2024 Survivor Spokesperson Carissa Smith: BRIGHT Run Inside and Out

Carissa Smith has been involved in the BRIGHT Run since 2015. Last year marked her first time wearing a pink participant T-shirt. And this year, Carissa is our survivor spokesperson! 

Carissa was the first person to arrive on event day at Dundas Valley Conservation Area, our previous venue. As the superintendent of Dundas Valley, she was responsible for behind-the-scenes event preparation onsite, which included letting the audio-visual team in at 6 a.m. 

BRIGHT’s move to Christie Lake Conservation Area coincided with a massive shift in Carissa’s life. She was diagnosed with Stage 3B triple negative breast cancer in February 2023. 

“Cancer treatment was the hardest thing I have ever endured,” Carissa said. “I had only been back to work after my maternity leave for five or six months, was barely out of postpartum recovery, and then was thrown into “chemopause” (early menopause due to chemotherapy treatments), plus a whole other range of symptoms and side effects.” 

“Words can’t really describe the feelings and emotions that I endured after being diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “Being faced with your own mortality with such young children at home really changed how I looked at things.” 

She was initially angry at her diagnosis but she eventually adapted her mindset to one of perseverance. 

What do I need to do to survive this, she asked herself. The answer? Whatever it took to make sure she will be around to watch her boys grow up. Carissa and her husband Matt are parents to twins Archer and Spencer, who will be three years old in July. 

“Changing my mindset and not being angry really helped me persevere through the hard days of treatment,” she said. 

Her cancer diagnosis also defined a lot of friendships and other relationships in her life. 

“It was amazing to witness the people who rallied around me and supported me in ways I never could have imagined,” Carissa said. “I’m lucky to have such a strong system of friends and family in my life who stuck by my side during the hardest year of my life.” 

She feels extremely lucky that she and her husband could count on their “amazing parents.” 

They have been there every step of the way helping us,” she said. “They played such a large role in raising our children while I was in treatment.”  

Carissa completed eight rounds of chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy, a month of radiation, and a year of immunotherapy. 

Throughout her treatment, Carissa was surrounded by reminders of the BRIGHT Run. 

“Seeing the posters and the plaques on the wall throughout the Juravinski was a constant, positive reminder that women, just like me, have survived and are now thriving after a cancer diagnosis,” she said. 

And although she had been involved in BRIGHT for so long, seeing it as a breast cancer patient brought Carissa a new perspective when she arrived in her pink survivor T-shirt on event day 2023. 

“It wasn’t just ‘the event that’s really pink,’ but about so much more,” she said. “I was really happy to be a participant last year and plan to come back every year in the future!” 

Carissa says she’s honoured to have been asked to be the 2024 survivor spokesperson, particularly given her years of being involved in BRIGHT Run behind the scenes. 

“Receiving a cancer diagnosis has a way of making you step out of your comfort zone, and that’s what I’ll be doing as this year’s spokesperson,” she said. “But I feel called to share my story in the hopes that more research can be funded to prevent this disease; no one’s daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend or colleague should have to go through what I did.” 

You can say hi to Carissa at the BRIGHT Run launch party June 20!