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For the girls

For the girls

The Official Blog of Here for the girls

, February 20, 2017 | More Post by

My name is Robin and I am a Board Member and also a volunteer for Here For the Girls. I am not a Boober!; never had breast cancer; have no immediate or even distant relatives who have had breast cancer. I have, however, watched several co-workers and the wife of a good friend die from this horrific disease. My husband Steve is also a very active volunteer and supporter of Here For the Girls. He sports a pink ribbon tattoo and is thrilled to answer when someone asks why. The assumption is always he has lost a mother/wife/sister/daughter to breast cancer. Nope to all. In addition, we have pulled in our daughter Kari and son-in-law John as volunteers for H4TG!

Our relationship with Beyond Boobs! began five years ago. As the charity of choice for Steve’s motorcycle club, we sometimes spent 12 hours a day on the weekends raising money at every fair and festival during the spring and summer. Nothing better than a bunch of bikers sporting pink tutu’s and boas, asking folks to support an organization called Beyond Boobs! Some of the ensuing conversations were priceless!! The money raised by the motorcycle club funded a Beyond Boobs! Retreat for the Boobers. I was honored to be asked to be a “kitchen fairy” at one of these retreats (and continue to do so) and I can honestly say it changed my life.

During that first retreat, I watched the ladies attend seminars on topics such as healthy eating, painting, aroma therapy, exercise, team building on the beach, etc. Some of these warriors were going through chemo, which had left them bald and ill; some were 2 years out; some 10 years out. They laughed, cried, sang, hugged, yelled, – and jumped in the cold Atlantic Ocean, after dark, holding onto each other – 30 strong! I will never, ever forget the joy and laughter on their faces as they ran back into the house; wet, cold; but fully and totally alive. It was during this retreat that it dawned on me that these were young women in the prime of their lives, hit with devastating news, yet living and loving like all of us should be doing. Feeling sorry for themselves – uh, no way! Too much living left to do to be bogged down in pity!!

The goodness, kindness, and fierce support Here For the Girls has for the Boobers! is unparalleled in any other organization with which I have worked. The Boobers! themselves build each other up by offering love, friendship, unwavering support, laughter and sometime tears. For those of us who are fortunate enough to volunteer for this great organization, we get to meet and get to know the actual ladies – not some line item on a set of financials.  For all of these reasons, and many more, I love this organization and all it does for the ladies.

The assumption for many is that you volunteer or invest in an organization because you have been personally impacted by the “cause.” I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. You invest because of the mission, the impact, the good, the hope, the difference it makes in the lives of those in need. That is why I totally support Here For the Girls… because they truly are “Here For the Girls…”

So remember, every day is a celebration… sometimes you enjoy it by yourself; or enrich your soul when you share it with others.

, February 13, 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 the 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 submit your story right now, just send it (along with a photo, if you’d like) to desiree.parker@hereforthegirls.org. If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.

While breast cancer survivors’ stories may sound the same, they are as different as hair, hands, and foreheads! They are all unique and special. Each story is told from the standpoint of a medical course, yet the bravest course of treatment is the psychological one taken by survivors. They did not anticipate the anxiety or depressive symptoms that would unfold as chemotherapy, radiation, and mastectomy or lumpectomy lurked.

I am a survivor of breast cancer, her2+, some inflammatory, stage 3C. I am not alone and I am not unintelligent. I am not sedentary nor am I brave! Without the medical community, I would probably no longer have the life I live today.

Without movement, exercise, and a nutrition focus, I would be far less energetic five years in NED (No Evidence of Disease), in my late fifties! The integrative efforts through the Cancer Institute here in Virginia and the tenderness of their care in those early developmental stages of life in cancer treatment were sound. I researched and knew this journey was going to take some time. I chose, and shared my choices, and they were always well received.

I fought with family and a dear friend, Amber J., with whom I shared weekly conversations regarding anything. She was my confidante and I was her joy! Married with a stepson, we shared our faith and our joys in a heavenly savior who was available to us during these seasons of tremendous loss. I had lost a friend with whom I had been in a loving relationship, his death a suicide. Her losses were family, her mother, a fifth grade teacher in Los Angeles. Together we shared our foibles in the transition from West coast to East.

My cancer has not returned! I don’t know why.

Do you know why your cancer has not returned? Immune support through relationships is as important to personal diet as exercise, nutrition, spiritual connections, and laughter, yes just plain fun! Joie de Vivre!

A support group called Beyond Boobs! (a support service of Here for the Girls) is a place inspiring to me. I worked as a volunteer with them for a year and a half in an alter ego personality, still my own, dressing up and dressing down to spread the message of hope in an educational forum. They like me! And I love them!

On I went from my developmental years as a thriving cancer adolescent to my young adult years (remember I am late fifties), and now into yoga! I love yoga! I wore this body into submission through yoga teacher training and the aches and pains of now stretching to a point where I felt I ought to stretch even more.

Gratitude, giving, and remembering those who have helped, supported, nourished, and prayed for me and my household.

As I move into survivorship as a clinician, I have more to learn and more to give in this fight for health, beauty, and yes, wealth. We all need to support ourselves through many avenues of thought and action. Survivorship is a process. Be kind to yourself! It takes time to relearn those moments we call Life. We may indeed use that anxiety or even depression for a greater good or purpose. It seems to require our thoughtful time.

-Joanne H.

, February 07, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our first “Pink Link Stories” blog post! 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 the 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 submit your story right now, just send it (along with a photo, if you’d like) to desiree.parker@hereforthegirls.org. If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.

LaShaun says…

My story started in April 2015. I went in to have my annual mammogram. While we were waiting for the results, they called me back into the office and said that they needed to take some more pictures. So. I didn’t think anything of it, until they called me back into a private room with my husband. The pathologist said, “I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m going to be honest with you. It looks like cancer.” At that time, my heart fell and all I could think was, “I don’t want to die!” The pathologist then says that we need to do a biopsy right then and there. So, while I was waiting for the biopsy to begin, all I could think was that I didn’t want to die. I remember the pathologist saying that they were going to put 8 markers in my breast. I could feel every needle prick and at each prick, I cried. On top of that, I was counting each one and there were 10 pricks, not 8.

As I was driving home, all I could think of was, how am I going to tell the rest of my family? When I got home, my 19-year-old daughter was home and she could see that something was wrong. I told her I was scared and I was not sure how to tell my parents that I might have breast cancer. Well, I didn’t have much time to think about it, because my daughter called my dad. As soon as he asked me what was wrong, I started crying and told him that it looks like I have breast cancer. He was very calm and just said, “let’s wait and see what the results of the biopsy are.”

We had to wait over the weekend and that weekend seemed to last forever. On Monday, I was at work and I got a phone call from my family doctor. She said wasn’t sure if she wanted to tell me the news face-to-face or leave a message or tell me over the phone. She decided to tell me that she was sorry, but I did have breast cancer. At this time, I am freaking out and crying.  I finally asked her if my husband and I could come in and ask her some questions. She agreed to meet with us that day after work.

I called my husband and let him know the outcome of the biopsy results. After talking to him, I told my boss what was going on and that I needed to go home for the rest of the day. While I was at home, I called my brother, who doesn’t live that far from me. I had my husband meet me at the doctor’s office so we could talk to her about my options and what our next steps were going to be. We had plenty of questions for her. She was unable to answer them all, but we understood we had options. We were told to call the Longmont hospital and set up an appointment to see an oncologist. Just as I was about to call and set up a meeting, my brother called me and asked me to not do anything until after he came over and talked to me. I agreed… he told me that a friend of ours was diagnosed with breast cancer and that I should call her oncologist in Fort Collins at the Harmony Cancer Center. She gave him all the information that I needed to reach out to her. I called the hospital in Fort Collins and said that I needed to set an appointment with this specific oncologist. the receptionist told me that before I could see her, I needed to have my biopsy results and any other information sent to her office. So, it took me 2 days to get the discs and information sent to Fort Collins. Once the office had my results, I was asked to come to Fort Collins that next week.

When my husband and I met with the oncologist, we had an array of questions we wanted answer. The first question we had was, “should we get a second opinion.” The doctor told us this: she is on the board of directors and my case was seen by her and 6 other doctors, so my case is getting 6 opinions. Once they agreed on what was seen, they came up with a game plan, all before I came into the office that day. As I was trying to write my answers to my questions, my oncologist took my notebook and wrote them down for me, so I would be able to focus on her answers. the main reason we stayed with her and that office was because she knew everything about my case and she didn’t have to keep looking at her notes. We felt as if she really cared about us and the best way to help me with the breast cancer.

During that meeting, she explained to me that I had Stage 3 Breast Cancer. Her game plan for me was to go through 20 weeks of chemotherapy, surgery, and then 6 weeks of radiation. Before we could start chemotherapy, I would need to take a pre-chemo class and have a power port inserted into my chest. Well, I had never had a surgery in my entire life. I had the surgery for my port at the end of April 2015. I started chemotherapy, the day after Mother’s Day in May 2015. My husband took me to my first couple of treatments. We had a schedule and a plan to have some of closest friends and family take me to my treatments, since I was not able to drive there and back. For the first 8 weeks, I was going to Fort Collins, twice a week, every other week. I was told that I would be tired for about 2 days and then recover over the weekend. I was able to work at least 3 days a week during the first 6 weeks. At exactly 2 weeks of my treatment, I noticed that I was losing my hair. I was so devastated, I called my sister, who was going to take some pictures of me before I lost my hair. I called her and asked her to cover that night and take those pictures, because I needed to take out my extensions. She came over, took some pictures and we make arrangements to have my hair cut really short.  I remember taking out my extensions and washing my hair that night. I kid you not, when I was done washing my hair, I looked like Fire Marshall Bill from In Living Color…..haha!

When my first 8 weeks were done, I was able to change my appointment day to Thursday, so I could take Thursdays and Fridays off to recover. At this time, I was able to work, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday every week. My job was open to it and they have been very supportive of my treatment schedules. I finished my chemotherapy in Sept 2015… and on October 27th, 2015, I had a double mastectomy, because I did not want to deal with the cancer spreading if I only had one removed. I also had 13 lymph nodes removed on the left side. The only time off of work was the 6 weeks to recover from the surgery.

After I was healed and able to lift my arms above my head, I was able to meet with the radiation oncologist. I had a game plan there too. I was to start radiation in January and it was to be, everyday for 6 weeks. the side effect was tiredness.  I made the best of my time and I was working out as much I could. In February, I ended my radiation therapy. the day after I completed my radiation, I did the Fight for Air Climb, in Denver, to help fight lung cancer. I was able to climb all 56 flight of stairs in a little more than an hour. I was so proud of myself. Since I have completed chemo and radiation therapy, I think I have had about 4 more surgeries and I still have another one scheduled in the near future to have my implants put in. I have been working out 6 days a week, and I start a workout clinical trial soon, twice a week for 6 weeks.

Thank you for listening to my story.

LaShaun D

, November 16, 2016 | More Post by

Body artist Wendy Harris is on a mission to make bald beautiful. For the past harris-henna-2several years she has volunteered her time and talents with Beyond Boobs! to design henna crowns for women battling breast cancer. The henna crown designs are painted directly onto the scalp using an all-natural henna paste that Wendy mixes from scratch. The henna is temporary and lasts anywhere from one to three weeks.

Wendy met the women of Beyond Boobs! at Art Inspired, an art and wellness studio in Newport News, Virginia. “At that time, I didn’t know a lot about breast cancer,” Wendy said. “I had no idea how many people around me were dealing with the disease.”

Over the past several years, Wendy has painted hundreds of henna crowns on Boobers! She volunteers at the annual Pink Carpet Gala, and is also part of the retreat for survivors in Sandbridge in Virginia Beach. The henna booth is always one of the most popular attractions at the Gala, and Wendy loves being part of the retreat.

harris-henna“Volunteering with Beyond Boobs! has opened my eyes to breast cancer,” Wendy said. “The women have educated me about the importance of self-exams, and I have learned so much from sitting in on sessions during the retreats.”

Women can choose any design they wish for their henna crowns, from messages of hope and inspiration to images and memorials. “Henna crowns give women an extra boost of confidence,” Wendy said. “For that moment, they can be happy and not think about other stuff, like treatment and medical bills. I love giving them that moment of joy and hearing all the oohs and ahs when they see their crown.”

, November 11, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

Dr. Robert Schnarrs isn’t your typical surgeon, which is why he got involved schnarrswith Beyond Boobs!, a not your typical not-for-profit, around seven years ago. He was strolling around the MyTime Women’s Show in Hampton, Virginia, when he came across BB! cofounders René Bowditch and Mary Beth Gibson at the BB! booth.

“The three of us got to talking about Beyond Boobs!, and they just seemed like a really fun group,” Rob said.

Rob’s practice became a BB! sponsor, and he also sits on the calendar model selection committee to help choose survivors to represent BB! in their annual A Calendar to Live By. When BB! approached him about participating in Starlets of Dance as a celebrity dancer, Rob had only one question: “Do you know what you’re getting yourselves into?”

Rob didn’t have to think twice about taking part in the Starlets event. He practices at least once a week after work, and he is working on nailing his timing. “I’m really thinking about what to do with my hands, and who to look at,” Rob said. “I’m familiar with the dance routine, so now my instructors and I are working on adding additional pieces.”

Rob’s instructors, Shaye Arluk and Jessica Haynes, have had a blast working with Rob. “He comes into our practice sessions so happy and filled with energy,” they wrote via e-mail. “His positive energy makes us smile, too, even after a five-hour day of teaching dance to children! The best moment was when Rob found out another “Boober!” who was a patient of his was practicing in the studio next to ours. His face immediately lit up and he went to give her a hug and words of encouragement. This is why we think Beyond Boobs! is so important and why we are thrilled to be dancing with them.”

, November 10, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

Melanie Georges has always loved to dance. She danced with her father, who headshot-for-melanie-georgesalso was a dance teacher, and as a teen she performed with a dance group at her Greek Orthodox Church. This year her passion for dance will light up the stage at Starlets of Dance.

Melanie was diagnosed with leukemia in 2004, and then in April of 2014 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found out about Beyond Boobs! through her oncologist, and shortly thereafter attended her first Not Your Typical Support System meeting.

She is undergoing her third round of chemo, and she has had to adapt her training schedule for Starlets around her energy levels during treatment. “I’ve gotten it down to a science,” said Melanie. “Since I receive a steroid with my chemo treatment every Monday and that gives me lots of energy, I make time to practice Monday evenings.”

Lauren Kelly, Director of Music in Motion Dance Academy, is Melanie’s instructor. “Melanie and I come together for a little over an hour each week and jump right into moving and grooving,” Lauren said. “It’s the best part of my whole week. Sometimes it’s serious, but most of the time it’s just plain fun. Melanie reminds me of what it’s like to open up your heart and your time to a new friend, and all the amazing things that come out of support for our fellow ladies.”

Melanie is pleased to have been selected as a performer. She is also a little nervous about the big night. “First and foremost, I want to do a good job,” she said. “I want to entertain people and make my family proud.” She and Lauren will perform a number from the musical Chicago, and Melanie wants to send a message to herself and the world. “I feel like cancer has taken away my femininity,” she said. “I am struggling with my attractiveness, which is why I want to be sexy and sassy on that stage.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Melanie.

, November 09, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

Deirdre Matthews danced in a recital when she was in kindergarten, and she deirdre-matthews-head-shotcan still remember the pink dress with white polka dots she wore that day. She lived vicariously through her two daughters when they took dance classes growing up, and now it’s her turn to hit the stage again during Starlets of Dance.

“I have always liked to dance,” Deirdre said. “It’s going to be so fun to up on the large stage at the Sandler Center.”

Deirdre has chosen a disco song to dance to and has been busy putting together the perfect outfit, including a pair of bell bottoms. She has been training with dance instructor Regina Kalbacher and feels like she has her routine down.

Regina has been having a blast working with Deirdre. “Little did I know how much the women from Beyond Boobs! would inspire me,” Regina said. “Their stories really touch my heart. Because of this and many other reasons, I have taken part in Starlets of Dance for the last four years. Working with survivors is a way for me to share my passion and joy for dance with survivors who could use dance in their lives.

“Dance has helped me personally get through some really tough times, and I’m honored to work with Deidre this year,” Regina continued “Her energy and excitement for the Hustle is a joy to watch. I’m so proud to see her improve each week and I look forward to her performance for all to see.”

Deirdre wants her dance to encourage all survivors to follow their dreams. “I hope my performance inspires someone to let loose and have fun,” she said. “Don’t let your diagnosis keep you down.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Dierdre.

, November 08, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

From the time she was a little girl, Lisa Marshall always wanted to take dance lisa-marshall-head-shotlessons, but her father couldn’t afford the extra expense. So when Lisa got involved with Beyond Boobs! in 2014, she knew right away she was going to one day compete in Starlets of Dance. For the first few years she could never incorporate the event into her schedule, but this year she is ready and eager to take the stage.

“Everything has worked out perfectly,” Lisa said. “The event is on November 13 and it is my thirteenth year as a breast cancer survivor. My father’s birthday is November 13 and I’m dedicating my performance to him. For some people, 13 may be an unlucky number. But for me, any number is a lucky number!”

Lisa is a retired schoolteacher, and she was thrilled when she found out her dance instructor, Melinda Trembley, is also a teacher. The two practice together after school at Melinda’s dance studio at Woodside High School in Newport News, Virginia.

“It’s so weird to walk through the school on my way to the studio,” Lisa said. “I love working with a fellow teacher, and I appreciate that she is willing to work with me after a long day of teaching.”

Lisa and Melinda developed the dance together, and Lisa is eager to tell a story through movement and song. “My first goal is not to make a fool of myself,” said Lisa, laughing. “I also want to entertain people. It’s a soulful dance, and people will realize that breast cancer is tragic, but I want to also tell them that cancer doesn’t have to overtake you. I am a thirteen-year survivor, and I want other women going through the same thing to take away the confidence to overcome their daily trials and tribulations.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Lisa.

, November 07, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

Shahana Keisler is no stranger to performing, but when she does she is head-shot-for-shahana-keisler1usually standing behind her trumpet. She currently plays in two orchestras in the area, and is ready to step outside of her comfort zone to perform during Starlets of Dance.

“I love to dance, and when I heard about this event it sounded like a great self-confidence booster,” Shahana said.

Shahana enjoys Latin rhythms, which is why she chose a tango for her performance. “Training has been very creative, fun, and challenging,” she said. “The dance evolves every time my instructor and I get together. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that I will be onstage at the Sandler Center, though.”

DeDe Anderson has been working with Shahana on her moves and getting her ready for the big night. “I’m no stranger to the illness our starlets have experienced,” said DeDe. “Cancer has affected too many of my immediate and extended family, and just one is unarguably too many. Shahana is a strong, sincere and funny young woman whom I enjoy working with. After speaking with her, seeing her strength and undefeated quick smile, this unexpected opportunity came along allowing me to show my support for Beyond Boobs! I’m able to use my passion to rejoice with these courageous woman who fought and still stand. I do this for them, my family, and anyone fighting or surviving.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Shahana.

, November 06, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

When reigning Mr. Breast Fest Scott Mielock encouraged Rachel Kirkland to compete in Starlets of Dance, she went for it.

Rachel was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 2012, and she head-shot-for-rachel-kirklandbecame cancer-free that November. Four years later, she is celebrating her journey by practicing her dance routine for a performance at Starlets of Dance.

Rachel has been paired with professional dancer Melinda Mielock, Scott’s wife. The two will be dancing to a song from the group Gym Class Heroes. “Training has been great,” Rachel said. “It’s not something I have ever done before, and I’m really enjoying it. I look forward to each session, and Melinda and I laugh a lot.”

As Starlets of Dance draws closer, Rachel feels nervous about performing on the large stage at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach, but she is also excited. “I want to do my best and feel proud of myself,” she said. “I want my dance to be a moment in my life that is pure joy. Life is a gift, and I want to be present in that moment and soak it all in.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Rachel.