Darlene Stepp has dealt with a lifetime of health issues — both in her own life and in the lives of loved ones.
Born with cerebral palsy, she has had 12 surgeries. She wears braces on her legs and uses a cane to get around. Her husband, Darryle, longtime facilities manager at Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Burr Ridge, has had open-heart surgery, has a mechanical aorta, pacemaker and defibrillator. He recently found out that he may need a heart pump and, if that doesn’t help, he may need to go on the organ donor list for a heart.
Having lost a grandmother, uncle and three aunts to various forms of cancer, Stepp was diligent about getting regular mammograms. When she got the jarring news that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in October, the silver lining was that her cancer had been detected at Stage 0, an early point that offers more options in battling the disease.
She has gone through 15 rounds of radiation as part of her treatment. Based on how her body responds to medication, doctors will determine how her treatment regimen will proceed.
“I always say, ‘I’ve been through a lot.’ But they are not stumbling blocks, they are stepping stones,” Stepp said. “When there is something that you think you can’t overcome, know that the only person stopping you is you.”
Five Seasons will conduct Dance for Darlene, a dance-a-thon breast cancer fundraiser, from 2-5 p.m. May 24. The event will feature an hour-long ballet barre workout, followed by an hour of Zumba, and concluding with an hour of free dance.
Open to both members and guests, the event is being held in Studio 1 of the club, 6901 S. Madison. Admission is $25 per individual, with all proceeds and other contributions going toward Darlene’s medical bills. Each participant will receive a free T-shirt.
“Some people walk, some people run, we dance,” Stepp said. “Dance for Darlene is to raise awareness and to keep people moving for three hours.”
Stepp said she will be present for the event, although she is not sure yet about her participation level.
This is the second fundraiser that Five Seasons is having for the Oak Forest resident. Last month, the club did a strength-and-fitness fundraiser, Spartan Challenge, on Stepp’s behalf. Stepp says totals are not yet in from that fund-raiser.
Stepp said she appreciates the effort that Five Seasons’ personnel are making to change class schedules in order to conduct another fundraiser on her behalf.
“It is hard to do all that,” said Stepp, who has a 20-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter. “What they have come up with is above and beyond the call of duty. It is not something I really expected. It is a surprise and a delight.”
Stepp said she wants the event to not be about her, but be an alert to area residents about the need for health exams and cancer screenings.
“Most importantly, I want to raise awareness of the importance of getting regular check-ups, whether for breast cancer or any other form of cancer,” Stepp said. “This is about so much more than me, and about so many more people going through tougher times than I am right now.”
Stepp said she has received an outpouring of support, but has chosen to not have a ton of people on her support team.
“No one knows what you are going through unless it is another person going through the exact same thing,” Stepp said. “People can’t imagine what you are going through unless they watch a movie of the week.”
To register or for information about Dance for Darlene, call 630-570-5200.