She’s had breast cancer twice. Both times, Ridgefield has rallied around her

RIDGEFIELD — The Gill family had lived in town for a little more than a year when Sandra Gill was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in January 2016. But the subsequent support they received from the community validated their decision to move there, she said.

“The town got behind us in an insane way in terms of (making) sure we had coverage for my kids when I had to go to chemo, and having food at our house all the time,” Gill recalled. “Ridgefield is special like that.”

The Gills became heavily involved in raising money for breast cancer research following her diagnosis; she was in remission six months later. Later this month, she and her husband Tony will embark on a 60-mile walk in San Diego for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.

Gill said she wants to make the most of this year’s walk because she’s unsure if she’ll be able to participate next year. In September 2020, she was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, for which there is no cure. Her median life expectancy is three years from diagnosis, she said.

“We went to the doctor because I had swelling in my arm and I had some pain and I thought it was lymphedema,” she recalled. “It never occurred to me my cancer would come back.”

Over the past year Gill has undergone two types of chemotherapy and 18 rounds of radiation, which she described as “leveling.” Her number of tumors increased from two to five, and all of them are inoperable, she said.

“Right now my doctor’s goal is to keep me healthy,” she added. “We know that I’m not likely going to survive unless there’s an absolute breakthrough in the next couple of years.”

One in eight American women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, according to the United States’ breast cancer statistics. About one in three with an early diagnosis will develop metastatic breast cancer “no matter what they do,” Gill said.

The Susan G. Komen organization focuses dollars toward primary and metastatic breast cancer research. Gill will speak at the walk’s opening ceremony to emphasize the research piece.

“We focus on breast cancer in October ... but (on) Nov. 1, I still have metastatic breast cancer,” she said. “I have an obligation to tell people and let them understand the significance of what happens to somebody.”

The Lantern will host a charity bartender fundraiser on Thursday to benefit the Gills’ cause. Gill will be a featured guest bartender alongside fellow Ridgefielders Peggy Marconi, Tizzie Mantione and Rich Carter.

All bartender tips generated from the evening will be donated to the nonprofit. The restaurant’s owner, Raffaele Gallo, has also pledged to donate 10 percent of the event’s liquor sales and 10 percent of food from dining room reservations in support.

When the Gills approached Gallo about holding a fundraiser at The Lantern, Gill said he didn’t even blink.

“We love to support a wonderful cause,” Gallo said. The Gills are “friends of ours … and we’re looking forward (to) the event to be a success and raise a lot of money for them.”

Gill’s team has already raised more than $47,000 in the run-up to the walk. She said she is grateful to have the support of the Ridgefield community once again.

“Somebody (from my support group) once told me that she has good days and bad moments, and you can’t let the bad moments overtake you,” she added. “(I) look at every day as a memory … (and) staying focused on my family and my kids.”

To donate to Sandra’s team for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, click here.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly state the number of rounds of radiation Sandra underwent and the amount of money raised for the walk.