Stephanie Fazzari lovingly refers to her twin sister, Michelle, as Mother Teresa.
That nickname is well-earned for the 2016 Olympian and long-time member of the Brock Wrestling Club.
“I’m a teacher and she has gone into every school that I have been at and volunteered to do lessons for kids. If someone is moving, she helps move them. She helps running extra coaching sessions and coaching camps. She just does everything and when someone asks for help, she is right there. If they don’t ask for help, she is still right there.”
The 33-year-old Beamsville resident’s selfless attitude and caring disposition has prompted an outpouring of support for a GoFundMe page launched by Stephanie to help raise funds for Michelle’s battle with cancer. The fundraising campaign had a goal of $15,000 but since its launch, it has raised more than $73,000.
“I’m not surprised by the amount of help Michelle has got from GoFundMe because she is the first person to help someone,” Stephanie said. “It is on the international level too. It’s not just in Ontario and Canada. It’s across Europe, Australia and all over the place which has been really amazing to see. And a lot of it is from the wrestling community which Michelle has dominated at the international level for at least 10 years.”
Michelle had been visiting doctors and specialists since last September hoping to figure out why she wasn’t feeling at her best. Through it all, she continued to train for the final Olympic qualifier this May in Bulgaria. She moved to Calgary in January to make her final push for her second Olympic berth and, despite feeling unwell, she looked to be on the right track in March when she won a gold medal in the 62-kilogram event at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series 2021 in Rome, Italy.
“At this time, she did not know she had cancer, but was incredibly tired and had pain and yet she still dominated,” Stephanie wrote on the GoFundMe page. “This just goes to show the incredible strength and determination Michelle has.”
After seeing at least ten different doctors and specialists, Michelle was diagnosed with cancer on April 16.
“That night, our parents flew Michelle back home on a red eye. Our parents picked Michelle up from the airport and drove her straight to Juravinski so we could get more answers,” Stephanie wrote. “Today marks the sixth week since finding out. We know that it is Stage 3C and has spread to her lymph nodes.”
Stephanie describes Michelle as good and positive.
“Chemo and radiation are hard on the body, but she has a great group of people around her and she will keep trucking through,” Stephanie said.
Michelle’s week is a blur of cancer treatments. From Monday to Friday, she receives radiation treatments at Juravinski Hospital. That will be followed by five chemotherapy sessions and specialized radiation treatments at a hospital in London for the Beamsville resident.
Stephanie has no doubt her twin can beat cancer because she has a track record of kicking adversity’s butt.
Michelle captured her first Canadian title in 2012, two years after being told a shoulder injury would prevent her from ever wrestling again at a high level. In 2015, she placed seventh at the Pan Am Games, three weeks after undergoing knee surgery. She won the Canadian trials in December 2019 with only two months training following surgery on a horrific knee injury suffered at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
“This is by far the biggest obstacle that she has had but she has always defied them,” Stephanie said.
She has long been witness to Michelle’s dogged determination.
“She got into wrestling off of a bet, she did it and she won. She did weightlifting and became a champion of that and won champions of champions of that. In her wrestling, she just kept going further and further despite countless injuries and surgeries. She has always come back as top five in the world, top ten in the world or tops in Canada. Doctors tell her she can’t wrestle any more and she goes back and she dominates.”
Stephanie admits the initial diagnosis was tough for Michelle to handle.
“It was devastating day. She had plans for babies and everything and she had moved out to Calgary to do her second shot at the Olympics,” she said. “But health is her No. 1 priority.”
None of the money raised from the GoFundMe campaign will be used for daily living expenses and all of it will be used for treatments, Stephanie said.Money raised will be used to finance Michelle and husband C.J. Hudson’s recently completed emergency fertility procedures and the services of a naturopathic doctor working with the support of her oncologist. The costs are in the tens of thousands of dollars. The vitamin therapy alone is approximately $800 weekly.
“Our goal is to have no evidence of the disease by year five. That is when you have cured your cancer,” Stephanie said. “She will be in remission until then and we are going to use the naturopathic medicine to keep the cancer at bay.”
To contribute to the fundraising campaign, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-michelle-fazzari-fight-against-cancer
“Michelle and C.J. are not ones to ask for support,” Stephanie wrote on the GoFundMe page. “I know that this will help them in their time of need. I do respectfully ask that you stream all your positive messages of healing and strength to this post and to please respect their need for privacy at this time. As you can imagine, this is a lot to process and Michelle needs all the rest she can get.”
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