hereforthegirls | 2015 August
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, August 29, 2015 | More Post by

Katrina Keel-Saunders’ life changed forever when she was diagnosed with breast cancer on February 11, 2014. A lump on her breast and, several months later, a difference in the appearance of her left nipple, pushed her to see her doctor and seek a diagnosis.

Katrina lives in Norfolk with her husband of four years, Alan, Jr., and their three children: daughters Jasmine, 11, katrina blogAva, 6, and a son, Antonio, 10. A cairn terrier/Maltese/Yorkie pup named Hope is also part of the family. Katrina works as a physician secretary at Sentara Pediatric Physicians.

This year Katrina was selected as one of eleven Boobers! to serve as a model for the Calendar to Live By 2016. Here she opens up about how her breast cancer was detected, her advice for other women dealing with the disease, and what being a calendar model means to her.

What led to your diagnosis?

In November 2013 I noticed when my left arm rubbed against my left breast that it felt odd. I gave myself an exam and felt a lump. I had my mom feel the lump, too. She was concerned and told me to get it checked out, but it did not hurt, so I ignored it. In early February 2014 I was undressing and noticed my nipple on my left breast was going in, like something was pulling my nipple inward. I screamed for my husband to look at it and he agreed it looked odd and scary. I sent a picture to a friend, a two-time breast cancer survivor, and she told me to calm down and have it looked at.

I saw a doctor and had a mammogram and then an ultrasound. When the radiologist came in and did the ultrasound again, it was the question he asked that scared me: “Is there anyone you can call?” He grabbed my hand and at that point I knew something was not right. He told me he saw the lump I had been feeling, but that he also saw two other spots that seemed suspicious. He stated he was going to biopsy them and pray he was wrong.

I waited at the office for at least three hours. I must say that was the worst day of my life. I was afraid to be alone, so my mom, dad, husband, sister, stepdad, and family friend were with me to get my results. I was shaking, like I already knew what the results were going to be.

When I was told “You have breast cancer” I felt like I was in a bad dream waiting to wake up. I heard my mom, sister, and friend sniffling and I felt numb. I looked at my husband and he was red in the face. I thought Am I going to die? What will happen to my kids? My husband? At that moment I said “I will beat this, and I will fight hard.”

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

In September 2014 I researched breast cancer patient resources. I came across Beyond Boobs! and sent an e-mail to ask where a local meeting was. Within a few days I received an e-mail back from Boober! Amy Oliver, who then sent my e-mail to [Cofounder and Executive Director] Mary Beth Gibson, who gave me information about meeting locations. She forwarded my information to Boober! Michele Yepez. I attended my first support group meeting in Ghent. As scared as I was, I went and all of those women made me feel right at home. Everyone I have met has become a sister to me and I love them all. I am grateful for Beyond Boobs!

What is your favorite dessert indulgence?

I love to indulge in a warm brownie with ice cream on top, preferably with chocolate and peanut butter.

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

My heartthrob growing up was Jordan Knight, from New Kids on the Block. I had T-shirts, posters, and a big huge button. I remember writing to their fan club. I still love NKOTB to this day. I had the pleasure of seeing them in concert back in 2009 and just recently this June. Amazing!! I also loved Enrique Iglesias. I had posters of him in my bedroom. I remember seeing him in concert and it was the best.

What advice do you have for other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer?

I’d tell them to stay positive. I know it’s not easy to say that, but staying positive makes a huge difference when you are going through treatments, even though there will be days you are feeling down and feel like giving up. Find a support group or any therapy that helps you cope, deal with your fears, etc.

What does being selected as a calendar model mean to you?

Being selected as a calendar model has meant so much to me. When people tell me I am their HERO, I really do feel like I AM A HERO. I feel I am able to advocate for others by sharing my journey to inspire them and to help educate women about the importance of breast self-exams.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

I felt beautiful without my long hair, like I’m making a difference in other people’s lives by showing them that breast cancer has not taken everything; it has not taken my strength. The photo shoot made me feel like I’m sending a positive message to other women that no matter your age, race, etc., cancer affects everyone. But there are resources and organizations that can help you while you are fighting your battle.

, August 21, 2015 | More Post by

Tonia Gardinier’s cancer was discovered during her very first mammogram. She was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer on March 9, 2012, the same day as her mom’s birthday.

Tonia lives in Coinjock, North Carolina, with her fiancé of 19 years, Paul. They have four children: Amanda and tonia 3Alicia, 25; Dillon, 23; and Korbin, 20. They also have three dogs: a beagle named Diamond, a Pomeranian named Bella, and a pit bull/lab mix named Buddy.

In her professional life Tonia wears many hats. She works as a baker at Coinjock Marina and Restaurant, cleans private homes, helps her best friend with her pool and spa business on the weekends in the Outer Banks, and works in a boathouse of a marina on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Tonia was selected as one of the models for A Calendar to Live By 2016. Recently she took a break from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about herself and her experiences as a calendar model.

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

A friend and a Boostier! told me about BB! I was afraid to go to a meeting by myself, so she went with me. Now I couldn’t imagine my life without Beyond Boobs!

What is your favorite date-night activity?

Hmm . . . so many. I like getting some food and watching the sun set.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a photographer or have a catering business.

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying devotion?

Scott Baio, LOL. I had posters from Teen Beat magazine.

What are your plans for the summer?

This is my busy season, so work, work, work. I will also try to enjoy my pool and spending time with my grandson as often as possible.

What is the best advice you have received about living beyond breast cancer?

It’s OK to worry, but don’t let it consume you.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

The symbolism of my photo, that’s all I can say. Those who know me will understand when they see the photo.

, August 14, 2015 | More Post by

Carrie Cook was diagnosed with breast cancer twice – the first time in July of 2010 and the second time in August of 2014. She is proud to represent Beyond Boobs! as a calendar model for A Calendar to Live By 2016 and looks forward to promoting the group’s message of love and inspiration.

Carrie lives in Norfolk with her husband of 22 years, Troy, and their three children: sons Ray, 22, and Christopher, 19, and daughter Anna, 24. Carrie works for Norfolk Public Schools as a school nutrition manager.

Prior to the big calendar reveal at the Pink Carpet Gala in September, Carrie talks about how she discovered Beyond Boobs!, why it is important to take care of yourself first, and how other women can learn from her experiences.

What led to your diagnosis?carrie cook

The first time I was diagnosed my husband found the lump. The second time I was diagnosed when my plastic surgeon found what he thought was a calcified stitch in my scar line during a revision to my reconstruction. 

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

I was given a bag of literature at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth when I was diagnosed and there was a card for Beyond Boobs! in the bag.

What is your favorite summer beach read?

Anything by Laurell Hamilton, Kim Harrison, or JD Robb.

What is the best advice you have received about living beyond breast cancer?

Take time for yourself. You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Who was your celebrity teenage heartthrob?

I don’t think I ever actually had one. I was more wrapped up in the real people of my life.

What hobbies do you enjoy doing?

I love to sew and make jewelry.

What does being selected as a calendar model mean to you?

Being a calendar girl means two important things to me. First, it’s a chance to give back to this wonderful organization some of the love and inspiration they have given me. It also gives me a way to help spread the message of self-advocacy through my story of misdiagnoses.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

It was awesome to have my husband there with me! He was deployed the first time I went through treatment, and he is now retired.

 

 

           

 

, August 07, 2015 | More Post by

Natalie Skinner was only 35 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 3 carcinoma in June of 2013. She refused to let cancer keep her from living the life she loves and now she is spreading the message of “Never stop living” through her role as a model for the Beyond Boobs! 2016 Calendar to Live By.

Natalie lives in Suffolk and works as a healthcare customer service/eligibility specialist at Smithfield Foods. She is mom to daughter Brittany, 20, and son Aldrian, 14. She is also the proud grandmother of an infant grandson, Christian. Here she talks about how her cancer was discovered, the magic of Beyond Boobs!, and why Growing Pains was the best show ever.

What led to your diagnosis?natalie

The side of my left breast felt tender. Originally I didn’t think much of it. I went with my daughter to visit our primary care physician and when we were in the exam room my daughter suggested I have the doctor take a look at it. After the doctor felt a lump she sent me over for a mammogram. (I had just seen my OB-GYN for my annual exam and was told I was not old enough for a mammogram and to wait another year.) After the mammogram and ultrasound were done, I went to a breast specialist. The specialist did a biopsy and diagnosed me with cancer.

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

I was actually in Florida at a conference for young women affected by breast cancer when I was introduced to Beyond Boobs! I was there with Cancer Treatment Centers of America as somewhat of an advocate for them. I had never heard of BB! and I really didn’t think there was anything like them in my area. I went over to introduce myself and the rest is history.

What is your favorite BB! activity or event?

The Pink Carpet Gala would have to be my favorite. I am quite new to the organization and I attended for the first time last year. I love the support the organization receives for this event. I think it is amazing how the evening is focused on breast cancer survivors.

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

Kirk Cameron was my teenage celebrity heartthrob. I would sit and wait for Growing Pains to come on and when they ran reruns I was still glued to the TV even though I had seen EVERY episode.

One word to describe yourself:

Authentic.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

The most impactful moment of my calendar photo shoot was the interview. I have told my story many times before, but on that day I realized I am a survivor! I have fought a good fight and it is through God’s grace and mercy I am still here.