RIDGEFIELD PARK — Anna Pantelis of Haworth thought her life was over when she was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago.
She was wrong.
On Sunday, Pantelis and her friends and family members walked 3.1 miles in New Overpeck Park in “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” an event that set a fund-raising record for North Jersey, tallying $619,200.
The 8,000 people who walked in the 5K event also set a record for the event, said Vicky Green, director of special events for the American Cancer Society, Eastern Division, in Hackensack.
“It was tough, but I made it through,” Pantelis said of her cancer treatment, which included chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. “The chemotherapy was tough, brutal.”
The Pantelis’ team, who wore “Bosom Buddies” T-shirts, raised $4,000 for the event through e-mails and Facebook postings. Pantelis credits support from husband, Andy, and family for her recovery.
“I just pray,” Pantelis said. “And God keeps me healthy.”
The large turnout included 300 breast cancer survivors.
One survivor, Gen Nicastro of Whippany, never thought she had to worry about breast cancer. It just wasn’t in her family history.
“I was shocked,” Nicastro said. She was diagnosed last September, and had her second reconstructive surgery last month.
“When my wife was diagnosed, it brought a whole new meaning to us,” said husband Phil Nicastro. “Having seen what she went through made me want to participate in the walk.”
The Nicastro team, 74 members strong, including Gen’s 78-year-old mother, Elda of Saddle Brook, raised more than $11,000. One daughter, Michelle, flew in from Florida to participate.
Surrounded by a sea of pink — pink wigs, pink hair, pink shirts and pink ribbons and pink socks — those who walked included family members, friends, caregivers and cancer support team members.
The 5K walk was one of seven held around the state on Sunday. The event was also a chance for people to learn about the disease in “advocacy” tents and information booths on legislative action on fund-raising bills.
About 7,360 women in New Jersey will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, said Desiree Carton, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society, Eastern Division.
And about 1,260 will die from the disease.
Mammograms will help 98 percent of women survive cancer when detected early enough, Carton said.
The survival rate drops to 27 percent when the disease is found in its late stages.
Two-thirds of the cancer is preventable through healthy lifestyle habits, including no smoking, a healthy diet and screening, Carton said.