Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 10, 2018
Throwing Cancer a Curveball

Toni Broadhead shows Stansbury and Tooele Valley how to battle breast cancer with grace and style 

There was joy. There were tear-filled eyes. And even some false eyelashes bit the dust. 

All this and more occurred when the Stansbury High School boys baseball and girls softball teams paid tribute to a much-loved teacher with a “Bases 4 Broadhead” on May 3.

That much-loved teacher is Toni Broadhead, 52, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall. At that time, she had just been promoted from working as a substitute teacher to being the Ed Net facilitator, which entails working with students in the concurrent enrollment program at SHS. 

Her other responsibilities include being the advisor to Stansbury High’s Hope Squad. Students are nominated to serve on the Hope Squad, and they dedicate time to working on peer-to-peer relationships, building friendships among all students, and providing information for suicide prevention.

Broadhead recently lost a nephew to death by suicide, so suicide prevention and awareness are subjects she’s passionate about.

In addition to those responsibilities during the school day, she also worked with the school’s athletic department, helping to schedule games, take tickets, and support the athletes.

“I just love the hustle and bustle of it all,” Broadhead said about her busy schedule at Stansbury High. 

After hearing her cancer diagnosis, Broadhead immediately talked to her family, and then confided in two close friends at the school. 

The Broadhead family has lived in Tooele for 12 years. Her husband, Scott, is the Tooele County attorney. The couple has four children — a son who served in the military and three daughters: one in Alaska, one in Washington and one at home.

Broadhead said her family has been beside her throughout the whole process. 

“My family has really gone through the refiner’s fire,” she said.

Broadhead got her diagnoses after a routine mammogram.

“I was supposed to get my mammogram in May, but then my dad died suddenly in a boating accident,” she said. “So, I waited until August.”

She learned she had breast cancer in November 2017. 

“We had just finished Hope Week when I was given the news,” she said.

Broadhead decided to take an aggressive approach to fight the cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy and then started chemotherapy. Even with her aggressive approach, Broadhead said she will face additional surgery, as she has opted for reconstruction.

“Right now, I am on the survivor mode, so I can avoid getting cancer again,” she said. “I am looking at some medication and options to stay healthy.”

As part of her healing, Broadhead decided to be as open and positive as possible. After outlining a plan of attack with doctors and family, she decided to go public and has been a warrior and a communicator ever since.

“I told the Hope Squad, and from there people at the school were just a huge support,” she said. “I decided I was going to talk about it and get people to talk about it. I made it public on Facebook and have been real about it. I educated people about getting a mammogram.”

When Broadhead lost her hair during chemotherapy, she was brought to tears after some students cut their hair to show support, or donated hair to companies that make wigs for children suffering hair loss.

“Breast cancer is not about the pink ribbon,” she said. “Everyone I work with has given us lots and lots of support.”

Her family has been a great support and her biggest cheerleaders.

“My two grandbabies — they were fascinated by my baldhead,” she said with a laugh.

When Broadhead was diagnosed, one of the first people she told outside of family was Bridget Clinton, the school’s softball coach. Clinton supported her friend through both the double mastectomy and the chemotherapy.

Clinton also found a way to further get involved by registering her children for “Swing for Life,” which is an annual fundraiser in Salt Lake City. Participants raise money by playing softball, and all funds are donated to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Broadhead said $1.3 million has been donated since “Swing for Life” started 16 years ago. 

But Clinton didn’t stop there. She next started to work on creating a similar fundraiser in Tooele with a local theme. “Bases for Broadhead” was born, and all funds raised go to Huntsman.

 “None of it is for me,” Broadhead said. “All of it is going to the center for research.” 

As the local plans came together, the teams at Stansbury High decided to get Broadhead involved. They asked her to throw a ceremonial first pitch when both teams played on May 3 at Stansbury.

“I found out about it when Bridget came and asked me,” Broadhead said. “She said, ‘we have wanted to do this for you for a long time, we have been planning it.’”

Broadhead thought it was great.

“Oh, there were some sweaty eyes — and in my mind I threw a strike!” she said. “I think at one point my false eyelashes may have flown off.”

Broadhead was touched that so many students, their parents and employees from Stansbury were involved in “Bases for Broadhead.”

“It was even more exciting because I really love the kids and love that everyone has come together,” she said. “The school, the students and the staff have all been super supportive.”

The event was a success, with both the boys and girls teams winning that day. The boys defeated Bonneville and the girls beat Juan Diego. 

“In fact, the boys invited me back,” Broadhead said, laughing. “They said I was good luck.”

Broadhead felt like the event was a homerun. “It is a great cause, and in reality, it is all about women,” she said.

The school is going to donate all the proceeds from the game to Huntsman, specifically for breast cancer research. In addition to the ticket sales, students also collected money as personal fundraisers or donated to a collection jar.

Broadhead feels honored that so many people would come together to raise money for a good cause and to promote research for a disease that is so personal to her.

“It was thrilling with all those kids there, it meant a lot to me,” she said. “This is all about the women in your life — your friends, your aunts, your mom.”

Breast cancer can affect anyone, she said.

“I was just one in eight,” she added. “Get us in a group, and that is quite a lot of us.”

Broadhead urges people to know the importance of breast examinations and mammograms. She wants women to remember to keep their lives safe and to value their lives so they can be around for their family and loved ones into their later years.

Yet, Broadhead would rather not be in the spotlight.

“I’m just me,” she said “Lots of other people deserve an article about them.”

However, if Broadhead can help others to prevent or stand up and fight breast cancer, she will talk openly about her journey, to make it more real for those who want to listen.

And she has, speaking courageously about her cancer and her fight to beat it. As a result, she has become a force at Stansbury High by showing her love for life, her family, her students and colleagues.

Lastly, Broadhead has also shown she values making a difference for those who will face a cancer diagnosis in their lives. She stands ready to make a first pitch for them, too.

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