NORTH COLLINS, N.Y. — Crystal Cocca's life changed forever in February of 2018 when she went in for a routine mammogram and came out with a diagnosis of breast cancer. The North Collins native has been fighting the disease ever since, and she told 2 On Your Side it was her family and her community that got her through.
"When I finally finished my treatments, I knew I needed to give back to the community that had given me so much," Cocca said.
That's where she got the idea to raise money for a Herd of Hope buffalo. The proceeds go to the Roswell Alliance to fund cancer research.
While there are Herd of Hope buffaloes across Western New York, this is the first to be community funded. For Cocca, the buffalo represents not only her battle with breast cancer, but the impact the disease has on every one of us, which is why it's covered in ribbons that stand for multiple types of cancer.
"When I see the blue buffalo, when I heard about the blue buffalo, I thought about my mother-in-law who lost a battle to cancer," said John Tobia, North Collins town supervisor.
The Herd of Hope will be displayed in North Collins and Cocca hopes other communities follow their lead. Plus, the unveiling came at the perfect time.
"I'm happy to say that I saw my oncologist after a routine mammogram yesterday that was clear," Cocca said. "They've claimed me in remission and I live for the next six months waiting to see what happens."
The fear of it coming back never goes away but from now on, everyday Cocca and so many others will see the buffalo as a symbol of hope and unity.
"Our community supports Roswell, supports cancer research and supports each other," said Cocca.