, March 31, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share their breast cancer story. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.*(Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.) 

I was diagnosed on December 11, 2009, with triple negative breast cancer. My mom always taught us to be strong, positive, to fight and to never give up hope. I stayed strong and positive from the beginning. I went to Boston where I stayed at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge while having treatment and many surgeries. I was my own caregiver, which I do not recommend to anyone.

I am actually writing a book about my cancer journey, with me being my own caregiver. I had bilateral mastectomies and many months of chemo. I was so ill from the chemo that I was hospitalized all the time. One time my doctors thought I had a heart attack from the chemo. I also had bilateral DIEP Flap reconstruction. I was very lucky that I did not have to have radiation.
I have the best team and because of them I am here.

For me it is all about giving back and paying it forward. I volunteer five days a week in a cancer hospital as a hospital volunteer and I am also an American Cancer Society volunteer. I also host Look Good Feel Better, a wonderful program from the American Cancer Society. I really like Pink Link and all that it offers.

-Barbra T.

, March 24, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share their breast cancer story. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.*(Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.) 

2005 was a great year. I was finishing up paramedic school, my fiancé was finishing up nursing school, we were about to get married and buy our first house. 2006 brought more fun and adventure for two outdoorsy newlyweds. We had it all planned out. We’d enjoy each other’s company for a while before we started our family and we’d save up as much as we could to prepare for our future, a future that was looking very bright. 2007 brought some struggles but we made it through the year with perseverance standing by each other’s side. 2008 is when I found myself without a job, which altered my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. But it wasn’t the end of the world, yet. We decided this would be the opportunity we wanted to start our family since we agreed one of us would stay home with the kids anyway. So in 2009 along came son #1. Unfortunately, that was also the year we lost our first house. With only one of us working, it became a challenge to live the lifestyle we had become accustomed to. 2010 brought pregnancy #2 which led to son #2’s arrival in 2011. His appearance in the world would be the only bright part of 2011 though.

October 6, 2011, just 5 months after giving birth to our second son, I was diagnosed with stage 2B triple negative breast cancer. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. My first thought was of the family I had just started with my husband, then my second was how they would go on without me. To me The C Word was a death sentence. But with the support of our family and friends we were getting things taken care of, especially the boys. Thanksgiving was uneventful, until a few days later. That’s when I became a widow/single-mom/breast cancer patient. I found my husband face down in the bathroom not responsive, not breathing, with no pulse. As a paramedic I knew it was too late to try resuscitation. He was gone.

The depression I had suffered with for so many years had finally come to the darkest point. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to go. This was my rock bottom. I had to give up the life I had built, uproot my kids and myself and move two hours away so that I had the support I needed to get through the next few months of my life, because it was going to be a battle to make it through. I was determined to not allow my life to end. I made a decision to not only survive, but to thrive. I had no clue where to start, but I knew I had to start over.

For the next couple of years I focused on my health and physical healing. I had four months of chemo, a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, and seven weeks of radiation. Due to tissue damage from radiation I had to remove the expanders that were placed during my mastectomy and allow my body to heal. Six months later I opted for the Latissimus Flap reconstruction.

Once my physical body was back in order I began to look into my mental health. I don’t remember being offered counseling or therapy services when I was diagnosed, then again, I just may not have heard it through the fear of dying. I began seeing a therapist for the depression and anxiety. We worked through so much I finally started to feel like I was going to be ok. It got to a point though where ok just wasn’t enough. I wanted to live, fully and wholeheartedly. I began reading more and more and was eventually led to looking into life coaching. So many people had told me “you should be a life coach”. I had no clue what they were talking about, and I started listening to the little whispers I was hearing. Those whispers led me to Debbie Ford’s book Dark Side of the Light Chasers. That book reached in and pulled my heart from my chest. I researched Debbie and her ideas about the Shadow. Eventually I signed up to take her Breakthrough Shadow Coaching program. That opened me up to the possibility of creating the life I wanted, even after breast cancer.

While in my coaches’ training I met an amazing woman who worked at The Chopra Center. She taught classes on emotions, mindfulness, meditation and awareness. Going deeper with her has allowed me to deal with and release the emotions that I believe caused my cancer in the first place. Even though I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer I can confidently say that it won’t come back. Learning how emotional dis-ease causes physical dis-ease has been the key to me standing at the top of the hill screaming that cancer can be beat. I am now in training to learn the emotional release techniques she has taught me so that I may help others release their baggage so they are free to create the lives they want to be living.

My life today is very different than it was 5 ½ years ago. I thought breast cancer was a death sentence. It actually turned out to be the greatest gift I have ever been blessed with.

Michele writes her own blog — check it out at michelemadrigal.com!

, March 17, 2017 | More Post by

Ola Onawole is our Not-Your-Typical Support Systems Program Manager. She shares why she’s “Here for the Girls”:

I grew up in a house full of girls. My mother, Wanda, was my favorite girl. She was everyone’s favorite. She would smile so widely and brightly. She would dance in a way that welcomed joy into the room. She would cook in a way that pushed both hunger and sadness out the door. She would pick up folks from off of tough city corners and down-on-their luck avenues. The girl was friendly; the girl was kind; the girl was popular for being the fresh comfort our whole community needed.

She taught us about something I like to call exaltation or celebration.It wasn’t something she said out loud. She taught us in the ways that she danced and in the ways that she laughed. She taught us in the ways that she cooked and befriended people.

We learned that this girl made it her daily goal to provide us (insert her children, her friends, her community) with:

    • 1. a feeling or state of extreme happiness.

By:

    • 2. the action of elevating someone in rank, power, or character

Not to mention:

      • the action of praising someone or something highly

So even when she was awaiting breast surgery in the hospital bed, she encouraged her 5 year old daughter to have a balloon party.

She was the ultimate party host in the way she invited guests to live life to their fullest potential and feel elevated every moment they spent in her presence.

So even when we lost her physical life to the cancer, there was this huge party of a funeral. The church was filled and People lined up outside. Everyone whispered about their friend Wanda who lifted them up higher than they could ever imagine. She was the girl of our dreams.

Wanda taught me the art of celebrating people. When I started working for  Here for the Girls, I knew I’d found a new group of party girls. Girls who wanted to dance in the wake of their pain. Girls who needed a band leader. Girls who needed lifting up, encouragement, and downright positive praise.

This is certainly the place for it. In the faces of the staff and volunteers, I see reflections of Wanda. Staff and volunteer girls who are supporting the valuable mission of this organization with power and passion. In the faces of the young women diagnosed with breast cancer, I see reflections of Wanda. The girls who are celebrating life and smiling in the midst of illness.

Wanda is right here when I’m with the girls, and I’m here for her. I’m here for the girls.

, March 09, 2017 | More Post by

Vicki Vawter is our Events and Community Relations Manager. She shares why she’s “Here for the Girls”:

Why am I here? I am here for the girls because I love finding ways for ordinary connections can turn into extraordinary ones.

I love when a business owner says ‘Yes! I want to help your efforts’, I love finding new ways they can help us and also recognize them for their generosity.

I love recruiting volunteers to help us in the office and at various events. It’s awesome to see how much the community wants to join us in our efforts and help us to pull off big events as well as small ones. Whether its handing out water to runners at our annual 5K/10K or addressing thank you notes, our volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization.

I love when a single encounter or introduction turns into that person becoming a life-long friend to us. Maybe that friend ends up organizing their own fundraiser one day, or tells their best friend about us when they are diagnosed and don’t know where to turn. Or maybe they become a board member, or decide to sponsor a signature event.

I love coordinating new ways for our women to connect with each other. Perhaps at a fundraiser, wellness expo, speaking engagement, or event they meet someone new who has been down the same road as they have. Often times women find that they meet by ‘accident’ and then become best friends.

I love when a survivor goes to social media and says to her sisters on a private page, “I just can’t post this to everyone, but I knew you all would understand….” She tells of her fears, of her scars, or her loneliness. And within minutes, women she may have never met are offering their encouragement, their virtual hugs, and their cheers of

“You’ve got this!”
“We’re here for you!”
“You’re beautiful.”

I love that because of us, miracles can happen. Smiles can happen. Hope happens.
I am here for the girls.