For the girls

For the girls

The Official Blog of Here for the girls

, 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 was 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 answered. 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 the 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 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.

, November 05, 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.

Katrina Keel-Saunders has represented Beyond Boobs! as a model in A heat-shot-for-katrina-keel-saundersCalendar to Live By 2016, and on November 13 she will be taking the stage to compete in Starlets of Dance. It’s her first time performing on a stage, but she is ready for the challenge.

“I wanted to show my kids and myself that I could do this,” Katrina said. “Even though cancer has come into my life, I can still have fun. It didn’t bring me down. I feel like having cancer gave me more courage to take risks.”

Katrina has chosen a Kelly Clarkson song for her piece, and she has been hard at work with her dance instructor, Bonnie Hackett. “I’m definitely getting my workout in,” Katrina said, laughing. “Someone watching me at the studio said they were impressed. I just really hope I’m good.”

Katrina and Bonnie practice two evenings a week for up to an hour. Afterwards Katrina rushes home from practice to spend time with her husband, three children, and dog. It’s tiring, but she knows the work will all be worth it.

“I want to really send a message with the surprise ending of my dance,” Katrina said. “My kids are so happy and excited to see what I will do. I want to inspire people with my dance and show them they don’t have to be afraid to step out of their comfort zone.”

Click here to see an interview with Katrina that appeared earlier this month on WTKR-TV’s Coast Live show! Her interview starts at 1:49.

Click here to watch her video about what her experience preparing for Starlets of Dance has meant to her.

, September 26, 2016 | More Post by

Hi! Welcome to Beyond Boobs!, now one of two support services of Here for the Girls, Inc., dedicated to improving the lives of young women affected by breast cancer. In the near future, this website will reflect this exciting growth. So stay tuned, but meanwhile check out our new Here for the Girls website. We are so glad you came to visit!

Hugs, The BB! Team

, September 14, 2016 | More Post by

We can’t believe it has been ten years since the very first Beyond Boobs! calendar model was chosen for our annual A Calendar to Live By! Our calendar is also a health guide in disguise and offers a year of hope and inspiration, along with reminders to put your health first. We are beyond grateful to our generous sponsors, as well as the 100-plus calendar models who have graciously represented BB! and their fellow Boobers! over the years.

During the next several weeks on the blog you will meet the Boobers! who were chosen as calendar models for A Calendar to Live By 2017. You are also hereby invited to join us at the Pink Carpet Gala on Saturday, September 17, as we unveil this year’s calendar. See you there!

By: Jamie McAllister

A mammogram led to Christy Birgen’s diagnosis of breast cancer in November of 2013, at the age of 43. When herchristycloseup2 surgeon put a copy of A Calendar to Live By in her hands, she knew she had found an incredible group of fellow survivors and supporters.

Christy and her husband Michael live in College Station, Texas, where she is hard at work on a graduate degree in mental health counseling. The couple has two sons, Ryan (17) and Jacob (15). The family also includes Maxx, a German shepherd-American bulldog mix. Here Christy talks about faith, beauty, and spreading Boober! love all through the great state of Texas.

What is the most daring thing you have ever done?

Rappelling into an underground cavern swimming hole.

If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and what would you do together?

I would want to meet Jesus and witness his earthly ministry.

What was your first summer job as a teen?

Babysitting.

What is guaranteed to always make you smile?

Witnessing something beautiful in nature, such as a sunset or being at the ocean.

What does being selected as a calendar model mean to you?

DCIS has some controversy around it regarding treatment (or not) and if it is pre-cancer or cancer. I hope to advocate for DCIS and spread awareness for breast cancer and early detection. My cancer was found early and reduced my treatment. If we can’t avoid breast cancer, I want all women to have the least invasive treatment possible, which means early detection. In addition, I have moved from Virginia to Texas and started a Not Your Typical Support group. I hope being a calendar girl spreads the Beyond Boobs! love here in Texas!!

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

Feeling beautiful and powerful and realizing it’s a way to share my story with other women, to let them know they are strong enough to fight this disease. Understanding the responsibility that comes with being a calendar girl and being one of the many faces of breast cancer.