That’s why Maurer has decided to donate $1 for every large pizza sold at her restaurant during October to Komen Connecticut.
“I thought this would be a great way to put the two together,” Maurer said.
The two women met when their children started kindergarten together at Roaring Brook School. Maurer’s son Gavin and Armstrong’s daughter Taylor are now in seventh grade at Avon Middle School.
The moms grew closer in 2010 following a chance meeting in Walmart at the end of that summer. Maurer noticed that Armstrong was wearing a baseball cap and looked different.
“I knew something had happened,” Maurer said.
They talked and Maurer learned that Armstrong had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in May and had undergone chemotherapy every two weeks that summer. The cancer had also metastasized to her liver.
She had surgery in September 2010 and starting that December went through 35 rounds of radiation. In total, she has had three major surgeries the past three years.
“The medication was able to shrink the tumor in my liver and eventually, in January 2012, they were able to operate to remove the tumor,” Armstrong said. “It was still 40 percent alive at the time.”
She currently takes daily oral medications and every three weeks, receives an intravenous injection of Herceptin.
“I turned 40 in September and I didn’t think I would make that milestone,” Armstrong said. “There is no evidence of cancer now but they can’t say it will never return. I don’t know what the future holds.”
That’s one reason she is now committed to raising both funds and awareness and has put together a team for the Komen Connecticut Race for the Cure the past three years. Last year, her team came in second in fundraising and this year, they raised the highest amount of funds for Komen Connecticut, about $16,000. The team’s three-year total is close to $46,000.
As the 2013 highest fundraiser, Armstrong was invited to help ring the NASDAQ bell on Oct. 3 along with Anne Morris, executive director of Komen Connecticut.
“All money raised stays with Komen Connecticut,” she said. “We’re raising kids in Connecticut who may some day be affected.”
That leads to another reason for her involvement – Armstrong and her husband Tom have two daughters – Taylor, 12 and Lauren, 9 – and her sister, Hollie Smith of Simsbury, has one.
“Why wouldn’t I jump on the bandwagon?” she said. “I could have just dealt with my own illness, but I became a spokesperson. Not everyone can do that.”
Luna Pizza sponsors Armstrong’s team and Maurer’s business logo is on the sleeve of the team’s T-shirts, which were designed in pink and green in order to stand out in the crowd of runners.
“My staff members sometimes wear them to work,” Maurer said.
Luna Pizza is the only business that contributes to her race team, Armstrong said. All others are individuals.
“These are real people wanting to help,” she said. “It’s our community; we all live here.”
The name of Armstrong’s race team is HER 2, the name of an antibody in cancer cells that divides and splits.
“It feeds off of estrogen and that’s why it’s so aggressive in young women,” she said.
Armstrong helped found a young survivors group, which meets monthly, and is one of its leaders.
“We have different needs from women in their 50s or 60s,” she said. “Our children are still young and involved with dance or sports so we support each other. One way is by forming carpools.”
There is no previous family history of breast cancer, but her mother had colon cancer and her father died from lung cancer.
“I represent anyone this can happen to,” Armstrong said.
She grew up on Long Island and her parents, Amy and Bill Brown, moved to Avon when she was 18. After living away from home during college she later lived with her husband in Trumbull, which has a high breast cancer mortality rate.
“Statewide, Connecticut has the second highest incidence of breast cancer in the nation,” Armstrong said.
The couple then moved to Avon, where they live on a street off of New Road. Since being diagnosed, she has learned of at least four women from the Buckingham neighborhood, also off New Road, who have breast cancer.
“It’s shocking,” Armstrong said.
Another surprise came a few weeks ago when she attended a fashion show fundraiser involving 27 models with breast cancer. Four of them were from Avon and were women she didn’t already know.
“I thought, ‘Here are four more women from Avon with the disease’ and I wondered, ‘How many more could there be?’” Armstrong said.
She has also learned that there’s a pocket of women in the Farmington Valley with breast cancer.
Armstrong wants young moms like her to get checked out and tested if they exhibit any symptoms. After discovering a lump, she ignored hers at first and there’s a possibility that if she hadn’t, the cancer may not have progressed to stage 4 and spread to her liver.
“I sat on my symptoms for three weeks because I was busy with my kids and my dad had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer three months before,” she said. “If our children have symptoms of an illness, we bring them to the doctor. But we’re so busy taking care of them that we don’t always take care of ourselves.”
It has not been an easy couple of years, Armstrong said.
“Everyone has bad days,” she said. “But a positive attitude and a sense of humor are what get me through. I also have resilient children and I believe this experience is shaping the kind of women they will become.”
Armstrong is particularly grateful to Maurer for her help, both personally and financially.
“It speaks to her character that she jumped in,” she said of Maurer.
“As a business owner I can’t say yes to everybody so I decided to help causes that are near and dear to my heart,” Maurer said.
That includes school fundraising along with benefits for cystic fibrosis and breast cancer. Besides Armstrong, Maurer has a friend in California with the disease.
“This is a small way I can help them and so many others,” she said.
Maurer has held a pizza night fundraiser all three years that Armstrong has been involved with the Komen Connecticut Race for the Cure, but this is the first year she is donating $1 for every large pizza sold during October to Komen Connecticut.
For information, call 860-651-1820 or visit www.lunapizzasimsbury.com.