hereforthegirls | 2017 June
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, June 28, 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 a story about helping another woman with breast cancer. 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.) 

The morning my colleague, Mary, came to my desk and asked if she could speak to me, I knew something was terribly wrong. I saw fear in her eyes — the same emotion I had experienced upon receiving my breast cancer diagnosis several years earlier. Mary confirmed then what I had suspected — she had just recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed to speak with someone who had been through what she now faced.

I recalled the early days of my diagnosis and the positive support, offers of prayers and encouraging words from friends and family that carried me through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. I knew Mary had to hear encouraging words and though my heart was aching for her that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I imparted words of encouragement and comfort to her as best I could. We spoke about treatment and what she might experience while undergoing chemotherapy. I shared with her how I handled hair loss, appetite loss and other debilitating effects of chemotherapy. We spoke about undergoing a mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive surgery. We joked that reconstructive surgery was the ‘up’ side of having breast cancer.

While Mary was going through chemotherapy, she often shared with me the symptoms she was experiencing and I told her I had experienced similar symptoms but that she wasn’t to worry, the side effects were temporary. I told Mary that in a year’s time, it would be she who would be supporting a breast cancer survivor. So, Mary bravely forged ahead in her battle against cancer and while she continued treatment, we shared happy moments even through the rough times.

Then, Mary was dealt a devastating blow. Her cancer, a particularly aggressive type, was not responding to treatment and had metastasized. In just over a year of receiving her diagnosis, Mary lost her battle and passed away. I was heartbroken.

At her visitation, I stared at Mary’s face in the collage of photographs her family had compiled, trying to formulate an apology to her. I thought I had let her down, given her hope where none existed. Then, I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. It was Mary’s sister, Kelly. “Francine,” she said. “Mary often spoke of how she drew strength from speaking with you.” I started crying then, not only for Mary but because, as Kelly explained, Mary never gave up hope, right to the end and I felt comforted that, in some small way, I had contributed to her courageous battle.

-Francine

, June 22, 2017 | More Post by

Victoria Riley is our Business Development and Operations Manager. Here’s why she’s “Here for the Girls”:

Victoria is pictured here on the left — she’s hard to recognize when she’s in disguise!

Being here for the girls started as a family affair back in 2008. My mom, who was volunteering at the time, asked my sister and I to help out. We were both undergraduates in college and until that point had only been volunteers to fulfill requirements for school. It was not until then that I realized what it meant to serve others.

Over the next eight years, I helped out here and there in various ways. In 2016, with the support of my husband, we turned our lives upside down and relocated to Williamsburg, VA. I accepted a full-time position with the organization. Since then, I have gained a new perspective of what it means to wake up each day and go to work. I am not here to punch in a clock and to collect a paycheck, but rather to support young women. The behind the scenes work, where I typically find myself on a day-to-day basis, keeps me going especially after losing three women in my first year.

The love, support, and togetherness displayed has been that of true sisters, much like the love, support, and togetherness shared with my own. We fight everyday because they fight everyday. That is why I am here for the girls.

, June 08, 2017 | More Post by

Colleen, on left with white top and blonde hair, with women who attended her session at the 2017 Renew, Restore, Retreat.

Colleen led our session on self-care at our 2017 Renew, Restore, Retreat. Here’s why she is “Here for the Girls”:

When I was asked to be a speaker at the 2017 Annual Retreat Weekend for Here For The Girls, my heart responded with a resounding ‘YES!’ Why am I ‘here for the girls’? I strongly believe all women are radiant, powerful and alluring creatures. Born with an intuitive wisdom and the innate sense to lead with their hearts, women have incredible power. And when women come together, combining those forces, something truly magical happens.

For ages women have circled together, in sisterhood, to inspire and encourage one another. In our world today, these circles, these support systems are more important and more needed than ever. Our culture, the stress of the daily grind, disease, abuse and competition have dimmed our feminine light and caused us to forget our innate gifts as women. But I’ve come to see that sometimes all it takes is a little reminder, a whisper, a gentle touch on the shoulder from a sister who cares to reignite that undeniable spark within and illuminate a fiercely radiant woman.

The immensity of women’s love, their capacity for hope, the resilience of their hearts never ceases to amaze me. Being surrounded by 80+ Boobers! at the retreat weekend, I was reaffirmed of this magic. Throughout the weekend, these women transformed before my eyes, fueled by sisterhood and their own inner flame. Given the permission to shine these women were ablaze. They were so full of life, love, light and joy – truly radiant beings. Being in their presence was such a gift, a true honor. Seeing their greatness reminded me of my own.

Sometimes all you need is support, someone to recognize you, to see you for who you truly are, to show you their true self so you know it’s okay to be your most authentic self. Sometimes all you need to hear is that you are beautiful, that you are strong… appreciated…loved.  And sometimes it’s just that arm around your shoulder, letting you know that you’re going to be alright, that is all you really need. And that is what Here for the Girls is all about. They aren’t here to save or fix anybody. They are here to acknowledge each other as complete and perfect beings just as they are. It’s a place to feel honored, to feel loved, to feel empowered. It’s a place to raise each other up, a place to rise above all that life throws your way. Here for the Girls cultivates and nourishes a genuine sisterhood, which in my opinion is a force to be reckoned with. I am here for the girls, and always will be.

, June 01, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our series, Co-Founders’ Corner! These are posts by either of our two Here for the Girls Co-Founders, Rene Bowditch or Mary Beth Gibson. Enjoy these (sometimes funny, sometimes serious, always interesting) reflections on life!

There are lots of different ways to put people into categories – like introverts or extroverts, spenders or savers, glass half full or glass half empty, cat lovers or dog lovers. You get the drift. I have fun putting people into categories, and I do it without judgment. People are just who they are.

One way I like to think about people as they travel along the river of life is in terms of speed boaters or kayakers. The speed boaters know what they want in life, they have set goals, and they have a route mapped out for getting there. They are full speed ahead. An example would be my brother. He knew by the age of 40 that he wanted to be a successful business owner, marry, and have children. And he did. I admire him greatly. I am so not him.

I am more like the kayaker. I am along for the ride, drift with the currents, steer when necessary, and paddle through the rapids. Here is an example:

I was in my late 30s and living a very contented life. Somehow the river had taken me to a nice smooth stretch where everything was just flowing along so comfortably, and I was enjoying the pleasant view along the way. I had an awesome job as a human resources executive in a Fortune 500 company. I was part of a successful team rolling out innovative strategies in our division that was being recognized across the company. I worked hard but was rewarded well – well enough that my husband was able to be a stay-at-home dad. He actually had the harder job – taking care of three boys under the age of 5 – but he enjoyed it, and he was good at it.

I received a call from a colleague, Carrie, who had just attended a personal development conference, and she was pumped. Now this was someone I worked with but didn’t know super well; she was so moved by her insights, she wanted to share them with me. She asked, “If you could do anything, and success was guaranteed, what would you do?” Without a whole lot of thought I immediately responded with, “I would be a rock star, like one of the Go Gos!” Carrie said, “Well then why aren’t you doing it?” “I can’t sing.” “Okay, well seriously, what would you do?” Again, without a whole lot of reflection but from the heart, I responded with, “I would start a non-profit for young women to help them improve self-esteem.” “Why aren’t you doing that?” she asked. Hmmm… Well, let me count the reasons: I have a job I really enjoy working with a great team doing great things. I get paid very well to do it. I am the sole bread winner, and Bo would not be able to replace our income even if he did work. And on top of that, I know nothing about running a non-profit and no idea how to start one.

That was the end of the conversation. I thought. Little did I know there was white water ahead, and I was going to have to start paddling like hell to get through it.

Fast forward two years. There was a major change in the company, and the promotion I had been promised was gone, along with my position. Out of the blue, the successful, happy HR executive was on the streets. The job I loved – that was my identity and that supported my family – was gone. I was shaken, scared, depressed, angry, confused, lost. Equipped with a decent severance package, I took some time off to enjoy my family before initiating a job search. A workshop I attended for people in transition presented the benefits of starting a franchise. I was hooked. I could start my own company and if I worked my ass off, could replace the income I had lost. I was used to hard work. I could do this, so with equal parts of trepidation and daring, I purchased a coaching franchise called The Entrepreneurs Source.

The stress of it all had taken its toll, however, and more rapids loomed ahead. Six weeks after investing most of our life savings in this franchise, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and immediately embarked upon a grueling, year-long treatment regimen that included intensive chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy and then radiation.

My comfortable existence was now completely shattered. I worked the new business while undergoing treatment, but it was hard having the energy to learn a completely new career while fighting for my life. Not to mention, the things I valued before, like money and professional success, weren’t high priorities any more.

It was during treatment that I met the woman who would ultimately become my friend and co-founder, Rene Bowditch. We began hosting a group for young women with breast cancer to offer them love, support, and encouragement while they were going through a life-transforming journey. That small support group, initially six women in Rene’s home, is now a ten-year-old non-profit that is continuing to grow and spread a special brand of love to young women all over the country affected by the devastating disease of breast cancer. And you know what? One of the most important things we do is help these women rebuild their self-esteem after breast cancer, and if they never had self-esteem, we help them build it now. Somehow the river had brought me to the thing that I said would do but was too afraid to.

I don’t know what else life has in store for me downstream, and my kayak may have dents, but I have my paddle and my helmet, and I know I will be okay.