hereforthegirls | Here for the Girls Blog
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For the girls

For the girls

The Official Blog of Here for the girls

, April 23, 2015 | More Post by

On Volunteering: An Ode to Nipples and Nose Hairs

Last summer I began writing for the Beyond Boobs! blog. I am a freelance writer and I wanted to donate my services to a few nonprofit organizations in Hampton Roads. During an Internet search I stumbled upon the Beyond Boobs! website. I had very little experience with breast cancer, but the group’s fun vibe appealed to me. I sent an e-mail to co-founder Mary Beth Gibson to offer my services and later spoke with Managing Director Chris Schwab about ways we could work together. Chris’s enthusiasm and excitement showed me I had made a great choice in reaching out to Beyond Boobs!JamieMcAllister

I work with the BB! staff to generate story ideas for the blog, I interview Boobers!, family members, Bustiers, and everyone in between, and then I bring everything together in posts for the blog. Over the past year I have shared many stories about the impact BB! has made on the individuals who make up the BB! universe. Now I would like to share mine.

Invasion of the Booby Snatchers

The first blog post series I wrote was about the models for the 2015 A Calendar to Live By. I won’t forget the phone conversation I had with one of the models. While telling me about her breast reconstruction she said, “I don’t have nipples.”

I was stuck on that one short sentence. My hands flew up to my areolas. No nipples! I tried to imagine a world without those ever-changing bits of flesh, at times soft and smooth and other times puckered peaks of passion. I recalled many lovely sensations brought to me courtesy of my nipples. I had never once thought of living life without them and the idea of NOT having them was almost more than my brain could process. Intellectually I know that mastectomy is another word for “gone,” but I guess I just assumed that nipples would be part of the reconstruction process.

I managed to yank myself back from my musings and focus again on the phone conversation I was having. I needed more details! I asked this particular calendar model if I had heard correctly, that she indeed did not have nipples. She confirmed that and said some women, after reconstruction, opt for getting nipple tattoos. She suggested I search online, and that was exactly what I did.

God bless Google. I searched the term “breast reconstruction” and looked at the photos that popped up on my computer screen. Seeing reconstructed breasts without nipples reminded me of the old movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Only in this case, it was “Invasion of the Booby Snatchers.”

One of the things I share with the women of Beyond Boobs! is an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes, to help myself drift off to sleep, I engage in a meditation of sorts. I start at the tips of my toes and give thanks for every part of my body. I think of running through the grass barefoot as a little girl, drawing my attention to my feet. I give thanks for kneeling and sitting cross-legged as I guide my thoughts up toward my knees. I continue the process all the way to the top of my head, focusing on each body part in turn. In the past I had, of course, given thanks for my breasts, but I had never focused exclusively on my nipples. Now, thanks to my work with Beyond Boobs!, my nips are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

Nose Hairs Finally Feel the Love

Several months after that nipple realization rocked my worldview, I spoke with Chris about topics we wanted to cover on the blog. I mentioned my newfound appreciation for my nips and Chris brought up something else to be grateful for – nose hairs. During chemo, many women experience hair loss. For most people, the first hair they think of is the hair on their head, with eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair springing to their minds later. Chris explained, though, that women undergoing chemo treatment can also lose their nose hairs, causing them to have a runny nose during treatment.

Nose hairs! Talk about an unloved part of the human anatomy. Has anyone, in the history of ever, complimented another person on the hair sprouting out of her nose? I think not. Men may be able to get away with a few stray hairs poking out of a nostril, but most women would die of embarrassment if they had jutting nose hairs. Yet those tiny follicles perform a valuable service, don’t they? I have now added nose hairs to my list of body parts to be thankful for.

Unwrapping the Pink Ribbon

Volunteering my writing skills for Beyond Boobs! allows me to speak with so many people whose lives have been changed forever by a breast cancer diagnosis. Like everyone else, I have seen the pink ribbon stuck to the backs of cars and used as decoration every October to bring awareness to the disease. I heard terms like “chemo,” “radiation,” and “mastectomy,” but I only had vague notions of what those words really meant for someone going through the treatments. Sometimes, for those of us on the outside looking in, breast cancer seems like a box where all of those cancer-related thoughts and words are kept, tied up neatly with a pink ribbon. The ribbon represents the stories of everyone whose lives have been touched by breast cancer, but it doesn’t tell their unique stories.

In my conversations with survivors, their husbands, their parents, BB! volunteers, doctors, and others, I have plucked at that ribbon, removing it and opening the box to peer inside. The stories of life, love, and loss that emerged from that box have changed the way I view breast cancer and the world. Breast cancer does not happen in a vacuum. Women who are diagnosed still have lives to live, people to love, and dreams to chase. Those who are important to them – spouses, children, parents, friends, and coworkers – are affected, too. Everyone has a story to tell, and it is my ongoing privilege to hear those stories and share them on the BB! blog.

The people I have spoken with and written about in BB! blog posts have touched my heart. Without having met me, and without even seeing me in person, people answer questions about their bodies, their hearts, and their souls. They trust me with their stories, and when I sit down to write I do my best to maintain that trust. My life is richer by far for my volunteer work with Beyond Boobs!

Category: Blog

, April 22, 2015 | More Post by

Volunteer Embodies Attitude of Gratitude

Four years ago Gail Gruen moved to the Williamsburg area and was looking for a new project to take on. She and her husband, Martin, had relocated from New Jersey to Virginia, where she had been a social worker for close to three decades. One of her neighbors in Toano invited her to volunteer at BB! and Gail agreed to help out. After getting to know her personality through her volunteer work, BB! staff came up with a position that would use Gail’s talents as a people person to the fullest – Gratitude Ambassador. Gail writes thank-you letters to everyone who donates to BB! and is also on hand at events to thank volunteers and those who come out to support BB!’s mission.

“Showing gratitude is the simplest yet most powerful thing one human being can do for another,” Gail said.

BB!’s mission of supporting young women diagnosed with breast cancer is especially close to Gail’s heart. Her mom, Dorothy, was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away at the age of 44.

“My mom was a fun lady, always reaching out to other people,” Gail said. “I inherited that from her and when I am volunteering with BB! I feel like I am honoring her and following in her footsteps.”

As a social worker in New Jersey Gail supervised a group of 40 volunteers, so she knows the tremendous impact they can make on an organization. “I love working with volunteers,” she said. “I so appreciated the role the volunteers played in my job in New Jersey, and now I’m a volunteer myself!”Gail & Martin

Gail and her husband Martin have been married for 39 years. They have two adult daughters, Danielle and Rachael. They also have two cats they adopted from the Heritage Humane Society, Mac and Cheese.

, April 20, 2015 | More Post by

Survivor Volunteers Full Support to BB! Mission

Almost three years ago Hannah Coakley battled breast cancer and won. A year ago she began volunteering with Beyond Boobs! She had attended breast cancer support groups in the past, but had just not been inspired. Discovering Beyond Boobs! fueled Hannah’s efforts to get involved and give back. She was diagnosed in her 60s and didn’t fall into the category of younger women typically served by BB!, but her positive outlook meshed with the group’s dynamic energy, so she chose instead to become a volunteer20150414_121918

“As a BB! volunteer I am really accomplishing something,” Hannah said. “I love it!”

Hannah spends her volunteer hours at the Beyond Boobs! main office preparing supplies for the group’s events and fundraisers. Currently she is working on putting together gift baskets that will be raffled off at the upcoming 8th Annual “Breast” Ball Golf Tournament. She has also helped out with other big-ticket events, including the Old Dudes Bike Ride and the Pink Carpet Gala, to name a few.

Hannah is originally from New Jersey and is a retired school secretary. She has lived in Williamsburg for nine years. “Like me, a lot of people are from out of state,” she said. “I love that the women at BB! look out for each other and take care of each other, just like family.”

Hannah has three grown children: Michael, Jonathan, and Erin. She is the proud grandmother of four grandchildren. In her spare time, she enjoys making goat’s milk soap. She also makes heating pads filled with rice and flaxseed and scented with French lavender and peppermint. She often gives her homemade creations away as part of a gift basket.

Category: Blog

, April 16, 2015 | More Post by

Beyond Boobs! celebrates our volunteers

We’re celebrating YOU!

Our Devoted Volunteers

On behalf of Rene, Mary Beth, the BB! Board, and the BB! Staff ~
Thanks to each one of you for your time, talents, and treasures.  You help this organization meet the needs of all the young women we serve!  It is because of you that these women have….

Hope for the Future   Inspiration to Overcome    Power to Thrive

“I alone cannot change the world,                                                                                                                                but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

~ Mother Teresa

Join us for the next few days to read about a few of our volunteers who continuously cast their stones.  Meet Kim, Hannah, Gail, and Jamie 🙂  Looking to volunteer with Beyond Boobs!, check us out!

, April 16, 2015 | More Post by

Volunteer Kim Coulter Pledges Full Support to BB! Mission

 

Every Tuesday Kim Coulter volunteers at the Beyond Boobs! main office in Williamsburg, placing orders for office supplies or searching online for event supplies. Lately she has been scouring the Internet, looking for just the right items for the upcoming 8th Annual “Breast” Ball Golf Tournament. Kim has been a volunteer with BB! for almost three years. She enjoys volunteering so much that she has also started coming in a couple of hours every Wednesday to work on the metrics that impact BB!’s end-of-year financial reports.

“The women at Beyond Boobs! have become like family,” Kim said. “We all get along so well together and I look forward to seeing everyone when I come in to the office.”Kim with Great-Niece

When Kim retired after 30 years working for the government in the CIA, she searched for ways to give back to her community. She discovered Beyond Boobs!, began volunteering, and now she is hooked.

“My mother had breast cancer in the 1980s and my maternal grandmother died from cervical cancer,” Kim said. “I always donated to cancer organizations, but after my grandmother passed away I wanted to get more involved.”

Beyond Boobs! and their work with young breast cancer survivors has made a big impact on Kim. “I have learned a lot about breast cancer,” she said. “One of the things I enjoy the most is talking with survivors and seeing how resilient they are. BB! is there for women, helping them find the resources they need. It’s a great place to volunteer.”

In addition to logging in volunteer hours at the Beyond Boobs! office, Kim also donates her time at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, where she helps out in the volunteer office and other places in the hospital. Kim also enjoys helping animals. While working at the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, she met and adopted Tikka, a dog found roaming outside the building. Kim brought Tikka back with her to the U.S. and now the two spend lots of time together, getting in three or four walks a day.Tikka the Dog

“I named her after chicken tikka masala, a spicy Middle Eastern dish,” Kim explained. “The name fits her so well because she has such a spicy personality.”

Kim loves baseball and is a diehard fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates. She is a season ticket holder for weekend games and travels when she can from her home in Williamsburg to Pennsylvania to root for her favorite team.

 

 

 

, March 18, 2015 | More Post by

Mother’s Memory, Family’s Support Guide Cancer Journey

Kate Goddin was a sophomore in college in 1997 when she found out her mother, Christine Garvey, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Kate, a theater major, was backstage preparing to put on a production of the play Sunday in the Park with George when she heard the news.

“I remember standing backstage with my headset, while everything was going on around me,” Kate said. “I was sad and stunned.”

Shifting Priorities

After Chris’s cancer diagnosis Kate went home as often as possible and spent more weekends with her parents. She even chose to spend the summer of 1998 at home rather than stay on campus at the University of Mary Washington.

Although a lot of her mother’s cancer treatment is a blur for Kate, she does recall certain memories from that time. “I remember my mother went through many treatments at Portsmouth Naval Hospital,” she said. “I also remember visiting her in the hospital after chemotherapy.”

In early December Kate was home to celebrate her mother’s 47th birthday.

“She had a phenomenal birthday weekend,” Kate said. “She was able to do so many things she hadn’t been able to do before. We ate dinner together as a family and she actually enjoyed her meal without feeling sick. We acted silly and teased my dad, just like always.”

Kate was home with her family the next weekend, too. On Friday her dad, Pat, took her brother Kyle to soccer practice. Kate stayed home with her mom and her Uncle David. Chris was resting on the couch when she asked her daughter to bring her a blanket.

“She was struggling to breathe,” said Kate. “She looked me right in the eyes and took her last breath.”

The family had been working with hospice so Kate called them instead of 911. When the hospice workers arrived they comforted a shocked Kate, still wearing her pajamas and robe. “The hospice workers were so kind to me,” Kate said. “They even pulled my clothes from the dryer so I could get dressed.”

Seventeen years later, Kate is grateful she went home to visit that weekend and that she was able to be there with her mom when she passed.

Another Cancer Diagnosis

Kate was happy for her father when he met someone new and decided to marry again. “It was a bit disconcerting to see my dad with someone who wasn’t my mom,” Kate recalled. “But my dad was very young when my mom died and he didn’t need to spend the rest of his life alone.”

Kate’s stepmother, Jane, had also lost her first husband to cancer. Kate remembers what she thought when she learned Jane, too, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was worried for Jane,” Kate said. “I also wondered why this was happening to my dad again. It was totally unfair.”

Kate believed Jane was in good hands and kept repeating to herself “Jane’s cancer was caught early, she’ll be fine.” To help her dad and Jane, Kate delivered meals to their home. “It was the only thing I knew to do,” she said.

The Unlucky Side of Statistics

In October 2014 Kate went in for her first mammogram. A friend accompanied her for the testing. “I was concerned about getting a mammogram, but I wasn’t terrified,” Kate said. “I thought of it as just another test.”

The first mammogram showed microcalcifications in Kate’s breast. Microcalcifications are small calcium deposits that appear as white flecks on a mammogram. Usually they are benign, but because of Kate’s family history, the doctor decided to perform a biopsy.

During the biopsy Kate was positioned flat on her stomach with her breasts hanging through two holes in the exam table. Using a large needle, the doctor extracted a tissue sample from her breast. The biopsy results came back as non-invasive ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

“I was diagnosed with stage 0 DCIS,” Kate said. “The doctors said it was in my milk ducts and that it hadn’t spread.”  When Kate had an MRI performed on her breast, the doctors discovered the DCIS was larger than they thought and a small nodule was located near the DCIS. She had a second biopsy done, but this time she was able to lay on her back and watch the ultrasound screen along with the doctor. Her breast was numb so she couldn’t feel the large needle penetrate her skin, but she could watch as the doctor maneuvered it to obtain a sample.

For many, this might be uncomfortable or even unbearable. But Kate is a third-grade teacher, so not much rattles her. “I actually thought it was pretty cool to watch,” she said.

The results of the second biopsy showed that Kate had invasive ductal carcinoma. “It was a whole different ballgame after that,” she said.

Kate’s Journey Begins

Kate spoke with a guidance counselor at the school where she teaches about how she should tell her daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte and 10-year-old Beth, that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.“The guidance counselor told me that I should give my daughters the facts so they wouldn’t imagine even worse scenarios in their heads,” Kate said.

Kate wasn’t afraid to tell her father, Pat, about her diagnosis, but she knew this time would be even harder for him than the first two experiences because she was his child. “I knew my cancer diagnosis would be the most difficult of the three,” she said. “It would be like taking away a piece of himself.”

 

Pat knew immediately who his daughter should contact for help. A few years ago he partnered with Beyond Boobs! for the Christine Garvey Memorial Soccer Tournament. The tournament, now in its 16th edition, donates a portion of the funds it raises to the nonprofit. After working with cofounder Mary Beth Gibson, Pat knew Kate would find the support she needed with the Boobers!

“My dad has been so incredible and supportive,” Kate said. “The first thing he told me after I told him my diagnosis was that I should call Mary Beth.”

When she was first diagnosed Kate didn’t feel like it was a big deal. She didn’t think she really needed Beyond Boobs! “I was stage 0. I thought it would be quick, easy, and over,” she said.

When she was ultimately diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma she had so many thoughts swirling in her head. She decided to call Mary Beth back to speak with her about how she was feeling and what she was going through.

“We talked two or three times,” Kate said. “Mary Beth is a phenomenal listener. She gave me some great advice about moving forward. I am glad I finally listened to my dad.”

The Next Steps

Kate elected to have a bilateral mastectomy and on Christmas Eve 2014 had her first surgery. “The surgery went well, but afterward I was uncomfortable and in pain,” Kate said. “I had to wear a drain for two weeks. I wasn’t allowed to take a shower and it was strange to have medical equipment coming out of my body.”

After Kate’s first surgery, inflatable breast implants, called expanders, were inserted under the skin on her chest. “I am not completely flat, but I don’t have nipples anymore and I have huge scars,” she said. Reconstruction is not an easy process. The expanders in Kate’s chest will be filled gradually until her skin has stretched enough to accommodate implants. “I can’t wait to get rid of the expanders,” Kate said. “They are hard as a rock. It’s like wearing an iron bra all the time.”

It will be close to a year before her breast reconstruction will be finished. Kate wants the final version to look as natural as possible for her husband, Gus. When all of her surgeries are done Kate wants to take her family to Baltimore to celebrate and to get nipple tattoos from Vinnie Myers, who is skilled at crafting three-dimensional nipple tattoos.

In January Kate underwent her first dose of chemotherapy. “I felt fine, but it was nerve-wracking to think that I had poison coursing through my veins,” she said. “Even though I feel OK, I just don’t feel like myself. I’m hungry but I have no appetite. I know it won’t be an easy road to travel.”

Kate’s stepmother, Jane, went with her to her first chemo appointment. Jane knitted a sock while Kate watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother. While she was there she saw someone her own age also getting treatment and the three women struck up a conversation.

“Once I was there, it was easy,” Kate said. “Now that I know what to expect, I feel better. The anticipation was the worst part.”

Category: Blog

, March 13, 2015 | More Post by

Can Having Breast Cancer Be Lucky?

Now that St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, we wish for the the luck o’ the Irish. We look for lucky symbols, like four-leaf clovers or horseshoes. However, can anyone diagnosed with breast cancer really consider herself lucky? We recently posed that question to our Boobers! on Facebook and we would like to share with you some of the heartfelt responses we received.

four leaf cloverFor the Luck of Cancer

By: Melissa Powell

If you were to see the scars that rest on my now flattened chest, you might not consider me lucky. But you are not looking deep enough. If you were to watch me climb out of bed each morning, stiff from the medicine that continues to keep the stalker at bay, you would not consider me lucky. But you are still not looking deep enough. If you were to sit with me as I wait for the next scan that could determine whether or not I will see my children grow, you would not consider me lucky. But you have yet to see the miracle that has occurred.

Before cancer I raced through life, running toward an invisible finish line. I often neglected to stop and look at the change in scenery, the changes in my children’s faces, or the amazing beauty this life has to offer. Before cancer I would often put work before family, obligations before fun, and daily life before living. Before cancer I was in a dark room with only a flashlight to see the things that surrounded me.

Cancer has flooded my once dark room with light. I can now see all of the beauty that encompasses my life. I see my children snuggled close beside me, telling me of their dreams. I can see my beautiful partner, who I barely knew these last thirteen years. I can see that quiet meditation calms my once racing mind. I can finally see that life is now – not yesterday or tomorrow – but is unfolding as quickly as I type these words.

I was lost before cancer, floating through life like the last leaf falling from a barren tree. I found myself in cancer and found that luck is something that surrounds you every day – you just have to turn the lights on.

Luck as a Way of Life

By: Michele Yepez

Luck is more than a simple word for many women who find themselves subjected to the big C. For some, it becomes a way of life. The entire idea of finding out you have cancer is considered an incredible stroke of bad luck, and yet so many women feel the luck they have to get them through it far outweighs what got them there in the first place. The support systems we have – friends by our side, new women who enter our lives – seem part of our lives because of luck as much as anything else. Are we lucky because of who we had when we entered our journey, and those whom we meet along the way? Are we any less lucky for having to face this journey in the first place?

Luck is subjective. Some of us feel that luck, as it is most often discussed, does not really exist. One woman recently stated she believes “Everything happens for a reason.” It could be that this is a different way to define luck. Others refer to their luck as a blessing, or fate. When talking about luck in these terms, we zero in on the positive influence of the word. Even if you don’t believe luck exists, or that the word has any particular power, for the most part, and on some level, we believe in the concept as a whole. Whether we work for our luck or it is through some divine force, we all seem to agree it is there.

There is another side of luck when we are faced with a diagnosis that shatters our reality. The word can morph into a frustrating epithet instead of the uplifting validation it was meant to be. Once we face our “luck” – or whatever we call it at the time – phrases like “You’re so lucky to have found the tumor now!” or “How lucky to have so many people to help take care of you!” aren’t always regarded in the inspiring way they are intended. And then, a feeling of guilt. Before the diagnosis, this wasn’t something we struggled with. Outside positivity didn’t come with the grains of salt they seem loaded with now, and the bright side coming from someone across that invisible line never seemed anything but kind. Yet, we agree, and even tell others the same things as they go through their struggles. But one major thing is different. When a person has not gone through what we have, they can’t see how a little word like “luck” can take on a whole new significance.

While there is plenty to go back and forth over when it comes to this four-letter word, one thing everyone seems to agree on is this: If there is nothing else to feel lucky about during this journey, we are all incredibly lucky to have found each other because beyond the boobs, surgeries and treatments we endure, our sisters are a huge part of saving our lives. We are, truly, lucky to have each other.

Finding Luck

By: Charlene Smith Cattoi

Yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer! This is my story . . .

I am now 57 years old. Oops, I mean young! On Tuesday, October 9th, 2001, while I was at work, I received the phone call. The voice on the other end of the line told me “Charlene, I’m sorry. You have cancer.”

NO! I didn’t feel lucky then, however . . .

About five years after the diagnosis, I found Beyond Boobs! Through this breast health group I started to find my luck. I wish I could say I always felt lucky; however I have felt F.U.D. – FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, and DOUBT. That feeling of luck was hidden under the FUD. Through the support of Beyond Boobs! and the many faces of breast cancer that came into my life through this amazing group, I dug deep past FUD. I was shown strength and courage.

When I felt “Why me!” I thought . . . Then who? Why not me?!  I let my cancer show me humor, beauty, love, support, more humor, friends, family, life . . . Like I had never seen before!!!!!

I am LUCKY that I have been able to give back in some small way, I hope! Thank you, Beyond Boobs!, for helping me find my LUCK through great people who give from their hearts, minds, and souls! These are the Boobers! (survivors) and Boostiers! (supporters). Because of YOU I am truly LUCKY!!!! And I have a life list!

Yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and yes, I am lucky!

 

, March 11, 2015 | More Post by

Love in Three Acts: Confronting Cancer as Husband and Father

Pat Garvey fell in love with his first wife, Chris, in Arnold Hall at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. Pat was a cadet at the academy in 1970 when Chris’s best friend set them up on a blind date. Pat hadn’t dated much, but he felt comfortable talking with Chris and he liked her smile. He remembers walking back to his room that night and telling one of his classmates in his hall that he had met the woman he was going to marry.

Act One: Whirlwind Wedding

Pat and Chris were married in June of 1972 in Farmington, New Mexico, in a Catholic ceremony. Pat had graduated from the Air Force Academy a few days prior to the wedding. After the reception the newlyweds traveled to Corpus Christi, Texas, for their honeymoon, on their way to Lubbock, where he was to be stationed.

“So much happened in my life in a short period of time,” Pat said. “It was all a whirlwind.”

While Pat pursued a career in the Air Force, Chris worked as a nurse. The couple had three children: Kate, Maura, and Kyle. In 1997, when Pat was traveling for work, Chris felt a lump in her left breast during a self-exam. It wasn’t until he returned from his trip that she told him about the lump.

“She tried to spare me,” Pat said. “I was a little upset and frustrated that she hadn’t told me right away.”

Chris went to the doctor and had a biopsy done. The cancer was malignant and she underwent a lumpectomy, during which part of her breast was removed. After surgery she went through chemo and radiation therapy.

“I wanted to push through and solve the problem,” Pat said. “I had a ‘we’re gonna lick this’ mentality.”

All of Chris’s hair fell out during her chemo treatments. Pat recalls that she was given a full dose of Adriamycin, a chemotherapy drug often referred to as “the Red Devil.” The doctors weren’t proactively treating Chris for loss of white blood cells, as they do now, so any illness she might have after chemo was a concern. One night Pat rushed her to the ER when she ran a fever.

“I was worried and nervous,” he said. “I didn’t want her to disappear.”

Ups and Downs

In March of 1998 Chris felt a lump under one of her arms. Her cancer had metastasized and she was put on Cytoxan, another chemotherapy drug. She eventually ended up at Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, because of her low white blood cell count.

“It was worry, worry, worry from the doctor all night long,” Pat recalled.

Chris made it through that illness and wanted to try a possible stem cell transplant. She and Pat traveled to Duke to begin the process, but she got sick again and ended up at Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth, where doctors discovered the cancer had traveled to her liver. She had a fever and fluid on her lungs.

“There were upsides and downsides,” Pat said. “She got back on Adriamycin and saw a little bit of progress; however, she had to take more narcotics because she was in more pain.”

Family Photo with ChrisOn December 11, 1998, Pat took his son Kyle to the NCAA soccer semi-finals. Chris stayed at the house with their oldest daughter, Kate, and Chris’s brother David.

“I told her goodbye, said ‘I love you,’ and kissed her,” Pat said. He and his son hadn’t been gone long when Kate called to tell them that Chris had passed away. “It only took us fifteen or twenty minutes to get home, but it felt like forever.”

Pat’s other daughter, Maura, was at James Madison University when her mother passed. He still remembers how she screamed over the phone when he called to tell her the terrible news.

After twenty-six years of love, family, and companionship, Pat found himself a single dad to three young adults. “I had to learn how to cook and handle the household chores,” he said. “My grief definitely affected my parenting.”

Healing through Soccer

To honor Chris’s memory and to help himself and his family through the grieving process, Pat started the Christine Garvey Memorial Soccer Tournament. The tournament, now in its 16th edition, brings together youth soccer teams from all over the Hampton Roads region. Proceeds from the event are donated to Beyond Boobs! and Edmarc Hospice for Children.

Pat recalls watching Chris’s expression when their son Kyle scored a goal during the last soccer game she attended at Wolftrap Park a few months before her passing. “Kyle scored a goal from the right side of the pitch to the upper left corner of the goal,” Pat said. “I can still see Chris sitting there, watching that goal being scored. I think that’s where my idea for a soccer tournament got its start.”

Act Two: Another Chance at Love

The mother of one of Maura’s friends told Pat that, when he was ready to start dating again, she had a friend she wanted him to meet. In early 2000, Pat called and told her he was ready. On another blind date Pat met his second wife, Jane. For their first date their mutual friend prepared a meal for them at her house, and then a week later the two attended a function together at Langley Air Force Base. “We talked and talked and ignored all of the people around us,” Pat recalled.Jane & Pat Boat

Jane understood what Pat had been through with Chris, as she lost her first husband to renal cancer. Three weeks into their relationship, Pat asked Jane to marry him. “We had both had been a part of strong marriages, and we both knew that we wanted to be with each other,” Pat explained. “We were talking and kissing, and kind of on the flip I asked her to marry me.”

Jane said yes.

In 2008 Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer. She, too, detected a lump and went to her doctor.

“I was floored,” Pat said. “I didn’t want to deal with it again. I pulled away a little bit to work through my emotions, even though I know that Jane wanted more from me emotionally. I wondered why I had to visit this experience twice.”

Jane went through chemo and radiation and Pat is proud to call her a survivor.

Act Three: The Third Cut is the Deepest

Pat’s eldest daughter, Kate, went in for a mammogram in October of 2014 and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 38 years old.

“It is hardest to watch my child go through this,” Pat said. “I hurt for her and I wish there was something more I could do.”

Kate had a bilateral mastectomy and underwent her first reconstruction surgery on Christmas Eve 2014. She started chemotherapy in February and will also undergo radiation.

“I know she’s scared,” Pat said. “Her mom did everything she could and she’s not here. She is also obviously worried about her two children.”

Kate’s cancer diagnosis was similar to Jane’s and she is being treated by the same doctors who successfully treated Jane’s cancer. “Kate wants Jane with her during her treatments,” Pat said. “Jane’s been a blessing to Kate as she deals with her diagnosis. In an ugly way, cancer is bringing the family closer together.” Kate&Daughters

Lending a Hand

When Pat learned of Kate’s diagnosis, his first phone call was to Beyond Boobs! executive director and cofounder Mary Beth Gibson. He was at a loss as to what to say to his daughter and he wanted Mary Beth to speak with her.

“When Kate was diagnosed with breast cancer I felt helpless as a dad. I can’t fix this for her,” Pat said. “The women at Beyond Boobs! can give advice that others can’t. The support they give is invaluable.”

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Blog

, February 22, 2015 | More Post by

Memorial Soccer Tournament Gears Up for 16th Editiontournamentlogo

What began as one family’s efforts to heal after loss has become a premier soccer tournament on the Virginia Peninsula, impacting hundreds of players, volunteers, and families every year. The Christine Garvey Memorial Soccer Tournament, now in its 16th edition, will be held March 17-19. The tournament will take place over three days at half a dozen Peninsula venues, including Wolftrap Park, where the inspiration for the event occurred.

Tournament director Pat Garvey, whose first wife Christine passed away from breast cancer in December of 1998, was with her when their son Kyle scored a goal during the last soccer game she attended at Wolftrap Park a few months before her passing. “Kyle scored a goal from the right side of the pitch to the upper left corner of the goal,” Pat said. “I can still see Chris sitting there, watching that goal being scored. I think that’s where my idea for a soccer tournament got its start.”

The first edition was held in March of 2000 and 16 teams participated. The tournament, which includes boys’ and girls’ junior varsity and varsity teams, expanded to 32 teams its second year and has remained at that number ever since.

“We now have coaches who used to play in the tournament when they were in high school,” Pat said. “We have young people playing in the event who weren’t even born when it first began.”

The first tournament in 2000 was a labor of love. Pat, seeking a way to overcome his grief and honor his first wife, organized the event with a dozen friends. The next year he teamed up with the Kiwanis Club of Poquoson. Just as the tournament has grown to include players from all over the region and beyond, the Kiwanis support grew too and now includes sponsorship from numerous clubs throughout the area.

Per Christine’s wishes, funds raised from the tournament went to a national organization for breast cancer research and education. Three years ago Pat decided to work with two nonprofits a little closer to home – Beyond Boobs! and Edmarc Hospice for Children.

“For me, it is not happenstance that Beyond Boobs! and this tournament ended up being connected,” said Pat. “When we got together three years ago I had no idea that my daughter Kate would one day be diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 38.”

Pat works closely with Beyond Boobs! Executive Director and co-founder Mary Beth Gibson, and she was the first person he called when he learned of his daughter’s diagnosis. His second wife, Jane, was also diagnosed with breast cancer and is a seven-year survivor. After confronting the disease twice, he knew the importance of advice and support. He wanted his daughter to experience all of the love and encouragement that Beyond Boobs! provides to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Several women from Beyond Boobs! will also be part of the action during the tournament. They will hand out trophies on the 19th to the girls’ varsity team at Bailey Field and to the junior varsity team at Wolftrap Park that same day.

Everyone is invited to come out and cheer on the teams at the tournament. Attendees can purchase a tournament pass for $10 and watch any game at any venue. Day passes are also available for $5 and allow attendees to watch games at any venue for the entire day. Donations of any amount to Beyond Boobs! or Edmarc Hospice for Children can be given when purchasing passes.

For more information about the tournament, visit www.thechirstinegarveymemorial.com.

 

 

 

Category: Blog

, January 12, 2015 | More Post by

The Golden Touch: 50-plus Years of Love and Support

More than five decades have passed since Wayne Bryant married his high school sweetheart, Gale. When Wayne started dating Gale in the tenth grade he thought she was the prettiest, smartest, wittiest girl he had ever met. After 51 years together, his opinion hasn’t changed. In more than half a century of marriage Wayne and Gale have experienced many joys and weathered many storms, including two bouts with breast cancer.Wayne&GaleStanding

Trying Times – 1988

Gale was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in the summer of 1988 after a routine mammogram detected a suspicious spot in her right breast. She was 43 years old.

“I was in denial after I heard the diagnosis,” Wayne said. “I was scared to death and didn’t know what to do. I went through a lot of emotions and tried to understand what my wife was feeling.”

Wayne and Gale did their research, which included speaking with a close friend who had had a mastectomy. Gale saw a specialist at the University of Virginia, as well as a talented radiologist who seemed to have a magic eye for spotting things others couldn’t in test results.

“In 1988 the support and resources just weren’t there yet for women diagnosed with breast cancer,” Wayne recalled. “We were lucky to have such an amazing radiologist on our side.”

Gale came right out and told the couple’s two children, Kim and Geoff, about her diagnosis and the treatment she would need. Geoff listened intently and took time to mull over his mother’s words. His main concern was whether or not she would be OK. Kim had been experiencing the normal mother/daughter tension during her teenage years but Gale’s breast cancer diagnosis changed their relationship.

“They both realized they didn’t want to waste valuable time on small differences,” Wayne said.

Wayne and Kim are a lot alike. Both are extroverts and vocalize their thoughts. Kim was there for her father when he needed to talk through his feelings. “I have to be careful about not vocalizing what’s in my head right away because my thoughts get scrambled and the wrong words come out,” Wayne explained. “My daughter helped me to understand and draw out what I really wanted to say.”

Their son Geoff is an introvert and processes his thoughts differently. He was concerned about whether or not he should leave for college and confided his worries only to his sister, who was able to help him think through that important decision.

Total Eclipse of the Sun – 1997

Gale was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in the spring of 1997. When Wayne asked her what she wanted to do she said she didn’t want to live life scared and that she was going to have a double mastectomy.

“She was quite matter of fact about her decision,” Wayne said. “She knew it was going to be a big change for her but it was what she wanted.”

After speaking with surgeons and learning about her options, Gale opted for a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.

“It was difficult for me to see Gale go through so many changes,” Wayne said. “At first I worried about hurting her during intimacy, and I was reluctant to do anything because I didn’t want to cause her pain. With time and practice, though, we figured out what worked for us. None of the important things had changed.”

Wayne had planned a trip to Curacao to see a total eclipse of the sun in February 1998, but Gale was reluctant to go because she didn’t like the way she looked after her surgeries. Wayne told her he was going, no matter what. Gale changed her mind and traveled with him.

“She had a good time,” Wayne said. “After that trip she realized she was going to be OK. Breast cancer took something away from her and put something else in its place, but it didn’t change who she was as a person.”

New Age – Beyond Boobs! Style

Wayne is pleased to note that so much has changed in the way women with breast cancer are treated. “There are so many more resources and materials available for women diagnosed with breast cancer and their loved ones,” he said. “People no longer whisper about the diagnosis, more treatment options are available, and outcomes are better. There is also a lot more support, including Beyond Boobs!”

Wayne has always been a student of human behavior, but now that he is in his 70s and has stood beside Gale to face the fear and uncertainty of breast cancer twice, he is adept at spotting a partner who is just starting to travel that road. Wayne attends lots of Beyond Boobs! events and makes a point of talking with the men to help put them at ease.

“I can look at a woman’s partner and see that he is worried and scared to death, but he is doing what he can for her,” Wayne said. “Men don’t talk about those kinds of things much, but I can see it in their eyes and in their expressions.”

Wayne often goes up to fellow Boober! husbands or boyfriends to chat. “I tell them how pretty their wives or girlfriends are and we talk about our jobs or mutual interests,” he said. “I’m not always sure how to start the conversation, but after talking for a little while I figure out what to say.”

Wayne isn’t all talk, though. He has no problem putting his mouth where his chest is. The first time he went to the holiday parade in Williamsburg he thought he would only be watching and cheering for the float Beyond Boobs! had decorated. Bundled up in an overcoat and earmuffs, he soon found himself outfitted in a stuffed pink bra, marching down Duke of Gloucester street.

“The spectators loved it,” Wayne recalled.

Wayne is grateful for the support Beyond Boobs! provides to women diagnosed with breast cancer. “It is a great organization,” he said. “They handle the human element of recovery in the social realm. They are getting the message out and letting people know it is OK to talk, to be concerned about each other, and to reach out.”

Wayne still thinks Gale is the prettiest, smartest, wittiest woman he has ever met. They can talk for hours and hours or just enjoy a comfortable silence together. He knows, though, that they are not the same people they were as newlyweds so many years ago.

“We have gone through four or five versions of ourselves since then,” Wayne said. “But we continue loving each other through the years and the changes. Life is a miracle, and I’m OK with miracles.”

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Blog