancing at Adrienne’s wedding.
“I don’t think I ever left the dance floor,” Litman said.
Adrienne’s friend Gina Caracci and cousin Tina Rodgers also feel the sting of Adrienne’s loss. The group gathers together to remember and comfort each other. But they are also collaborating on a new battle they are committed to wage.
“As tough as it is to lose Adrienne and watch what Kellan and Dean go through in our family, it is happening all over the country with thousands of other girls,” Litman said.
Litman promised his daughter on her death-bed that he would look after her family and keep Adrienne’s Army alive. The army is a group of supporters who stuck with the Toth family through their battle, raising awareness and money for the fight against cancer.
Litman is now petitioning on change.org to end what he calls “profits before people.” His goal is 1 million signatures and the help of elected officials. He says too much money is going to the wrong places and people and wants donations to pay for research into targeted treatments for metastatic breast cancer and eventually a cure.
“If we could do more preventative stuff with the gene testing through hospitalization, maybe they could prevent or lower the risk of it anyway,” Litman said.
Adrienne had the BRCA1 gene from her father. The mutation greatly increases a woman’s lifetime risk of getting breast and/or ovarian cancer. After her diagnosis, the whole family got tested and Rodgers learned she had it from her father, Litman’s brother.
Rodgers eventually had her uterus, ovaries and both breasts removed to avoid getting cancer. Eighteen months after her first surgery, she now has one more to go.
“I started out doing it for her, but then it became about me and then I have two girls who have a 50 percent chance of getting the same gene that I do,” Rodgers said. “So, let’s quit with pretty pink stuff and start doing something to actually find treatments that matter.”
Caracci is raising money and training for the Avon 39 – a two-day, 39.3 mile walk in Washington, D.C. on April 30 and May 1. She is also making a tribute video for her fundraising page, highlighting Adrienne’s story.
“I think too often we accept cancer. And I won’t accept her death because no one, no one should just accept that cancer took another life. It is time that we do something about it,” Caracci said.
Another effort to preserve Adrienne’s memory is a website called Stories for Kellan where people can share their memories of Adrienne for her son to read later.