For the girls

For the girls

The Official Blog of Here for the girls

, 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.

, September 07, 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

Mary Joe Wilfong had just been through a divorce in 2013 and didn’t have health insurance when she discovered amj lump in her breast during a self-exam. Three months later she finally got a mammogram done through a grant program called Every Woman’s Life. A week later, doctors confirmed it was cancer. Fate – and three of her friends – led her to Beyond Boobs! “Two days before my double mastectomy, I was dragged to a Not Your Typical Support group meeting,” she said. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me in a bad situation.”

Mary Joe lives in the Ghent area of Norfolk and works as an administrative assistant at Stratford University’s Virginia Beach campus. She is mom to three children – Kaitlin Walbrook (24), Kiara Walbrook (22), and Charles Walbrook (20). She also has three special pets in her life. Zelda Mae Velvet is a long-haired black cat with big gold eyes, and Mary Joe credits her with saving her sanity during her battle with breast cancer. Kali Nuggett is a two-year-old Chihuahua who thinks she’s a cat, and Prince Jelly (PJ) is a blue-eyed razorback pit bull who behaves more like a lapdog than a guard dog.

After applying three times to be a BB! calendar model, Mary Joe proved that the third time is indeed a charm when she was selected for A Calendar to Live By 2017. Here she details her perfect day from beginning to end, the things in life that always make her smile, and what being a calendar model means to her.

What was your favorite childhood toy?

I don’t remember toys. I am sure I had lots and lots. I had three younger brothers and a sister, so I guess they were my toys most of the time. I do remember a book in my hand at all times.

Describe your perfect day from beginning to end.

I want to combine several perfect days into one. I’d like to say I want to sleep in, but then I would miss a good portion of a decent brunch with an endless mimosa bar in the company of my children and friends. Or the early morning dawn and creating some bread dough to proof.

I’d want to cook all day, making my favorite meals and breads and loving a good beer or fizzy prosecco. And my friends and family throughout the day would enjoy a never-ending Thanksgiving. I’d love to also just curl up in cool shade and read a good book, too, and play with the dogs at the park, and hear kids splashing in the water close by.

I’d want to travel somewhere quaint and spend the day with my special love, and hold hands and kiss often, and laugh over silliness. Not care about cancer, jobs, stress, or diets. I’d love to see a baseball, football, or hockey game and yell at the referees and umpires over a bad call.

Afterwards get a great dinner, or pull out the bread dough I’m rising and bake it off, and eat it warm with butter. I want to tuck my babies in their beds and read them a bedtime story. I want to curl up with my special love and smile over our fun day, and watch the sunset.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose? Why?

Since I have adult children, making choices of where to live is difficult, as they are scattering around the world. Being in Virginia for 20 years makes it challenging to leave.

I’d love to be in Maine. I was there often visiting for two years before marriage to my then-boyfriend, and so thoroughly enjoyed the way of life.

But honestly, lately it’s been going home to New Jersey to be with my mother. I love New Jersey, my home state. Mostly it’s the peacefulness of the house and the almost three acres of land. It’s my brothers down the road. I guess home is wherever the family is.

What is guaranteed to always make you smile?

My kids, whether they are here with me or not. I think of them and just smile, even on bad days.

My daughter Kaitlin’s laugh and her sneeze. My gosh, it can raise the dead.

My daughter Kiara’s smile and humor. She is our problem solver.

My son Charles’s crazy hair, and how he still sleeps the same as when he was a baby.

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

This is my third try at being a calendar girl. Crazy how with such low self-esteem that I would want to be one so bad. Being a calendar girl means a lot. It means sharing my story, my road, my battle. Showing the real me and not some smiling bobblehead that most days I think I am.

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

The most impactful part of my shoot was all the people who were part of the shoot. I was treated like a hot, sexy lady. I was respected for my knowledge of the subject being shot. I just had so much fun, even though the nerves were high and my self-esteem is so low. That afternoon made me feel so, so special.

, August 31, 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

Sharon Carver was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2008 and her cancer returned in October of 2010. Shesharon was serving as an ambassador for another cancer organization when she first learned about Beyond Boobs! When Boober! Shelly Gardner talked about the amazing support BB! offered to young women diagnosed with breast cancer, Sharon was intrigued. She attended one of BB!’s H.I.P. Chick events and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sharon lives in Titusville, Florida, and is working to establish BB! Not Your Typical Support groups in that state. She is the assistant supervisor for the Brevard County Clerk of Court and has one adult son, Dale. She also shares her life with three felines: sweet Little Girl, fraidy cat Black, and mischievous Ruby. Here Sharon talks about the most daring moment of her life, how amazing it would be to walk with Jesus, and how she uses her faith to encourage others battling breast cancer.

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

If I could meet someone from history (I am glad you asked!) I would love to meet Jesus face to face and walk with Him while He was healing the sick, raising the dead, and performing other miracles and ministering. I can’t fathom what this would be like — to see someone dead and then see them alive. Talk about faith building and restoration. Oh my goodness!

What is the most daring thing you have ever done?

The most daring thing that I have done would be quite surprising to those who know me. Everyone knows that I am afraid of snakes and will jump and run at the sight of even a baby snake. Some years back, I was a den leader for a Cub Scout Pack. We planned a day trip to the local wildlife reserve where animals were being featured. (Yes, this included snakes.) Well, one of the parents kept asking me to touch the snake, and because I wanted to prove to the boys that I was a superwoman, I touched it. I told the snake handler to keep the snake in his hands with the mouth away from me. I counted – one, two, three! – and then reached out with my finger and touched the snake. I was so petrified and surprised that I had done that. Guess what? That will never happen again!

Name three things on your bucket list.

1. Travel to Israel to walk the streets and wade in the waters listed in the Bible.
2. Visit Las Vegas. This would not be to gamble, but to eat all the food that I want. Yes, I love to eat!
3. Visit Washington, D.C.

What is guaranteed to always make you smile?

Friends, family, and a T-bone steak cooked medium well with all the fixings (salad with Italian dressing, baked potato with butter, cheese, ranch dressing, bacon, salt, and pepper). Oops, I am supposed to be eating healthy. Well, let’s just say this is my cheat meal.

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

Oh my goodness! Being a calendar model means that I have arrived! While in this valley, I knew that God had ordained this cancer journey for me, so that He could get all the honor and glory. My promise to Him was if you take me through this, I will forever share my testimony with anyone that would listen to show how good He had been to and for me.

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

Now this is a good question! It didn’t occur while at the photo shoot. The impactful moment occurred during the video shoot. I was sharing my story (not sure if that was supposed to happen at that time – but the videographer didn’t stop me) and as I was sharing my “journey,” tears began to flow down my face. It was then that I was able to take in all that I had experienced and the fact that I was truly a survivor who had in fact arrived! What a great audience to tell my story to.

, August 25, 2016 | More Post by

In just a few short weeks we will be unveiling A Calendar to Live By 2017, chock-full of lifesaving health tips, hope, and inspiration. Since this is the calendar’s 10-year anniversary, we wanted to make it extra special. So for the first time, each of our calendar models had her very own photographer!

We consider ourselves beyond blessed to have such an amazing group of photographers lending their talents to support BB! Several of this year’s photographers shared with us, in their own words, what it means to be a part of this incredible milestone.

Thomas Gorman:Thomas Gorman

It has been a pleasure to work with Beyond Boobs! for the last six years, but it was a true honor to photograph a calendar model and a number of group shots for the calendar this year!! To be around such strong, inspirational women who face a tough battle was very humbling. I am touched that what I do as a photographer helps to spread the mission of this great organization!

Robert Hersh, MD:

Robert HershMy association with BB! started with my role as a reconstructive surgeon caring for patients who were members of this fabulous organization. To assist these women and their families with their recovery and seeing them thrive is the greatest honor I have had in my chosen profession.

Another great passion of mine, other than the love I have for my wife and children, is PHOTOGRAPHY. I have been further honored this year to contribute to BB! and help its members in another capacity: As a photographer for A Calendar to Live By 2017. I look forward to a lifetime association with this wonderful organization.

Kathy Hornsby:Kathy Hornsby

Calendar model Alveta Henderson is a creative director, an art director, and general enthusiast supreme! Her concept of our photo shoot was not only colorful, but deeply meaningful to her family history. That emotional connection allowed us to work for hours outside on an oddly cold spring day (snow flurries!). Although Alveta is incredibly photogenic and naturally looks simply stunning, her vision is what really made the shoot easy for me! I loved working with her!

Todd MeigsTodd Meigs:

When I started volunteering with BB!, cancer hadn’t touched me personally. But last year, on July 7, my mom was diagnosed. Now I’m back in the game, and it’s personal.

 

Beth Oliver:Beth Oliver

Working with calendar model April Salvant and BB! has been so inspirational in my own breast cancer healing and love of life. These women are faced with severe adverse conditions daily, but they stand strong with positive hearts. I am glad that for even a day we could go have some fun and produce a beautiful memory together.

Wallace Roark:

Wallace RoarkIn a time when there is so much going on around us, it is refreshing to support a group like Beyond Boobs!, which strives to help women and empower them in their time of need. The Beyond Boobs! organization puts a lot of love into supporting women in their quest for a better tomorrow. I feel truly honored and blessed to be in the company of so many amazing people.

, August 24, 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 call to Riverside Regional Medical Center to find a breast cancer support group put Kristie (Pink Slayer) Fields inkristie touch with Beyond Boobs! Connecting with BB! lit the spark for her new mission in life – providing resources and encouragement for other women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Kristie lives in Newport News with her husband Jermaine and their three children: Treavor (20), Tierre (19), and Jayla (9). She works as Curriculum Advising and Program Planner at Hampton University. Here she takes a moment to talk about her passion for helping others dealing with a cancer diagnosis, as well as her favorite cartoon fashion icon, Jane Jetson.

What five items would you put in a time capsule to open 10 years from now?

  1. Family Pictures
  2. Bible
  3. Maya Angelou poems
  4. A letter to myself outlining my goals
  5. Stationery

If you could be any cartoon character, who would you be? Why?

Jane Jetson because she kept up with the times and was a great wife and mother. She controlled everything with the push of a button. Not to mention she always looked fierce and her fashion was always on point. Also Princess Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog because she was able to excel even though she had many roadblocks in her way. She was motivated to work hard to achieve her dreams and, as you can see, hard work always pays off.

What is the most daring thing you have ever done?

I don’t remember doing anything daring . . . I do pranks on family but nothing exciting. LOL.

What is guaranteed to always make you smile?

My family.

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

Being a calendar model gives me the platform to educate our society about the importance of EARLY diagnosis of breast cancer, other forms of cancer, and any health issue that can be treated. I have lost so many friends and close family members because of cancer and other medical issues. If they had had proper medical attention from the beginning, it could have saved their lives. It breaks my heart when I see ANYONE suffering in pain because they DIDN’T know there is help out there, even if they don’t have insurance. My goal is to become a certified patient navigator. I also want to do forums in at-risk neighborhoods to get them information about FREE screenings for various medical-related issues. I really want to showcase how Beyond Boobs! brings out the best in all who attend the meetings and participate in events.

I was very good at keeping a smile on my face and making others laugh and feel good about themselves, but my reality was very different. I didn’t know how to channel the pain that I was hiding inside until my first meeting with Beyond Boobs! For the first time since being diagnosed, I felt normal with this lovely group of women. We formed a sisterhood that is stronger than any other support group out there.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot? It’s realizing this is so much bigger than you. It’s being thankful you can help someone else with your story.   Cancer does not discriminate. It affects young, old, rich, and poor. Being proactive in getting the RIGHT information could save so many lives.

, August 18, 2016 | More Post by

Raymon Bessix was the February model for A Calendar to Live By 2012. We caught up with her to see what gems ofraymon retrospective wisdom she might share for our Throwback Thursday former calendar model series! Here’s what she had to say:

  1. What was the one experience or lesson that has stuck with you most from your year as a model in A Calendar to Live By?

Live, Love Laugh – To enjoy every moment, find beauty in everything and don’t sweat the small stuff.

  1. What did that calendar photo say about who you were then? How are you similar or different now?

I was beginning again.  Today, I like to think I’ve grown … emotionally, spiritually… and now I’m beginning to live.

  1. Give us a sense about any big changes that have happened in your life since the public first got to know you as a calendar model.

I’m actually very shy, an introvert. People got to see more of me, becoming a calendar model gave me a larger platform on which to share a very important message.

  1. If you could share one piece of advice now to a young woman who has just joined BB!, what would it be, based on your perspective now?

Never let your diagnosis define you. It’s okay to cry, it’s even okay to be mad, but don’t let those feelings consume you. Reach out, surround yourself with love and good vibes. Find ways to show everyone what it means to live life with an exclamation point.

The cover of the 2012 calendar.

The cover of the 2012 calendar.

, August 17, 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

When Alveta S. Henderson stopped nursing her youngest son in 2010, she discovered a lump the size of an egg inalveta her breast during a self-exam. She was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time in May of 2014. Shortly after she moved to Williamsburg, she met Beyond Boobs! co-founders Mary Beth Gibson and René Bowditch. They saw Alveta was wearing a lymphedema sleeve so they told her about BB!’s Not Your Typical Support groups and encouraged her to become a Boober!

Being chosen as a model for A Calendar to Live By 2017 has given Alveta another outlet to share her message and her journey of survival. She works as a physician assistant at Sentara Healthcare and is the mother of three: Devereaux Nash (21), Raven Nash (19), and DeCarlo “Jaden” Crowell (6). Here she describes her perfect day, her perfect place to settle down, and why BB! is such a perfect fit for her.

What was your favorite toy as a child?

My Cabbage Patch doll.

What is guaranteed to always make you smile?

Seeing my children smile or hearing them laugh.

Describe your perfect day from beginning to end.

Going to the beach at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, near Charleston, and sitting on the beach watching waves. Occasionally taking a swim. Going shopping for spices on the downtown market and then driving back out to Kiawah down Bohicket Road, only to return to the beach for the evening to watch the waves some more. I love the history of the area. It makes me feel like I am returning to the ocean to receive my ancestors on the shore. I know it sounds weird, but I feel like I’m letting them know that a better day came for them even though they didn’t get to see it.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose? Why?

Somewhere tropical close to the mountains and the sea, maybe Saint Lucia or Mexico. I love the mountains because I grew up in the mountains of Virginia, but I love the water. I could even do a mountain lake like Smith Mountain Lake here in Virginia.

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

Being selected as a calendar model means I get another outlet or platform to tell my story and to encourage someone who is going through a similar situation. Everything I’ve gone through is so that someone else can benefit from the experience. There is a wealth of knowledge I can share, right down to how African American women respond to chemotherapy. The side effects of skin changes are profound. Things doctors don’t always remember to tell you that a patient who is going through it can expound upon are priceless.

, August 11, 2016 | More Post by

Angela Duke was the November model for A Calendar to Live By 2011. We caught up with her to see what gems of angela dukeretrospective wisdom she might share for our Throwback Thursday former calendar model series! Here’s what she had to say:

  1. What was the one experience or lesson that has stuck with you most from your year as a model in A Calendar to Live By?

Slow down – Live in the day that God woke you up to.

  1. What did that calendar photo say about who you were then? How are you similar or different now?

I was the “Multitasker.” Now I am different… I prioritize.

  1. Give us a sense about any big changes that have happened in your life since the public first got to know you as a calendar model.

It gave me more freedom – a rite of passage if you will – to express and share my journey with breast cancer survivors and others.

  1. If you could share one piece of advice now to a young woman who has just joined BB!, what would it be, based on your perspective now?

To be more intentional about living life to its fullest.  Welcome and receive the strength that will be gained by being connected to BB!

Cover of the 2011 calendar that featured Angela.

Cover of the 2011 calendar.

, August 10, 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

Heather Sweitzer of Virginia Beach was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 after she discovered a lump in herheather breast during a self-exam. She found out about Beyond Boobs! and attended one of their events, Beyond the Paddle. There she met Boober! Charlene Cattoi, whose spirit and energy drew her to the group. As a calendar model, Heather wants to continue the message of empowerment that comes from living life with an exclamation point.

Heather is the owner of Regal Renovations, a Virginia Class A contractor. She and her husband Glen have been married for 13 years and have four children: Jaeden (12), Tyler (10), Preston (6), and Silas (4). Here she talks about the importance of family and what it means to be able to share her message of hope with the world.

What was your first summer job as a teen?

Babysitting.

What is guaranteed to always make you smile?

I love being around my friends.

If you could be any cartoon character, who would you be? Why?

Daphne from Scooby Doo. She’s always witty, clever, and stylish.

What is the most daring thing you have ever done?

Hmmm . . . It’s a toss-up between getting married young or having four kids before the age of 30. Both have been beautifully challenging and rewarding.

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

Being a calendar model means I’m helping to reach young women who think, or have been told, that they’re too young to have cancer. Also, I hope to be able to empower those same women by showing them that there is so much blessing beyond diagnosis. It’s an opportunity to live a much fuller life and prioritize what’s really important.

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

My photo shoot was so much fun. It just reiterated the fact that cancer could never steal my joy. My life is completely saturated every single day with the people and things that mean the most to me – the very things that give me fullness of life!

, August 04, 2016 | More Post by

Charlene Cattoi was the February model for A Calendar to Live By 2010. We caught up with her to see what gems charleneof retrospective wisdom she might share for our Throwback Thursday former calendar model series! Here’s what she had to say:

  1. What was the one experience or lesson that has stuck with you most from your year as a model in A Calendar to Live By?

That I am beautiful and worthy.

  1. What did that calendar photo say about who you were then? How are you similar or different now?

It said I have a heart. Today my heart is tougher & more wonderful!

  1. Give us a sense about any big changes that have happened in your life since the public first got to know you as a calendar model.

My life has done a total turn around – change is scary but I wouldn’t change a thing.

  1. If you could share one piece of advice now to a young woman who has just joined BB!, what would it be, based on your perspective now?

You are beautiful-never doubt it. Love the New You! You are worth it!

Charlene and BB!'s Events and Community Relations Manager Vicki Vawter at Breast Fest.

Charlene and BB!’s Events and Community Relations Manager Vicki Vawter at Breast Fest.