Fitness Marathon schedule to benefit cancer victim

Dawn Buzzell

Dave Gorgon

When word got out that Dawn Buzzell of Wyandotte was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, the fitness community was quick to respond.

A Fitness Marathon Fundraiser has been organized for Sunday, March 22, at the Copeland Center, 2306 Fourth Street, Wyandotte. All proceeds will benefit Buzzell, who has undergone a double mastectomy and has a lengthy recovery period ahead.

Karen Poljanac, a certified group fitness instructor at Exersthetic Evolution, 1510 Ford, organized the marathon as a way to raise funds for Buzzell, who is one of her students, and as a way for members of the fitness community to come together for one of their own.

All proceeds from the day of fitness will go to Buzzell, a single mother and grandmother, who will be off work until doctors clear her to return.

The day’s agenda will feature three different exercise classes presented by certified instructors, lunch, a silent raffle, a 50/50 raffle, and fruit and water throughout the workouts.

Admission is $25 minimum donation (cash only), whether the participant takes one class or all three classes. Fundraiser packets will be available in advance from 5:30 to 8 p.m. weekdays at Exersthetic Evolution, which is owned by Peter Haugabook.

Participants are encouraged to seek donations from friends. There is a non-participating spectator fee of $10.

Everyone can register the day of the event at the Copeland Center. Those who want to donate but cannot participate in the event can donate via Paypal.

Bringing yoga mats or towels is suggested.

“This is one way I knew I could help a friend,” said Poljanac, a Southgate resident who is a well-known and respected 33-year trainer throughout the Downriver area.

“Dawn is an avid fitness person,” she said. “She was diagnosed in 2019 and had the surgery in January, so she hit two years of co-payments. She’s a good person. It’s going to be a struggle for her.”

The event is open to the public, although Poljanac has confidence it will be a success based on the 30 individuals, including extended family members and Buzzell’s friends, who came together at a volunteer meeting. Poljanac said a fundraiser she held 20 years ago in Taylor for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society raised more than $6,000.

Fitness Marathon Fundraiser Agenda

Sunday, March 22 at the Copeland Center, 2306 Fourth Street, Wyandotte
11 to 11:45 a.m. – Registration
Noon-12:45 p.m. – Get your booty shaken warm-up with non-impact cardio, taught by Mikki Garcia
1 to 1:45 p.m. – Cardio kickboxing, taught by Karen Poljanac
2 to 2:45 p.m. – Low-impact body weight and cool down, taught by Melissa Kokay
2:45 to 4:30 p.m. – Lunch and raffles
Fitness Marathon Fundraiser packets are available in advance at
Exersthetic Evolution, 1510 Ford, Wyandotte.
For more information, call coordinator Karen Poljanac at (734) 771-8387.

“It’s going to really fly,” she said. “People are going to help.”

Poljanac said everything will be donated. Buzzell’s bosses at Efficient Hauling Services in Romulus will donate the hall, someone has volunteered to donate the food, there will be a disc jockey and the three instructors are donating their time.

Buzzell, 47, said her prognosis is good. The 47-year-old said she is fortunate to get mammograms yearly at Beaumont Center in Southgate. That led to the early detection and care.

“When I got the results and they said ‘cancer,’ it was like a punch in the gut, for sure,” she said. “I’m always healthy. I’ve never had health problems except for minor surgery; I barely even get a cold.”

Her cancer was called ductal carsonoma in siu or DCIS. She learned there wasn’t a tumor mass, but calcification in the duct.

After lots of crying and soul searching, Buzzell discussed her situation with her surgeon, Dr. Helen Mabry, out of Beaumont Trenton. She discovered her cancer had been caught early enough, was at “stage zero” and had not spread.

“I felt very good,” Buzzell said. “I knew I was going to live. Cancer is a hard pill to swallow, but I knew I’d be around for my kids and grandkids.”

Her choices were lumpectomy or mastectomy and it was “a very hard decision.” She studied her options before choosing a bilateral mastectomy.  The surgery took place January 8. Two days later, the pathology report said six lymph nodes had been removed on her right side.

“They tested the tissue on both of them and everything came back 100 percent – I’m cancer free,” she said. “It was the best phone call ever. Even though I went through pretty radical surgery, I don’t ever have to worry. If I wouldn’t have had the mastectomy, I always would have wondered. Reoccurrence would have been a pretty big possibility. I have no regrets.”

On January 15, she met with her surgeon and was told there would be “no further treatment. No radiation, no chemo, no hormone drugs. I don’t have to meet with the oncologist and I don’t ever have to have any further mammograms.”

Buzzell said she didn’t want anyone to know her situation at first.

“I didn’t want people feeling sorry for me,” she said. “I’m a very independent person. It’s hard for me to have people do things for me. I don’t like people feeling sad for me.”

But she received encouragement from friends and family and positive feedback on social media via Facebook.

“The responses I got were absolutely unbelievable,” she said. “People were praying and reaching out. It has been very humbling. Even now, I can’t believe the amount of support. People are doing things out of the kindness of their hearts. It’s been a whirlwind, for sure.”

She said her bosses Thomas Hernandez and Thomas Asciutto have been “absolutely wonderful with me, even before the diagnosis. They’re very accommodating.”

Buzzell now encourages others to get mammograms annually.

“The only reason I’m at stage zero is because of early detection,” she said. “I’m young. I have a lot of life to live.

“I really like exercising. It’s a big part of my life. It’s looking like another six to eight weeks before I can get back into the gym. I miss it and the people. They’re like family.”

For more information on the Fitness Marathon Fundraiser, call Karen Poljanac at (734) 771-8387.

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