Keil Gunther said little to her daughters about her breast cancer as she battled through the disease six years ago.
She thought it was too big a topic for six-year-old Katie, but particularly for Quinn, who was then 3.
So, she was surprised when, three years later, Quinn began asking to shave her head as part of St Baldrick’s, an annual fundraiser for childhood cancer research.
“We told her mummy had a sick boob,” said Ms Gunther, head of marketing at RenaissanceRe. “I never really sat down with my girls and talked about it, but she seemed to put it together.
“At 8, we finally let her do it. She told [her] teacher she was doing it for me. She would check her fundraising page every day. In the end, she raised thousands, and Renaissance Re matched it.”
Quinn, now 9, shrugs at the idea that shaving your head might be scary.
“It wasn’t,” she said.
She was back at it again over the October half-term break, doing her part for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
This time she had help from a friend, Josie Berry. Together they raised $235 for PALS selling cupcakes and cookies they had made at Ms Gunther’s East Broadway office.
According to ten-year-old Josie, her mother Kate got the ball rolling by asking the girls what they were going to do with their time off from school.
“We like to bake, so we decided to do that,” she said.
Ms Berry suggested they bake for a cause; Josie and Quinn were insistent they wanted to help people with breast cancer.
“It means a lot to me that my mom got over it,” Quinn said. “I know that a lot of people don’t ,because they find out too late that they have breast cancer. It is really important for them to find a cure for people who find out too late.”
Ms Gunther was 38 when she found a lump in her breast.
“I sometimes missed my annual physicals,” she said. “And you don’t normally get regular mammograms until you’re 40, anyway.”
She spoke with her doctor who immediately sent her for a mammogram.
After five weeks of treatment at Dana Farber Cancer Institute ,doctors declared her cancer free.
“With early detection, it’s a very treatable disease,” she said. “I recovered quickly and I had a lot of support from my family and friends.”
Doctors don’t know why Ms Gunther developed the disease. It’s not in her family history and further testing revealed she did not have a gene for breast cancer.
“That was good to know because it meant my mother, my sister and my daughters don’t have to worry as much,” she said.
The 44-year-old was touched that her daughter had adopted breast cancer as her charity. She was also thrilled that the girls made the baked goods completely on their own.
“We started out with a recipe for 12, but then we tripled it,” Josie said. “So, we had to make two trips to the grocery store to get more supplies, mostly flour and icing.”
Laughed Quinn: “The icing was overflowing off my cupcakes, but it was cool to see what we’d done. I felt proud.”
In the end, they made 38 cupcakes with pink icing and piles of cookies. The only problem was where to sell them.
“It was hard at the last minute for us to find somewhere in town to do it,” Ms Gunther said. “You need permission from grocery stores and we weren’t organised. I thought, they had done all this work and we’ve let them down.”
It was her mother, Anne Mello, who suggested the girls take their treats to RenaissanceRe.
“It’s the type of place where it would be totally fine,” Ms Gunther said. “I got permission from the lady who runs the kitchen. The girls made the cupcakes on Thursday and by Friday at 11.30am they were at Renaissance Reinsurance.”
The girls received a warm reception from her colleagues.
“We raised $235,” Quinn said. “But Renaissance Reinsurance is going to double that.”
She hoped that other children might be inspired to do something similar.
Buoyed by their success, the girls are already planning another charity bake over the Christmas holiday.
“Maybe we might donate to the same charity or maybe we might like to donate to something else,” Josie said.