For the girls

For the girls

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, 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.                                                                             

, July 31, 2015 | More Post by

Rebecca McNeal (Ostman) was 32 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 2A ductal carcinoma in January of 2012. She lives in Chesapeake with her life partner of two years, Tiffany Foster; their four children, Savannah, 17, Rebeckah, 14, Joshua, 11, and Noah, 7; and several felines, Jasmine, Bones, Billy, Nip, Tuck, and Miss Kitty. She works at Old Dominion University as a vessel captain/engineer. She runs her department’s research vessel and performs all of the maintenance on it.

Rebecca has been selected as one of the calendar models for A Calendar to Live By 2016. In her unique and humorous tone, Rebecca describes how her breast cancer was discovered, her involvement with Beyond Boobs!, and why Soleil Moon Frye and Sara Gilbert, in her opinion, are better than a Baywatch beefcake.

What led to your diagnosis?becca

I felt a lump and my primary care physician sent me to by OBGYN, Erin Kann, who rocks. She got me to Jenny Reed, who cut that sucker out with a quickness. The pea-sized lump had grown to egg-size in two weeks.

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

Sara Jones, a Boober!, former calendar model, and long-time friend who has since passed away, got me to reach out to the group, and Boober! Charlene Cattoi explained to me why I needed them and welcomed me into the fold.

What is your favorite healthy food/dish?

Homemade organic pizza, salad, hormone-free chicken on the grill, and homemade Thai food.

Who are your biggest supporters?

Tiffany, Savannah, my mom, and my sisters.

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

My embarrassing boy crush from before I knew I was gay was Jeremy Jackson, who played Hobie on Baywatch. I still have three of the posters that adorned my wall in my “life treasures box” and I still rock his Always CD that I had imported from Germany, LOL. My unyielding love for Punky Brewster and Darlene from Roseanne should have tipped me off, though. Eventually, Darlene posters replaced Jeremy, LOL.

One word to describe yourself:

Polarizing.

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

It means representing Beyond Boobs! in yet another way. It means representing my age/orientation/cancer type/lifestyle/reason for diagnosis in a place that reaches a wide audience, hopefully to educate other women like me that they ARE at risk. It is the first reason to buy a new dress since high school prom. And it is a way to celebrate my health and future with those I love.

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

Teaching the awesome videographer how to use one of my “accessories.” My photo shoot made me feel like one of my ancestors and I hope it echoes them and my heritage beautifully.

, July 24, 2015 | More Post by

When Brittany Pronia felt a lump in her right breast accompanied by sharp pain, her primary care physician ordered an ultrasound that was performed on her 29th birthday. The results came back as abnormal and in October 2014 she was diagnosed with Stage 1A, triple-negative, invasive ductal carcinoma with spots of ductal carcinoma in situ throughout her right breast.

After her diagnosis at Langley Air Force Base’s medical group, Brittany received a handout with a list of local breast cancer support. The handout described Beyond Boobs! as a meeting place for women who were diagnosed at a younger age. Two years later, Brittany is now an enthusiastic Boober! and will represent BB! as one of the models in A Calendar to Live By 2016.

Brittany and her husband of six years, Phillip Jr., live in Hampton with their children, daughters Piper, 5; Presley, 2; brittanyand Alexys, 13; and their son, Anthony, 10. Their pit bull, Hazmat, and their cat, Jax, add plenty of fur and love to the family. Brittany works as a reliability engineer at Caterpillar Marine Asset Intelligence.

Here Brittany shares her summer plans, the lengths she went to as a teenager for Backstreet Boys concert tickets, and how she feels about being selected as a Beyond Boobs! calendar model.

What is your favorite Beyond Boobs! event or activity?

So far, my favorite Beyond Boobs! event has been Breast Fest and Mr. Breast Fest is definitely the reason why! I’ve only been with Beyond Boobs! for about seven months, so I haven’t been around to attend everything, but I definitely enjoyed the guys strutting their stuff in custom-made bras, trying to raise some cash for this awesome group of ladies, myself included.

What are your summer plans?

Family, family, family! Living far away from everyone turns vacation time into time spent visiting family. I plan on spending the Fourth of July with my parents, brother, and niece back home in Alabama while visiting others, as well. I’m also taking my girls to a family reunion for my husband’s family in Arkansas that, unfortunately, he will miss since he is on deployment.

What is your favorite dessert indulgence?

I *bleeping* love ice cream!

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

My teenage celebrity crush was Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. I had a wallpaper of posters and magazine pages covering my bedroom walls and was even fortunate enough to get tickets to their Millennium tour for my 14th birthday by camping out overnight at a Blockbuster to be the first in line to purchase them. At the concert, I showed my love by writing (in Sharpie) “I LOVE YOU, NICK!” across my stomach and lifting my shirt up as he flew over me on some sort of surfboard thing on his way to the stage. I was able to snap a picture, and I’m pretty sure he was looking at me, LOL. 

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

As a calendar model, I feel I represent those who should NOT get breast cancer, but, somehow, still do. I started my period at 13 (not too young); I had my first child at 24 (not too old); I breastfed two babies for a total of 18 months; I haven’t gone through menopause; I’m a healthy weight; and I have no family history of breast cancer. I feel that seeing my story will make other young women more aware of their bodies and help them to become better advocates for the health of their breasts. If, in the least, that leads to one more self-exam or, at the most, that helps save a life, then being a calendar model means everything to me.

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

The most impactful moment of my photo shoot was filming the video. I was asked by the videographer what I would say to one of my daughters if they were diagnosed with breast cancer. Of course that thought had crossed my mind, and continues to do so, but I had never had to vocalize that to anyone else before. It led to an overwhelmingly emotional response that I was not expecting, especially since I had been so strong through everything else.

, July 17, 2015 | More Post by

Mary Ashby didn’t mess around when she felt a golf-ball-sized lump in her breast while performing a self-exam in the shower. Her mother was a breast cancer survivor and Mary took her higher risk for the disease seriously. She went straight to the ER to be checked out and to request a mammogram. Right after her 35th birthday, in late August 2013, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma.

Mary is thrilled to be representing Beyond Boobs!, along with ten of her Boober! sisters, in A Calendar to Live By 2016. She resides in Williamsburg with her husband, Vernon, her seven-year-old daughter Mary, and her mom, also named Mary. She works as an IT specialist for the Department of Defense. Here she talks about her involvement with BB!, shares her favorite recipe for kale salad, and explains how much it means to her to be a calendar model.

How did you hear about Beyond Boobs!?ma

I have a friend who knew about Beyond Boobs! She passed my information to the executive director, Mary Beth Gibson. The rest is history.

Who are your biggest supporters?

My biggest supporters are my husband, my daughter, my mom, and my closest friends, Jackie and Erica.

What is your favorite healthy food/dish?

Currently my favorite health food is kale salad. I first tasted it at the Beyond Boobs! retreat. One of the Boober! sisters brought it. My husband and I now eat it every day for lunch. It has kale, carrots, red onions, cherry tomatoes, craisins, and a light vinaigrette dressing. It’s practically all raw and delicious!

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

I’ve never really been star-struck. I did love to watch Scottie Pippen play basketball when he played for the Chicago Bulls and I had a poster of him on my bedroom wall.

One word to describe yourself:

Happy!

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

I am really excited to represent this organization. I’m also excited to be able to share my story with other women who need to know that breast cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I am excited to have this platform to share that, despite how scary this road can be, there are others here for you if you let them.

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

It was probably the “joy” of trying to get the photo shoot just right. That will be an inside joke until September. I was impressed with the creative thoughts. It meant a lot that Beyond Boobs! wanted to perfect the moment.

, July 10, 2015 | More Post by

Jennifer Holub Cherry was already familiar with Beyond Boobs! when she was diagnosed with Stage 2B ductal carcinoma in situ in late January of 2013. She had learned about BB! when she saw the group at several different community events. When Jennifer was diagnosed after the first mass in her breast was found during a routine annual mammogram and a subsequent MRI found the other two, she knew she needed and wanted to be a part of BB!. She attended her first meeting within two weeks of her diagnosis and since she was joining such a loving, dedicated group of Boobers!, it was only fitting that her first meeting took place on Valentine’s Day.Jenn Cherry

Jennifer works as a business and facilities manager and has a 16-year-old daughter named Katelynn. Three fur babies also have free roam of the Cherry home in Newport News: Buddy James, a pit bull/boxer mix; Tyler John, a miniature pinscher; and Bella Bean, a spoiled rotten nine-month-old kitten.

Today we get a chance to peer behind the curtain to learn more about Jennifer, including a must-have item for her beach bag, her teenage fantasies about John Stamos, and her involvement with Beyond Boobs! as a model for A Calendar to Live By 2016.

What is your favorite summer beach read?

Any romance novel. Throw in a little comedy and I’ll have it finished in no time, ready for the next one!

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

Everything is YOUR decision. Listen to what the doctors advise you to do, listen to what your family and friends advise you to do, but at the end of the day, it is ultimately YOUR decision what you will do, because IT IS YOUR LIFE and YOU HAVE TO LIVE IT!

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

John Stamos!! He first played “Blackie” on General Hospital and I was hooked. Even though we weren’t supposed to watch soap operas, my grandmother would let us get away with it and we could watch them with her. I just wanted to run my fingers through that silky black hair and have him sing to me all night long!

What is your favorite BB! event or activity?

The Old Dudes Motorcycle Club Poker Run is one of my favorite BB! events. Spending time with such an amazing group of Dudes and Dudettes who give so much of themselves to help us is truly priceless. They give of their time, talents, and money and ask for absolutely nothing in return. They are truly an inspiration and I can’t thank them enough for what they do for our wonderful survivors! Thank you and we love each and every one of you!!

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

Being selected means I can spread the BB! mission that much more than I already do. I will be able to make more people aware of why we are here and what our goals are for young women diagnosed with breast cancer. I can help educate more and more people and have a larger impact in the breast-cancer community. God kept me around for a reason, and spreading the message of BB! is part of that reason.

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

The beautiful [videographer] Alexis [Kikoen] was asking me questions for the video when I suddenly got emotional. I was talking about someone extremely important to me and I couldn’t look at her even though she was standing right there next to Alexis because I knew if I did, I would totally lose control. As everyone knows, I don’t like to lose control! When you see the video you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

, July 10, 2015 | More Post by

pink carpet logoThe wait is over! The 2016 calendar models have been selected and will soon stroll into history at the Pink Carpet Gala in Williamsburg on September 19th. Click here to purchase your tickets for this amazing night of glitz, glamour, and inspiring stories. As we prepare for the big reveal in September, join us for the next 11 weeks for the “Calendar Girls 2016” BLOG Series. We will hear from the ladies, in their own words, as they talk about life, survival, and the honor of representing BB! as calendar models.

Category: Blog