, October 26, 2017 | More Post by

Fine jewelry company ALOR has been a supporter of H4TG for several years. Here, they share why the company is Here for the Girls:

The younger generation is our future, we at ALOR see importance in that. Here for the Girls take young women under their wing to give support to those affected by breast cancer. Can you imagine being in your twenties and finding out you have this disease? No, neither can we. Being young and hearing the word cancer would scare anyone. It can be hard or even intimidating to reach out to others to express what you may be going through. Women can receive the help they need through this organization, which is why we wanted to be a part of it.

Here for the Girls, in our eyes, is like an extended family. Yes, these young women with breast cancer have families of their own but it is great to have outsiders who understand as well. To have this resource to reach out to others with breast cancer can be easier than a talking to an immediate family member. Having someone there for you who understands what you are going through gives you a feeling of comfort. With the combination of family and Here for the Girls, you have an abundance of support and love.

We at ALOR want young women to not feel alone when it comes to the dark side of breast cancer. Being young and experiencing life on its own is scary, but throwing in this type of curve ball is devastating. We want the curveball to feel like an obstacle that you can come out of on top. Here for the Girls showed us the light and their overall mission to help these young women in more ways than imaginable is why we chose to become a partner.

, September 29, 2017 | More Post by

Freddi N. is the teenage daughter of a previous H4TG blog contributor; she shared this essay with us since it related to our current Pink Link Connect blog contest asking survivors to share their thoughts on genes and breast cancer.

“You are too young to worry about this.” When my physicians brush off my fears about cancer and my risk, I can’t help but feel like a prisoner on death row, anticipating the worst. Knowing too much about cancer can be good and it can be bad. Knowing what the future has in store for you can shape your present as well. Inheriting a genetic mutation that puts you at an 85% potential likelihood of developing breast or ovarian cancer is daunting. My mother and my maternal grandmother both tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation, which unfortunately indicates that I have a 50% likelihood of inheriting the gene mutation as well.

Men and women with this mutation tend to develop cancer at an early stage in life like the members of my family.  Knowing that I have a 50% chance of inheriting the BRCA mutation, I will educate myself on the depths of this mutation, explore my family’s genetic inheritance and investigate ways in which I can decrease my risk factors.

In my quest to unearth as much information as I possibly could about BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, I have found that, if in fact I do have the mutation, I have an 85% chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer at an early age.  While the general population tends to have only a 25% chance of breast and a 17% chance of ovarian cancers, my genetic makeup raises my odds quite considerably.

In fact, BRCA mutations are found most amongst members of my heritage, Ashkenazi Jews. Everyone possesses the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene but a woman’s risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a deleterious mutation in the BRCA1 gene or the BRCA2 gene. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material.  If you have a mutation, you lack the proteins essential for cellular reparation. In my case, since I am too young to be tested, when I am of age, I plan to meet with a genetic counselor.

My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at age 66. It was metastatic and her life expectancy was 18 months. During that time, she was tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations because her mother and family history suggested that there was a causal link to these mutations. Eight months after her death, at the age of 42, my mother was diagnosed with stage 3C breast cancer. She was asked about her family history of cancer and quickly remembered that her mother was tested for BRCA and was positive. She was told that she had a 50% chance of also inheriting the mutation. Her mutation was BRCA2.

In order to lower her risk of recurrence, my mother underwent a radical bilateral mastectomy with Tram Flap reconstruction, six months of chemotherapy, radiation and a total hysterectomy, lowering her risk to only 15% reoccurrence. In addition to a family history of breast cancer that automatically increases my risk, my family’s genetic background must also be taken into account when assessing my future actions or inactions. My paternal grandmother had colon cancer and both my grandfathers had advanced prostate cancer. These cancers are all linked to the BRCA mutation putting me at a greater risk…85 plus percent.

Studies have shown that no risk reduction strategies exist for children and therefore testing for the BRCA mutation may not happen until I am 18. This was a hard pill to swallow for my parents who resisted this ideology and sought research programs by major universities that are conducting studies on early risk reduction strategies for children of BRCA positive parents.

When I turned 16, my parents informed me that although we were not actually going to test to see if I had the BRCA mutation, we were going to be taking precautions for both my brother and I to reduce risk. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise can be the first line of defense against cancer and practically every disease. My dad is a certified nutritionist and he uses his expertise to guide our family. My mother is living proof that a good outlook and a healthy lifestyle can galvanize and propel you to live life to the fullest. I will not let the fear of the unknown paralyze me and will instead use all the tools available to ensure that cancer does not stand a chance in my body.

Throughout my life I have witnessed cancer take lives. On the other hand, I have seen the bravery and courageousness of my mother’s battle. I know now that I have a greater risk of getting cancer due to my inherited genetic makeup. This could serve me poorly and leave me depressed and fated or ultimately bring me closer to appreciating consciousness, spirit, life, healing and help me to become very clear about what I want from my life. If I am one of the “85 percent” I have already won the battle.

-Freddie N.

, September 14, 2017 | More Post by

Melissa Weaver and the Good Health Fairy (a.k.a. H4TG Co-Founder Rene Bowditch) at the Pink Carpet Gala 2017.

Melissa Weaver, a current volunteer and Boober! who was also a volunteer group facilitator for Beyond Boobs!, shares why she’s Here for the Girls:

I was broken, battered, and bald, and that’s when the my love affair with Beyond Boobs! (Here for the Girls) began. I had just received my second dose of “the red devil” when I attended my first BB! retreat. It was at this magical place that I learned, for the very first time, that I was no longer alone. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing support system, but as any breast cancer survivor knows, until we have walked the road we cannot fully understand the terrain. I do not know if it was the food, new friends, or fantastic weather, but I knew that I was finally home.

The concept of time takes on a very different meaning after cancer. The desire to go one more year without receiving a visit from the stalker and the need to have the beautiful moments of life frozen forever happens simultaneously. Through this uncertain journey, this amazing organization has been a constant presence and source of unwavering support. These women truly understand the special challenges faced by individuals receiving a cancer diagnosis. We have traded conversations about shopping for shoes for conversations about selecting the best breast surgeon. Instead of chats about the latest hair style, we are discussing the latest wig options. Don’t be fooled though, we laugh, we cry… and we sometimes do talk about shoes.

The truth is we are forever changed and will forever be tied to one another. When you meet another cancer “thriver” you instantly feel a connection that is deep and life changing. Beyond Boobs! was a lifeline at a time when I was drowning in the idea of an uncertain future. It was through this organization that I found a purpose, passion, and place in this ever changing landscape.

-Melissa

, September 04, 2017 | More Post by

Jeff Morrill is H4TG Co-Founder Mary Beth Gibson’s brother. Here he shares why he’s Here for the Girls:

Schopenhauer said that talent can hit a target no one else can hit, but genius hits a target no one else can see.  Mary Beth Gibson, co-founder and executive director of Here for the Girls, is the latter.  And I would know, because she’s my sister, and I’ve been observing her successes for a lifetime.

After surviving cancer herself, Mary discovered the enormous needs of a population of young women reckoning with breast cancer, and she decided to do something (actually a lot) about it.  With the focus, tenacity, and ambition of a Silicon Valley start-up, she and her co-founder, Rene Bowditch, started from scratch and created an organization that would be there for the girls.  But ultimately it’s not about Mary—because her vision and effort have inspired a legion of women and men to join in the mission.  Collectively, they do so much for so many people…delivering love and services for people navigating terrible circumstances when they need it the most.

I am here for the girls because I am one of the legion who has been inspired by my sister.

-Jeff

, August 09, 2017 | More Post by

Natalie Bare was one of our Starlets of Dance in 2015! Here she is at that event.

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

I would say deciding to start figure skating as an adult has been a defining moment in my life. Skating has taught me discipline and perseverance and how to have fun and laugh at myself. I was able to keep skating during my chemo and radiation treatments. It was good to have something normal to keep going to. Since starting skating I have won two national metals the first one came to weeks after my diagnosis and then the second one came this year in April. Skating is giving me a whole group of friends of a variety of ages from children to octogenarians who inspire me and keep me going.

-Natalie Bare

, August 09, 2017 | More Post by

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

When my one and only child was born on Aug 22, 2009, I learned about my capacity for love and what my purpose was on this earth (Newsha and her daughter are pictured left). I felt a love I had NEVER felt before, and I was shocked by it. As a girl I was incredibly attached to my grandmother. When I met my husband, I fell so wildly in love that I feared that I could not handle it. But when Azi was born, I just stared and stared at her in awe with my heart, that was overflowing with love for this being; I felt disbelief that she grew inside me, and a daunting fear that she would somehow get hurt.

Years of doubt about my purpose in life were erased when I realized I had to work so hard to feed, protect and grow this child into a good world citizen. I learned to be less self-centered and suck it up and put on a happy face sometimes, especially during chemo. I learned to love others more and push aside embarrassment in order to take care of my daughter. She changed me completely.

-Newsha Dau

, August 09, 2017 | More Post by

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

When I was in college, I went through Rush, however, I did not get selected by a sorority. Surprisingly, looking back, I am glad that no one picked me. Because, later that semester, the school’s administration decided that the female students had more interest in belonging to a sorority than the current four could handle. They decided to ask another sorority to found a chapter on our campus, which I joined. We were a small but mighty group of women who bonded immediately and created memories and traditions that the chapter still continues. During the remaining years at school, those women became my closest friends and many still are today.

Fast forward 20+ years to homecoming in the fall of 2016. I had been diagnosed the previous July and was up at homecoming with my family. Unbeknownst to me, my husband and friends had contacted the current chapter of women at my school and had created a “Titan Strong” (Titan is our mascot) t-shirt for everyone to wear in support of me. I came around the corner to the Chapter Room and there stood 41 college students with the t-shirt on. Now, these women didn’t know me, I didn’t know them, but because we are sisters, they did everything they could to support me. They wrote letters of encouragement to me, my husband and my children. One of them had #katystrong buttons made and another’s mom knitted me a prayer shawl. There were a lot of tears shed that day, but they were happy tears because of the love that I felt from each one of these women.

What I have come to realize from 20+ years ago is that sisterhood has no boundaries. Distance, age, generation or background does not define who a sister can be. I have been welcomed as a sister throughout my life into organizations I never believed would have such an impact on my life. We had an expression in my sorority that has stayed with me throughout my life, “Love in our bond.” To me this is sisterhood defined and has been a guiding principle of my life for the last 20+ years.

-Katy Loy

, August 03, 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 genetic predisposition and breast cancer. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos). (* 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.) 

Inheritance played a lot in my diagnosis and I didn’t even know it. My mom died of a rare type of lung cancer called mesothelioma at 49. Her dad died of esophageal cancer. But there was no breast cancer at all on either side of my family until my second cousin’s daughter on my mom’s side was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36. It turns out, her dad (my second cousin) had the bRCA2 gene. He never had cancer and he is in his 70s.

Unfortunately, this information was not shared with me since I am not close to this side of the family. I was diagnosed six years later with stage 1 HER2 at 42 with the BRCA2 gene. Looking back, it was a missed opportunity for me to be an advocate for my own health. If I would have understood hereditary breast cancer risks, I would have pushed to be tested years ago.

-Christina

, July 28, 2017 | More Post by

2018 calendar model Jamie Vanek and her kids on her favorite trail near her home.

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

Meet Calendar Model Jamie Vanek

10 years ago I uprooted my life to move to a state that I hated with a man that I loved. I hated everything about Virginia until I discovered Newport News’ little treasure, the Noland Trail. When my husband first showed it to me I told him I couldn’t run 5 miles. But later, it is on this trail that I fell in love with running and truly accepted my new home. From this trail I trained for my first marathon, planned our new house, explored with our children, and pondered life. So much has happened in 10 years and so much of it has happened around this location.

-Jamie

, July 26, 2017 | More Post by

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

Meet Calendar Model Cheri Lavalle

November 20, 2007 was the day I married my best friend Hector. He has been the most remarkable person in my life. He has cared and supported me through the most traumatic time of my life which is breast cancer. He has told me how beautiful I am with no hair, how strong I am at my weakest moment and how much he loves me even though cancer has consumed the past 3 years of our marriage. I  cannot imagine my life and this journey of cancer without him.

-Cheri