hereforthegirls | Here for the Girls Blog
breast cancer, breast cancer support, breast cancer stories, inspiration
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For the girls

For the girls

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, January 01, 2016 | More Post by

2016_4

At Beyond Boobs! we celebrate every single day, but there is something truly magical about the first day of a New Year. We have so much to look forward to in 2016 and that got us to thinking about what another year means for our Boobers! We turned to Facebook to ask “As a breast cancer survivor, what does beginning a New Year mean to you?” Numerous Boobers! talked back and we are excited to share their responses here on our blog. Happy New Year!

Beginning a New Year for me means new possibilities. Another door has been opened and I’m looking forward to the blessings to come in the New Year and celebrating each day with my children and loved ones.
Jackinah Andrews

The title of my book says it all – I Lost Both Breasts and Gained a Brain – and I’m ready for my now! Just blessed.
Carol Clark

A New Year means another year that I’m here. Another year with my family. Another year for new experiences and enjoying the beautiful moments, big and small.
Michelle Fall

Another year that I get to share my story and hopefully bring peace and light to someone else.
Raquel Gilbreath

The New Year means another year out from the dreaded diagnosis and treatment! Another year that I get make a difference in someone’s life! Another year to love and be loved! Another year to be uniquely ME!
Rhonda Hahn

Beginning a New Year? It means soaking in all the love!!
Joanna Henk

Every day I have survived is a gift and a blessing, so a New Year means I have an empty slate to write a new life upon! I am grateful to God for saving me, and I look forward to helping and serving others.
Donna Hull

A New Year means I get to celebrate the fact I’ve just survived another year cancer-free! Time to continue moving forward with a positive outlook on what our future holds.
Rashida Mahoney

Beginning a New Year means that I’m still here and kicking!! The Lord does perform miracles every day and sometimes multiple miracles to a single person.
Donna Matherne

Another year of new adventures, surprises (could be good or bad), and milestones! Breast cancer taught me a lot of things, but especially to “roll with the punches” and learn from the past, move forward, do what makes you happy, and cherish every special moment with those you love.
Crystal Marie Silins

New opportunities and new surprises are waiting for me for another year. I am that much farther away from my diagnosis and that much closer to being on the other side of this disease. I have a lot to look forward to, including the BB! retreat!
Lisa Williams

It’s so hard to believe that two years ago I got that call, the call I never expected to hear. Never wanted to hear. Never believed I would hear. But I heard those words: “Ms. Yepez, I’m sorry. It’s cancer.”

The devastation of dreams shattered, a life lost, an end to my story, almost broke me that day. And yet, it didn’t actually do any of those things at all. Instead, that call gave birth to a dozen new beginnings I never imagined I would have. New outlooks, a new Beyond Boobs! family of sisters, and an entirely new way to hope. To feel. To live.

Such a dark anniversary should fill me with heaviness, and yet I can’t feel that way. Instead I laugh at my friends’ jokes and think of how we came together through disease. I groan about little problems like traffic as I remember the pain of my earth shattering around me. I watch the sun rise up in the sky as I relish how mine hasn’t yet set.

Call me lucky, call me naïve, or anything in between. All I know for sure is my life is beautiful, and not even cancer can take that away. And that’s just how I want it. I will start 2016 sure of how far it is that so many of us have come, and at absolute peace with how far we still have to go. This is my story and I’m grateful for every word.”
Michelle Yepez

 

 

Category: Blog

, December 21, 2015 | More Post by

 

On a Sunday afternoon in November the Virginia Wesleyan College campus came alive with the grace and allure of old Hollywood. Six Boobers! stepped onto the stage and transformed instantly into dancing starlets, swooping and gliding into history. The standing-room-only crowd cheered and shouted, eager for more. And in a showroom across town one shiny red car glinted in the rays of the autumn sun streaming through the windows, waiting for the raffle winner’s name to be called and her future to be decided.

The Volunteers Prepare

Before they danced, the starlets practiced. For eight weeks they worked with professional dancers to learn the steps of their new routines. But before one lucky winner’s name could be called, Beyond Boobs! had to sell tickets. Volunteers, Boobers!, and BB! staff arrived at the WTKR studios in Norfolk well before the sun came up on October 21st. barbara ciara and hannahDecked out in pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, they took their places at the phones to sell raffle tickets for the 2015 red V6 Mustang coupe.

Barbara Ciara, a broadcast journalist at WTKR and long-time Beyond Boobs! supporter, interviewed volunteers and shot promos to air during the live newscasts throughout the day. Only a limited number of tickets were printed, so the odds of winning the new Mustang were one in 799.

The Starlets Perform

The winner of the Mustang would be chosen immediately after the Starlets of Dance exhibition, in which six breast cancer survivors moved beyond their comfort zones to do what many have never done before – perform a dance number in front of an excited, cheering crowd.Joanne Snook-Starlets

One by one, the starlets emerged with their dance partners. Family, friends, and supporters cheered as the couples spun across the dance floor. The event also included professional performances from local dancers and youth dance studios, as well as a silent auction. After the last winner from the auction had been announced, the audience held its breath, listening for the name of the new owner of a 2015 Mustang V6 Coupe.

The Winner Rejoices

A rainy Monday couldn’t dampen James and Bonnie Meredith’s enthusiasm as they walked through the front doors at Beach Ford. They may have even been dancing a little themselves when Tom Barton, President of Beach Ford, handed James the keys to his brand new car.

Tom, a Beyond Boobs! sponsor since 2011, looks forward to handing over the keys to the winner each year. “Beyond Boobs! provides valuable advice and support for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer,” he said. “They are a unique group and this is a really cool way for us to help others who are reaching out during such a scary time in their lives. The money raised from the Mustang raffle will continue to help fund their vital mission.”

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Category: Blog

, December 04, 2015 | More Post by

 

Gaylord Daniels was at his wife Tamika’s side when she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in 2012 at only 37 years old. The diagnosis came as a huge shock to both of them and the looming threat of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, and radiation seemed too much to bear. The days ahead would be filled with challenges neither one could foresee at that terrifying moment in the doctor’s office, but Gaylord made sure Tamika knew he would always be by her side, no matter what.

Romance in the Dining Hall

Gaylord and Tamika met in a dining hall on an Army base in Hungary in 1999. Gaylord heard Tamika talking with a group of women and, intrigued by the way she spoke, went over to introduce himself. The two had lunch later that day and a relationship blossomed. When they eventually parted ways, she to a base in Seattle and he to Texas, Gaylord thought that would be the end of their time together.

“I didn’t really think it would go beyond that,” he said. “But when I got to Texas I started getting phone calls and we ended up in a long-distance relationship for several months.”

When Tamika was home in North Carolina on leave Gaylord went to visit her. An old-fashioned man, he bought a ring and asked her parents’ permission before he proposed. He dropped to one knee in her family’s living room and asked her to marry him. By then Gaylord was stationed in Chattanooga, Tennessee, so the two decided to get married there at the Hamilton County Courthouse, just the two of them.

The Dreaded Diagnosis

A year or so after they were married, the couple welcomed their first son, Xzavier. Several years later their second son, Jabriel, was born. Gaylord worked as a contractor for the government and Tamika worked as a paralegal and with Child Protective Services. The family settled in Dinwiddie, Virginia, outside of Petersburg.

Gaylord was in Afghanistan when Tamika called and told him she had found a knot in her breast. He encouraged her to schedule an appointment with her doctor but figured it wasn’t a big deal. A week later Tamika called again to say the doctor had encouraged her to bring a family member to her next appointment. Gaylord flew home without telling Tamika, and when he arrived at the house early in the morning she thought she was seeing a ghost.

“Hey, I’m here for you,” Gaylord told her, holding her close.Tamika shrunk

At the appointment Tamika was given a dismal 5% survival rate. “The news was hard to take,” Gaylord said. “We were all in shock. I wanted a chance to beat the disease so when Tamika decided to have a double mastectomy, I was fine with it. As long as I still had her, nothing else mattered.”

Gaylord stood by Tamika through her chemo treatments and surgeries and held fast to his faith in the Lord. Tamika’s mother also contributed to her care, traveling often from her home in North Carolina to be with her daughter in Virginia. “It was a rough time for us but Tamika always knew I was there for her,” he said. “Bottom line, I wasn’t going anywhere.”

The Darkest Day and the Brightest Night

The diagnosis and subsequent treatments weren’t easy for Tamika. Afraid of what the future might hold, she attempted suicide at her home. Her sons noticed she wasn’t breathing so they called Gaylord and a neighbor. Tamika was taken to the hospital and pulled through.

Gaylord knew the battle she was facing wasn’t easy and he hopes that by talking about his wife’s suicide attempt that others experiencing the same despair won’t feel so alone. “Those kinds of thoughts are going to come and will have to be dealt with,” he said. “Tamika was really crying out for help. She was tired and she needed help.”

Although no one knew it then, Tamika was soon to find the help she sought. The day after her suicide attempt she went to the Beyond Boobs! Pink Carpet Gala. Mary Beth Gibson, co-founder of Beyond Boobs! and a breast cancer survivor, had communicated with Tamika prior to the Gala, but she had no idea about Tamika’s suicide attempt until that night at the event.

“It was destiny that brought Tamika and Beyond Boobs! together,” Gaylord said.

That night at the Gala Tamika met other young women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She also found inspiration when the Boober! calendar models were honored and the next year’s Calendar to Live By was unveiled. Then and there she decided to become a calendar model herself so she could inspire others.

BB! also offered Gaylord a great deal of support. Prior to the next year’s Pink Carpet Gala, where Tamika was honored as one of the models for the 2014 calendar, the couple attended a party held at a fellow Boober’s house. There he met other spouses and partners who understood what he was going through.

“Beyond Boobs! didn’t forget about the men and their needs,” Gaylord said “The men are going through everything with their wives and they need support, too.”

Like Father, Like Sons

Gaylord’s mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer when he was young and he remembers watching everything his father did to help her through her illness. As the father of two young sons, Gaylord was acutely aware his boys would witness everything he did for Tamika and that his actions would impact the men they would grow up to be.

“They saw her good days and her bad days,” Gaylord said. “At one point Xzavier wouldn’t go to our bedroom for two whole weeks. I showed up at his school to take him to lunch and we talked about what Mama was going through and where his mind was. That evening he came in the bedroom and said ‘Hey, Mama.’ This was during the last month or so before she passed when she was really weak and she had been waiting for him to work through things and come to her. She said that she knew her baby would come through eventually.”

In August Beyond Boobs! organized a three-day weekend at the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg so the Daniels family could be together. Tamika didn’t feel well, but Gaylord encouraged her to go and try to enjoy herself. While Tamika went out with fellow Boobers! to spend quality time with friends and get her nails done, the boys played in the water and Gaylord relaxed poolside with a margarita. The family spent the rest of the long weekend in their hotel room watching TV and playing games, just spending time together. The mini vacation turned out to be the last one they would ever have as a family.

Saying Goodbye

Tamika passed away on September 23, 2015. “Her liver was shutting down,” Gaylord said. “That day we knew we needed to start preparing for the end.”

It was a Wednesday afternoon and the boys had just arrived home from school. “I told my youngest son, Jabriel, to go up and sing to Mama,” Gaylord recalled. Jabriel complied, singing the gospel song Take Me to the King at his mother’s bedside. As Gaylord watched he saw a teardrop form in Tamika’s eye and roll down her cheek. By that point she was too weak to talk. “She hears you,” he assured Jabriel.

Tamika was buried in her girlhood home of North Carolina. To keep her memory alive, Gaylord and the boys continue to talk about her and how she might have reacted to something that had happened during their day.

“We have lots of photos around the house,” Gaylord said. “And we have each other for support.”

Some days, though, Gaylord doesn’t know who is raising who. “I feel like I’m supposed to be there to support them because I’m the father,” Gaylord said. “But when I break down and I apologize my oldest ends up comforting me and telling me it’s going to be OK. When I say I’m sorry he tells me I have nothing to be sorry about.”

Gaylord and the boys are taking their loss one day at a time. He keeps their routine as consistent as possible and makes sure the boys stay involved with extracurricular activities. Jabriel plays on a football team and Xzavier is part of a group for future black business leaders. The family also keeps in touch with Beyond Boobs! as part of their healing.

“I am especially thankful for the calls from Mary Beth offering words of encouragement and talking about how she and the other Boobers! miss Tamika, too,” Gaylord said. “I want to continue to support the group because I am so thankful for everything they did for Tamika after her diagnosis and for me and my boys.”

Category: Blog

, September 21, 2015 | More Post by

         

Dionne Young is passionate in her efforts to educate others about breast cancer. Being selected as a calendar model for A Calendar to Live By 2016 is a dream come true for her, as that means she will be in an even better position to spread awareness about the disease and what it means to survive and thrive after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Dionne lives in Chesapeake with her husband of 22 years, Nikita. The couple has two daughters, Brittani, 21, and dionne youngJalyn, 17. The family includes a bull mastiff named Niqo (pronounced Nee-koh) and a terrier mix named Sandie. The Young family also boasts a finned member, a catfish named Rafael they have had for eight years.

Read on to learn more about how Dionne was diagnosed, how her diagnosis changed her relationship with her youngest daughter, and how being selected as a calendar model is helping her get the word out to other women about the importance of early detection and breast health.

What led to your diagnosis?

It just so happened that my hubby noticed a lump during a hug goodbye one day and said I should get it checked out. My response was that it had always been there and had been tested and checked over the last 10 years of my life several times. Because my grandmother had breast cancer, my doctor suggested I be checked every five years. So I did and cancer was never found. There was absolutely no evidence of cancer shown on any of the diagnostic tests that had been given to me.

Once my hubby said I should go back to the doc anyway, I waited three months before going. The doctor said it was probably nothing, but sent me to a surgeon anyway. The surgeon was insistent and said he didn’t like it and sent me to have a 3D mammogram and they found nothing. He requested I allow a biopsy and I did, against my better judgment. I am thankful he was persistent because the biopsy showed stage 2B breast cancer. When I saw the oncologist, he told me that if I wasn’t treated aggressively and immediately, I wouldn’t survive the year.

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

I found Beyond Boobs! after I was asked to speak at a breast cancer awareness event. There I met a BB! calendar girl who suggested I come to a meeting. The rest is history.

What is your favorite date-night activity?

I am actually very much a homebody unless there is a purpose for the outing, and my hubby is the same way. Our favorite date-night activities are curling up together in bed and watching movies, snacking, and cuddling. Being married for 22 years allows us to be free and comfortable enough with just the company of each other.   

Who is your biggest supporter?

My biggest supporter is probably my youngest daughter, Jalyn. She goes everywhere with me and has been such a trooper through the entire process. She was only 13 when I was diagnosed and had to bathe me and take care of me when her dad had to return to work. She never leaves my side now. My cancer diagnosis has been the best thing that has ever happened to our relationship.

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob?

My heartthrobs exist in adulthood. I have every CD or tape Prince has ever made, even if it wasn’t played on the radio. I am his biggest fan and we favor in looks and size. LOL

One word to describe yourself:

Compassionate. 

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

It was a huge honor to be selected for such a responsibility. I was doing tons of advocacy, awareness, and education prior to becoming a Boober!, and I feel fortunate to have a group that specifically supports individuals and families affected by breast cancer.

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

The most impactful moment was sharing the breast cancer experience with many other women who have also been affected, but in such a very different way. I describe breast cancer as the “family name” for a group of individuals. Although we all share that same family name, we are very different people, and so is breast cancer. There are so many different types, stages, attack zones, and lifestyles of people that it’s no wonder there is such difficulty in finding a cure. I will dedicate the rest of my life to raising awareness for and educating others about this terrible disease. Thank you, BB!, for letting me be part of an organization that supports the efforts of me and my Boober! sisters, who are all living life with an exclamation point!

, September 11, 2015 | More Post by

         

Due to a family history of breast cancer, Lisa Williams started getting regular mammograms at age 35. In 2013 she missed her appointment that had been scheduled for the day after Christmas. When she received a postcard in the mail in January, she decided to do a self-exam and found a lump. She was diagnosed with Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in March.

Lisa lives in Rockledge, Florida, and is the mother of three: sons Kenly, 16, and Logan, 7, and daughter, Brianna,Lisa 23. This September she will join 10 of her Boober! sisters when they make their entrance at the Pink Carpet Gala to unveil A Calendar to Live By 2016. In anticipation of the big reveal this fall, Lisa spoke about the chance encounter that led to her involvement with BB!, her childhood ambitions for the White House, and what being a calendar model means for her.

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

I had a different friend with me for each of my chemo appointments and one day in walked Jennifer, someone my friend knew from high school. Jennifer and I went to high school together but we had never “hung out.” I ran into her a few weeks later during another appointment and she mentioned the organization. At that time, I wasn’t ready for a support group. I thought “Who needs to sit around and cry and complain?” That’s what I thought a support group meant. Boy, was I wrong . . . I went to a meeting in January and was blown away by how empowered I felt afterwards. It was truly a gift to run into Jennifer and to become part of this wonderful organization. 

What is your favorite date-night activity?

Stereotypical dinner and a movie. I love movies and want to watch them in the theater, not at home where the “magic” is missing. Nothing like watching a good movie with good company!

What are your summer plans?

To stay cool. I’m not especially fond of this time of year. Give me an autumn day and I’m one happy woman. Sweating is not my thing!

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

I was a bit of an odd teenager because I didn’t really have a heartthrob. No one graced my walls (Dad wouldn’t have let me hang posters even if I wanted to) and I didn’t doodle names on my notebooks. I did like John Stamos, I remember that, I just wasn’t crazy over anyone.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be the President of the United States. Even back then, I thought a woman was needed in the White House!

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

What a good question. I wanted to do this to show my kids that there is life after cancer. What I have found while I’ve been fundraising and talking to people about my “calendar girl” status is that there are a lot of people who are shocked by the numbers of young women diagnosed each year with this horrible disease. I’ve found I have a passion for telling the Beyond Boobs! story and sharing what it means to be a Boober! I hope I can help women and their families who are going through this disease by being someone they can approach to get information, support, and referrals. I want to put a real face to breast cancer. I’m far from model material and I hope that encourages women of all shapes and sizes to embrace their beauty, inside and out. We only have one life, so why not do what makes you happy and take chances that you otherwise wouldn’t have dared before diagnosis.

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

I would say that it was another time I had to give up control. . . again. Cancer has a way of making you realize you really don’t or can’t control many things in life. For us Type A people, that’s a hard pill to swallow, no pun intended. I had to once again relinquish control to the photographer, Mary Beth, and the BB! team. I had to trust they were going to make my picture the best it could be. Letting go is a very freeing and scary thing to do for any reason. I’ve begun to learn more about the freeing part of letting go and it’s a good feeling.

 

, September 07, 2015 | More Post by

Virginia Beach resident Charity Breidenbach does double duty as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and as mom to daughter Lizzy, 16, and son Clay, 11. In 2016 she will add another title to the list – Beyond Boobs! calendar model.

Charity’s life changed forever on July 26, 2013, when she was diagnosed with ER/PR positive, HER2 negative, stage 2B breast cancer after finding a lump during a self-exam. After her initial consult with a surgeon, the nurse navigator gave her a Beyond Boobs! Calendar to Live By 2013 and literature about the support BB! provides to women diagnosed with breast cancer. Charity attended her first support meeting in September 2013 and now proudly waves the Boober! flag.

In anticipation of the unveiling of A Calendar to Live By 2016 at the Pink Carpet Gala in September, Charity shares some personal details about her life and her involvement with BB!

What advice do you have for other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer?charity blog

Don’t spend a minute thinking you are alone. You are not. This is scary, terrifying, sometimes even debilitating. But you are not alone. Reach out and talk to any one of us about what you’re feeling. I promise we’ve been there and we remember. But, look at us. We’re strong. We’re happy. We’re thriving. We want to help.

What is your favorite healthy food/dish?

Too many to list. I’ve always loved Mexican food, but I started cooking healthier after my diagnosis and now have quite the palate. Everything from butternut squash risotto to shepherd’s pie.

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

Duran Duran, specifically John Taylor. I sent them letters asking them to come to my hometown (Abilene, Texas—HA! Fat chance!) and told them that they could stay at my house if the hotels were full. I bought their posters, every album, T-shirts, and once in fifth grade I got so caught up looking at an order form where they had some offerings that the teacher startled me when she said “Duran Duran” and I jumped out of my seat.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I knew from a very young age (8 or 9) that I wanted to join the military. It was going to be the Air Force, but divine intervention or sheer dumb luck put me in the Navy, where I’ve loved almost every minute of the last 20 years. 

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

It has given me the impetus I needed to be more vocal in support of the organization and the women who’ll be affected after me, after us. I’ve always put myself out in front to be a sounding board, but that doesn’t help future generations. The more vocal we are now about the need for prevention, the fewer women will need us in the future.

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

I loved being able to show my strength. Cancer can take many things from us, but it cannot take away our resolve to beat it. I also showed my faith in what keeps me strong. We are stronger because we are bound together.

, August 29, 2015 | More Post by

Katrina Keel-Saunders’ life changed forever when she was diagnosed with breast cancer on February 11, 2014. A lump on her breast and, several months later, a difference in the appearance of her left nipple, pushed her to see her doctor and seek a diagnosis.

Katrina lives in Norfolk with her husband of four years, Alan, Jr., and their three children: daughters Jasmine, 11, katrina blogAva, 6, and a son, Antonio, 10. A cairn terrier/Maltese/Yorkie pup named Hope is also part of the family. Katrina works as a physician secretary at Sentara Pediatric Physicians.

This year Katrina was selected as one of eleven Boobers! to serve as a model for the Calendar to Live By 2016. Here she opens up about how her breast cancer was detected, her advice for other women dealing with the disease, and what being a calendar model means to her.

What led to your diagnosis?

In November 2013 I noticed when my left arm rubbed against my left breast that it felt odd. I gave myself an exam and felt a lump. I had my mom feel the lump, too. She was concerned and told me to get it checked out, but it did not hurt, so I ignored it. In early February 2014 I was undressing and noticed my nipple on my left breast was going in, like something was pulling my nipple inward. I screamed for my husband to look at it and he agreed it looked odd and scary. I sent a picture to a friend, a two-time breast cancer survivor, and she told me to calm down and have it looked at.

I saw a doctor and had a mammogram and then an ultrasound. When the radiologist came in and did the ultrasound again, it was the question he asked that scared me: “Is there anyone you can call?” He grabbed my hand and at that point I knew something was not right. He told me he saw the lump I had been feeling, but that he also saw two other spots that seemed suspicious. He stated he was going to biopsy them and pray he was wrong.

I waited at the office for at least three hours. I must say that was the worst day of my life. I was afraid to be alone, so my mom, dad, husband, sister, stepdad, and family friend were with me to get my results. I was shaking, like I already knew what the results were going to be.

When I was told “You have breast cancer” I felt like I was in a bad dream waiting to wake up. I heard my mom, sister, and friend sniffling and I felt numb. I looked at my husband and he was red in the face. I thought Am I going to die? What will happen to my kids? My husband? At that moment I said “I will beat this, and I will fight hard.”

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

In September 2014 I researched breast cancer patient resources. I came across Beyond Boobs! and sent an e-mail to ask where a local meeting was. Within a few days I received an e-mail back from Boober! Amy Oliver, who then sent my e-mail to [Cofounder and Executive Director] Mary Beth Gibson, who gave me information about meeting locations. She forwarded my information to Boober! Michele Yepez. I attended my first support group meeting in Ghent. As scared as I was, I went and all of those women made me feel right at home. Everyone I have met has become a sister to me and I love them all. I am grateful for Beyond Boobs!

What is your favorite dessert indulgence?

I love to indulge in a warm brownie with ice cream on top, preferably with chocolate and peanut butter.

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

My heartthrob growing up was Jordan Knight, from New Kids on the Block. I had T-shirts, posters, and a big huge button. I remember writing to their fan club. I still love NKOTB to this day. I had the pleasure of seeing them in concert back in 2009 and just recently this June. Amazing!! I also loved Enrique Iglesias. I had posters of him in my bedroom. I remember seeing him in concert and it was the best.

What advice do you have for other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer?

I’d tell them to stay positive. I know it’s not easy to say that, but staying positive makes a huge difference when you are going through treatments, even though there will be days you are feeling down and feel like giving up. Find a support group or any therapy that helps you cope, deal with your fears, etc.

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

Being selected as a calendar model has meant so much to me. When people tell me I am their HERO, I really do feel like I AM A HERO. I feel I am able to advocate for others by sharing my journey to inspire them and to help educate women about the importance of breast self-exams.

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

I felt beautiful without my long hair, like I’m making a difference in other people’s lives by showing them that breast cancer has not taken everything; it has not taken my strength. The photo shoot made me feel like I’m sending a positive message to other women that no matter your age, race, etc., cancer affects everyone. But there are resources and organizations that can help you while you are fighting your battle.

, August 21, 2015 | More Post by

Tonia Gardinier’s cancer was discovered during her very first mammogram. She was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer on March 9, 2012, the same day as her mom’s birthday.

Tonia lives in Coinjock, North Carolina, with her fiancé of 19 years, Paul. They have four children: Amanda and tonia 3Alicia, 25; Dillon, 23; and Korbin, 20. They also have three dogs: a beagle named Diamond, a Pomeranian named Bella, and a pit bull/lab mix named Buddy.

In her professional life Tonia wears many hats. She works as a baker at Coinjock Marina and Restaurant, cleans private homes, helps her best friend with her pool and spa business on the weekends in the Outer Banks, and works in a boathouse of a marina on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Tonia was selected as one of the models for A Calendar to Live By 2016. Recently she took a break from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about herself and her experiences as a calendar model.

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

A friend and a Boostier! told me about BB! I was afraid to go to a meeting by myself, so she went with me. Now I couldn’t imagine my life without Beyond Boobs!

What is your favorite date-night activity?

Hmm . . . so many. I like getting some food and watching the sun set.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a photographer or have a catering business.

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying devotion?

Scott Baio, LOL. I had posters from Teen Beat magazine.

What are your plans for the summer?

This is my busy season, so work, work, work. I will also try to enjoy my pool and spending time with my grandson as often as possible.

What is the best advice you have received about living beyond breast cancer?

It’s OK to worry, but don’t let it consume you.

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

The symbolism of my photo, that’s all I can say. Those who know me will understand when they see the photo.

, August 14, 2015 | More Post by

Carrie Cook was diagnosed with breast cancer twice – the first time in July of 2010 and the second time in August of 2014. She is proud to represent Beyond Boobs! as a calendar model for A Calendar to Live By 2016 and looks forward to promoting the group’s message of love and inspiration.

Carrie lives in Norfolk with her husband of 22 years, Troy, and their three children: sons Ray, 22, and Christopher, 19, and daughter Anna, 24. Carrie works for Norfolk Public Schools as a school nutrition manager.

Prior to the big calendar reveal at the Pink Carpet Gala in September, Carrie talks about how she discovered Beyond Boobs!, why it is important to take care of yourself first, and how other women can learn from her experiences.

What led to your diagnosis?carrie cook

The first time I was diagnosed my husband found the lump. The second time I was diagnosed when my plastic surgeon found what he thought was a calcified stitch in my scar line during a revision to my reconstruction. 

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

I was given a bag of literature at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth when I was diagnosed and there was a card for Beyond Boobs! in the bag.

What is your favorite summer beach read?

Anything by Laurell Hamilton, Kim Harrison, or JD Robb.

What is the best advice you have received about living beyond breast cancer?

Take time for yourself. You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Who was your celebrity teenage heartthrob?

I don’t think I ever actually had one. I was more wrapped up in the real people of my life.

What hobbies do you enjoy doing?

I love to sew and make jewelry.

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

Being a calendar girl means two important things to me. First, it’s a chance to give back to this wonderful organization some of the love and inspiration they have given me. It also gives me a way to help spread the message of self-advocacy through my story of misdiagnoses.

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

It was awesome to have my husband there with me! He was deployed the first time I went through treatment, and he is now retired.

 

 

           

 

, August 07, 2015 | More Post by

Natalie Skinner was only 35 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 3 carcinoma in June of 2013. She refused to let cancer keep her from living the life she loves and now she is spreading the message of “Never stop living” through her role as a model for the Beyond Boobs! 2016 Calendar to Live By.

Natalie lives in Suffolk and works as a healthcare customer service/eligibility specialist at Smithfield Foods. She is mom to daughter Brittany, 20, and son Aldrian, 14. She is also the proud grandmother of an infant grandson, Christian. Here she talks about how her cancer was discovered, the magic of Beyond Boobs!, and why Growing Pains was the best show ever.

What led to your diagnosis?natalie

The side of my left breast felt tender. Originally I didn’t think much of it. I went with my daughter to visit our primary care physician and when we were in the exam room my daughter suggested I have the doctor take a look at it. After the doctor felt a lump she sent me over for a mammogram. (I had just seen my OB-GYN for my annual exam and was told I was not old enough for a mammogram and to wait another year.) After the mammogram and ultrasound were done, I went to a breast specialist. The specialist did a biopsy and diagnosed me with cancer.

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

I was actually in Florida at a conference for young women affected by breast cancer when I was introduced to Beyond Boobs! I was there with Cancer Treatment Centers of America as somewhat of an advocate for them. I had never heard of BB! and I really didn’t think there was anything like them in my area. I went over to introduce myself and the rest is history.

What is your favorite BB! activity or event?

The Pink Carpet Gala would have to be my favorite. I am quite new to the organization and I attended for the first time last year. I love the support the organization receives for this event. I think it is amazing how the evening is focused on breast cancer survivors.

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

Kirk Cameron was my teenage celebrity heartthrob. I would sit and wait for Growing Pains to come on and when they ran reruns I was still glued to the TV even though I had seen EVERY episode.

One word to describe yourself:

Authentic.

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

The most impactful moment of my calendar photo shoot was the interview. I have told my story many times before, but on that day I realized I am a survivor! I have fought a good fight and it is through God’s grace and mercy I am still here.