At 4:03 p.m. April 21, 2012, Flora Migyanka’s three-year-old son was napping and she was en route to pick up her daughter from kindergarten, when her phone rang.
The voice told her she had Stage 1 invasive lobular breast cancer.
Migyanka, then 40, was healthy (she thought), practiced yoga and was a busy working mom. She’d had her first routine mammography a few weeks before, which was nothing more than an annoyance to schedule before a ski trip. Even when called back for additional x-rays, she wasn’t concerned. Then things snowballed — biopsies, then waiting, then the call that knocked her breath away.
After much research, the Plymouth resident found that the University of Michigan Breast Oncology Center in Ann Arbor was the best choice for her case. “Even through the terror of the diagnosis, I had a sense of peace when I met my doctors,” Migyanka says.
Still, following a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, she faced unimaginable new forms of tiredness, multiple complications from her surgery and occupational and physical therapy for two years — all while keeping a brave face for her children. After a decade more of hormone-therapy Tamoxilen, hot flashes and other side effects, Migyanka considers herself fortunate to have her husband, John, plus more family, friends and neighbors to help.
Cancer-free and in gratitude, Migyanka organized the first Uncork for a Cure in 2016, in partnership with U-M, with the goal of increasing funds to spread awareness about the impacts of breast cancer and to find a cure — while celebrating with a food-centric soiree.
“I felt the great need to make it my life's mission to help other women in need,” she says. “As I have moved through my own health journey, I find that sharing my story and connecting with other women brings me healing and a sense of calm. To know I have helped other women on their journey gives me great joy.”
"I feel it has the tremendous power to bring people together, to spark change, draw inspiration and embrace the power of what a community can do together,” Migyanka says.
“I love being able to highlight the great culinary talent Metro Detroit has to offer while elevating the need to support breast cancer.
“Uncork for a Cure brings together the city's best chefs, award-winning wines, art, cars and more — all to raise crucial funds for breast cancer research.
“Last year, during the auction portion, [Detroit artist] Mike Han's live painting was so popular that a bidding war broke out — he ended up commissioning two pieces for bidders,” Migyanka says. “It was a special moment that left the entire room in tears, including Mike and his mother, who also is a breast cancer survivor.”
Uncork for a Cure is a unique event in the Metro Detroit area, and it continues to grow each year, something Migyanka "will forever be proud of," she says. In 2019, Migyanka and her team officially started a 501(c)(3) for nonprofit status and launched the Dynami Foundation (dynamifoundation.org) — showcasing her deep passion for her Greek roots, Dynami is Greek for “strength.”
“Since we started, we have helped fund 15 research projects on Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer (ILC) and have helped more than 20 Michigan women in need who have been diagnosed with breast cancer,” she says. But this second most common subtype receives less than 1% research funding, despite more than 40,000 women being diagnosed with it each year. “It is very sneaky and can be missed on a mammogram,” she says. “It is an unmet need — more needs to be done.”While last year’s event surpassed the goal of raising a cumulative $2 million, this year's goal is to raise a cumulative $3 million for breast cancer research and women's financial assistance.
While serving as president for the organizations she’s founded, Migyanka is an account manager for a global biotech company, volunteers as a yoga instructor at a local cancer support center, serves on the patient advisory board at U-M and is a member of the national Lobular Breast Cancer Alliance. She was the recipient of the 2021 Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute Heroes for Cancer Community Service Award, was included in a book (I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It) and most recently, she and Dynami were selected by the U-M Ross School of Business to develop strategic planning for increased funding in support of ILC.
To top it off — she throws a great party. The food and Champagne enthusiast is fortunate to call many of Metro Detroit's finest chefs friends. And she summoned many "friends" to take part in Uncork for a Cure 2023, its eighth annual.
“It's a pleasure to gather with the community to enjoy dishes from the city's best restaurants,” Migyanka says, along with world-class wines curated by Plum Market’s Madeline Triffon, the first female master sommelier — who happens to be Migyanka’s first cousin.
“This is personal for us,” Migyanka says. “Madeline gathers her esteemed colleagues of wine professionals and sommeliers to help pour and educate. There are wines to taste from local private wine collectors. There will be incredible art by artist Mike Han and more curated by Mary Wysocki of Paragon Art Collective. There will be a display of Ferraris from Cauley Ferrari. Did I also mention Champagne by Moët Hennessy and oysters from Motor City Seafood? We are so grateful to have all of these amazing supporters to make this event successful.” There will also be live and silent auctions — with the latter available for those unable to attend in person. (For details about the lineup, see “What’s On Tap?”)
“I hope by future events we can share new information. We need to educate and empower younger women to learn and take control of their health,” Migyanka says. “Uncork for a Cure not only spreads awareness to women about their risks for breast cancer, but also raises funds to hopefully one day find a cure for this deadly disease.”
IN THE KITCHEN WITH JOHN VERMIGLIO
While funding for breast-cancer research and support is at the core of Uncork for a Cure, the event of the season is set against a glistening backdrop of a who’s who in the Metro Detroit culinary community.
Among those stars of gastrome is John Vermiglio, co-executive chef and co-owner, with Joe Giacomino, of Four Man Ladder, the creative collaborators behind Basan Detroit, Second Best and Brush Park’s Grey Ghost Detroit — the latter of which will be among the restaurants serving up delicacies at this year’s Uncork for a Cure.
Vermiglio, a Detroit native with a culinary arts degree with honors from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, has worked under acclaimed chefs like Charlie Trotter, Graham Elliot Bowles and Art Smith in Chicago. Recognized as a Zagat 30 Under 30 list of rising culinary professionals and a contestant on Bravo’s “Around the World in 80 Plates,” Vermiglio returned to Detroit in 2016 to fulfill his lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant. Grey Ghost, Four Man Ladder’s first, was inspired by an eponymous rum-running pirate from Prohibition and is known for “cuts and cocktails,” its version of elevated new American cuisine.
Vermiglio, who lives in Ferndale with his partner and one-year-old son, has been a part of Uncork for a Cure for the past four years — for him, like many, it’s personal.
“My mother, Gretchen, battled Stage 1 Ductal Carcinoma in Situ [DCIS] breast cancer in 2003,” he says. “My family is blessed that with proper treatment, including 35 radiation treatments, she came out the other side cancer-free — now she volunteers each year with me and the Grey Ghost team at Uncork for a Cure.”
Although Vermiglio’s menu for this year’s event is still being solidified, he offered Birmingham City Lifestyle a taste of his talents by sharing a recipe with us.
APPLE CARPACCIO WITH PECORINO, MACADAMIA AND CAPER VINAIGRETTE
“I’m thrilled to be serving with Uncork for a Cure this year, and am happy to pass along this Apple Carpaccio,” Vermiglio says. “Not only is it perfect for the season, but apple cider vinegar, one of the recipe’s key components, happens to be listed as one of the foods that helps reduce risks of cancer.”
4 ea. Granny Smith apples (or your favorite varietal)
1 c. finely grated Pecorino
2 c. Macadamia nuts, toasted, salted, chopped
1 bunch scallion, finely sliced
Ingredients for the Vinaigrette:
1 4 oz. jar of capers (reserve brine liquid)
1/4 c. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 c. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar (or honey)
Salt to taste
In a blender, place 2 tbsp. caper brine liquid, apple cider vinegar, sugar, garlic and Dijon and turn on high. While blender is on, slowly begin to drizzle vegetable oil into blender until it is fully incorporated. Turn off blender and mix in 2 Tbsp. whole capers and juice of half lemon and season with salt.
Remove the core from the Granny Smith apple and slice very thinly, lengthwise on a mandolin, then coat them in remaining half of lemon juice and some extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt.
Arrange the apple slices onto the bottom of serving dishes and top with Caper Vinaigrette, about 2-3 Tbsp. per dish. Top with grated Pecorino, toasted macadamia nuts and garnish with scallions. Serve immediately. Yield: 4-6 portions.
WHAT’S ON TAP: THE DETAILS
A trio of events in October and November aim to meet a cumulative goal of $3 million raised over eight years for Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) research while also supporting local women in financial need. Here is the schedule:
Wednesday, Oct. 11 Uncork Up North at the Hagerty Garage in Traverse City. The event is in partnership with Amanda Danielson, advanced sommelier and owner of Trattoria Stella in Traverse City, and Madeline Triffon, first woman sommelier in the U.S., of Plum Market, alongside the best chefs in Northern Michigan. Hosted by The Dynami Foundation team, with the work of the foundation’s featured artist, Mike Han, on display.
Thursday, Oct. 19 Art & Fashion Show Luncheon at Neiman Marcus Troy, to raise funds for breast-cancer research. Hosted by The Dynami Foundation and Renee Janovsky, vice president and market general manager of Neiman Marcus Troy and breast-cancer survivor. Artist Mike Han’s linework, in the unmistakable color of the cause, pink, will greet guests as they enter the store. Mary Wysocki of Detroit’s Paragon Art Collective (paragonartcollective.com) will curate a selection of works from local artists to be unveiled at the event, which will remain on public display until auctioning at the Nov. 4th Uncork for a Cure event. Guests will enjoy a three-course meal prepared by Chef Anthony Lombardo (SheWolf) and Chefs John Vermiglio and Joe Giacomino (Grey Ghost), alongside a fashion presentation of some of the season’s best looks.
Saturday, Nov. 4 The 8th-Annual Uncork for a Cure at M1 Concourse, Troy. Hosted by The Dynami Foundation with partnering hosts including Birmimgham City Lifestyle, the evening will showcase the city’s best culinary talent and award-winning wines curated by nationally renowned and locally beloved Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon of Plum Market, alongside additional sommeliers and wine professionals. Guests can enjoy M1 Ferrari track rides hosted by Cauley Ferrari; Foundation featured artist Mike Han will return for a live painting experience; and new this year, a special Uncork gallery of artwork curated by Mary Wysocki of Paragon Art Collective. This art collective and more will be available in the evening’s live and silent auctions. Participating restaurants include Grey Ghost (see "In the Kitchen"), Mabel Gray, Selden Standard, SheWolf, Takoi, Barda, Oak & Reel, Marrow, Brine Oyster House and more.
For more information about these events and Uncork for a Cure, visit Uncorkforacure.org or @uncorkforacure_detroit.
-Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, affecting 2.3 million women each year; one in eight will be diagnosed in their lifetime.
-Diagnosis in women under 40 is on the rise and early detection is key — the earlier you are diagnosed, the higher the survival outcomes.
-Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) is the second most common type of breast cancer but receives less than 1% of research funding.
-Learning to pay attention to our health and mental wellness can help minimize the risk of getting diagnosed with breast cancer.