Neither Laura Littner nor her family will ever forget the day the Woodstock Bunco for Breast Cancer event was born.
The Woodstock native was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer in October 2004 with her teary-eyed mother, Susan Martino, by her side. Only two years earlier, Martino was comforting her other daughter – Tracy Noe – through a similar battle with breast cancer.
Littner thought only about what her mother must have been going through while having to nurture another daughter through breast cancer treatments as chemotherapy was administered through her arm that day.
That search for a distraction came in the form of three dice and an event focusing on other women suffering from breast cancer rather than what the Martino family has had to endure.
Eight years later, the family has raised more than $325,000 for breast cancer research.
Littner spoke with reporter Lawerence Synett about her firsthand experience with breast cancer, and what it was like to have a sister and mother battle the disease.
Synett: What was it like trying to be there for your middle sister while she battled breast cancer?
Littner: It was very hard, because I am the oldest. I felt terribly guilty that I couldn’t do more because watching her go through that and feeling helpless was very frustrating. It was harder watching her go through it than going through it myself.
Synett: Why did you move back to Woodstock from Hinsdale after 15 years and eventually take a job at your alma mater?
Littner: I wanted to go home. I was in the middle of my treatments, and we decided to just pack up, sell the house and move back. I truly believe that is what I was supposed to do. Later an old colleague asked me if I wanted to work at Marian Central. I had no hair when I interviewed and was so nervous and self-conscious. I walked in the building and knew I was home.
Synett: Did you ever start to believe that your family was just unlucky, especially when your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer after you and your sister went through it?
Littner: We all just thought, ‘here we go again.’ At that point, we had to just hunker down. We were going to get through it. She is an incredibly strong person. The entire time we both had it, she prayed for it to be taken from us and given to her. When it was her turn, she was like, OK, it’s my turn. I can handle it.
Synett: What’s so great about bunco?
Littner: You can have a conversation and be talking, but also be playing the game. It’s a social thing. When you would go into that room during the event and see pink all over, it’s a very powerful moment. It was women coming together to support each other and raise money for a great cause.
Synett: What does the organization do now?
Littner: We are no longer hosting the event because it has become more difficult with our children getting older. We promote remote bunco events, where residents can go to our website, and we send them all they need to organize and host an event. Then the money goes to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
The Littner lowdown
Who is she? Breast cancer survivor, founder of Woodstock Bunco for Breast Cancer
Family: Married to Barry Littner for 15 years; two children, Jack and Katie Littner; parents, Susan and Walter Martino; sisters, Tracy Noe and Michelle Mitchell
Profession: Marian Central Catholic High School teacher for eight years
Money donated to cancer research: $325,000
Favorite color: Pink