Breast cancer survivor and former Fort Greene resident Belinda Peterkin plans to help stamp out a killer when she puts her best foot forward in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Prospect Park on Sunday.
“We definitely need to find a cure,” says the former traffic agent and Ground Zero worker who helped with the rescue and recovery effort after 9-11, only to discover five years later that she had breast cancer.
Peterkin’s illness was deemed related to toxic exposure at the attack site because she had no family history of breast cancer and tested negative for the mutant gene that causes the disease.
Her life-changing ordeal would have felled lesser mortals, but the selfless survivor sees it as another opportunity to lend a helping hand.
“I don’t look upon it as a devastating act, but as a chance to help others going through cancer,” says the mom of two, who now works for the Department of Education and speaks at American Cancer Society events about the need for early detection.
Peterkin knows the grim score only too well.
She had never been for a mammogram when she made the frightening discovery during a routine self-examination.
“One Sunday morning I felt a lump,” she says.
She was crushed when her doctor diagnosed her with Stage 2 breast cancer, meaning the disease was growing but contained.
“My first thought was, ‘am I going to die and who will care for my two children,’ ” says Peterkin, who had a 2-year-old daughter and a son age 12 at the time.
She underwent grueling chemotherapy treatments that descended into a living nightmare, and sought comfort in prayer.
“My lowest point was not knowing what the outcome would be, and not being me,” she says. “The upside came later when I knew God would carry me through.”
Peterkin, who has been cancer-free for 10 years, is living life on new terms these days.
“I feel awesome now!” she says. “Especially when I know I am helping others going through this.”