Cancer survivor gives back with Fight Back Feast and Bingo Fun Night in Ambler

Johanna Conicello speaking at last year’s Relay For Life.Johanna Conicello speaks at last year’s Relay For Life. The cancer survivor is involved in planning the upcoming Fight Back Feast and Bingo Fun Night.

AMBLER >> On Oct. 5, 2013, Johanna Yemm (now Conicello) celebrated her 33rd birthday by getting engaged.

Eleven days later, this physically fit Upper Dublin High School graduate was diagnosed with stage IIIB inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form that is often misdiagnosed because it doesn’t show up on mammogram or ultrasound.

Rather than discussing flowers and wedding venues, she and her fiancé, Danny Conicello, suddenly found themselves making decisions on fertility options before intense chemotherapy would wreak havoc on Johanna’s reproductive system.

Over four years later and after 16 rounds of chemo, a mastectomy and 36 rounds of radiation and hormone therapy, Johanna Conicello describes herself as “not just surviving, but thriving.” It was a difficult journey but one that she refers to as the “most profound, reflective time” of her life. She was forced to come to terms with the fact that life continued on around her while she was “stuck in this world of cancer and treatment.” And she learned the power of community in its most profound sense as people from different facets of her life demonstrated their heartfelt commitment to supporting her in her recovery.

After receiving so much from the community, Conicello is determined to connect with others who have been affected by cancer and to give back as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. Currently, she is working with fellow volunteers to organize a new event: the first Fight Back Feast and Bingo Fun Night. This event will take place at 5 p.m. March 11, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 708 S. Bethlehem Pike in Ambler.

Anyone who has ever heard the words “you have cancer” is invited to attend this event free of charge, whether they have completed cancer treatments years ago or whether are still in the fight. Guests are welcome ,too, with a requested donation of $5 per guest.

The Fight Back Feast promises to be a light-hearted night of food, fun and bingo, complete with prizes for the winners. The buffet tables will be overflowing with donations from local food purveyors that have stepped up to support this event, including Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, Fresh Market, From the Boot, Lee’s Hoagies, Maple Glen Pizza, Phil’s Tavern, Primo Hoagies and Sam’s Italian Market. Chef Joseph Shilling, owner of the catering business Your Personal Chef, will also be there with bowls of fresh salads.

Conicello said she is delighted to be part of the Fight Back Feast and Bingo Fun Night. Beyond the fun, she sees it as “an evening to connect with others who have faced similar challenges, to celebrate each other’s fight and journey and to show love to any caregivers in attendance.”

In addition, she said, “I hope it’s an inspiring event for those recently diagnosed to see people who have battled the disease thriving in life, despite the long-term challenges that a cancer diagnosis can sometimes bring.”

For more information about the Fight Back Feast and Bingo Night or to RSVP, contact event organizers Karen Cuker (215-266-5718 or cukers@verizon.net) or Judy Levin (267-210-9731 or jellevin@yahoo.com).

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