hereforthegirls | Thoughts from a Survivor
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, June 01, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our series, Co-Founders’ Corner! These are posts by either of our two Here for the Girls Co-Founders, Rene Bowditch or Mary Beth Gibson. Enjoy these (sometimes funny, sometimes serious, always interesting) reflections on life!

There are lots of different ways to put people into categories – like introverts or extroverts, spenders or savers, glass half full or glass half empty, cat lovers or dog lovers. You get the drift. I have fun putting people into categories, and I do it without judgment. People are just who they are.

One way I like to think about people as they travel along the river of life is in terms of speed boaters or kayakers. The speed boaters know what they want in life, they have set goals, and they have a route mapped out for getting there. They are full speed ahead. An example would be my brother. He knew by the age of 40 that he wanted to be a successful business owner, marry, and have children. And he did. I admire him greatly. I am so not him.

I am more like the kayaker. I am along for the ride, drift with the currents, steer when necessary, and paddle through the rapids. Here is an example:

I was in my late 30s and living a very contented life. Somehow the river had taken me to a nice smooth stretch where everything was just flowing along so comfortably, and I was enjoying the pleasant view along the way. I had an awesome job as a human resources executive in a Fortune 500 company. I was part of a successful team rolling out innovative strategies in our division that was being recognized across the company. I worked hard but was rewarded well – well enough that my husband was able to be a stay-at-home dad. He actually had the harder job – taking care of three boys under the age of 5 – but he enjoyed it, and he was good at it.

I received a call from a colleague, Carrie, who had just attended a personal development conference, and she was pumped. Now this was someone I worked with but didn’t know super well; she was so moved by her insights, she wanted to share them with me. She asked, “If you could do anything, and success was guaranteed, what would you do?” Without a whole lot of thought I immediately responded with, “I would be a rock star, like one of the Go Gos!” Carrie said, “Well then why aren’t you doing it?” “I can’t sing.” “Okay, well seriously, what would you do?” Again, without a whole lot of reflection but from the heart, I responded with, “I would start a non-profit for young women to help them improve self-esteem.” “Why aren’t you doing that?” she asked. Hmmm… Well, let me count the reasons: I have a job I really enjoy working with a great team doing great things. I get paid very well to do it. I am the sole bread winner, and Bo would not be able to replace our income even if he did work. And on top of that, I know nothing about running a non-profit and no idea how to start one.

That was the end of the conversation. I thought. Little did I know there was white water ahead, and I was going to have to start paddling like hell to get through it.

Fast forward two years. There was a major change in the company, and the promotion I had been promised was gone, along with my position. Out of the blue, the successful, happy HR executive was on the streets. The job I loved – that was my identity and that supported my family – was gone. I was shaken, scared, depressed, angry, confused, lost. Equipped with a decent severance package, I took some time off to enjoy my family before initiating a job search. A workshop I attended for people in transition presented the benefits of starting a franchise. I was hooked. I could start my own company and if I worked my ass off, could replace the income I had lost. I was used to hard work. I could do this, so with equal parts of trepidation and daring, I purchased a coaching franchise called The Entrepreneurs Source.

The stress of it all had taken its toll, however, and more rapids loomed ahead. Six weeks after investing most of our life savings in this franchise, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and immediately embarked upon a grueling, year-long treatment regimen that included intensive chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy and then radiation.

My comfortable existence was now completely shattered. I worked the new business while undergoing treatment, but it was hard having the energy to learn a completely new career while fighting for my life. Not to mention, the things I valued before, like money and professional success, weren’t high priorities any more.

It was during treatment that I met the woman who would ultimately become my friend and co-founder, Rene Bowditch. We began hosting a group for young women with breast cancer to offer them love, support, and encouragement while they were going through a life-transforming journey. That small support group, initially six women in Rene’s home, is now a ten-year-old non-profit that is continuing to grow and spread a special brand of love to young women all over the country affected by the devastating disease of breast cancer. And you know what? One of the most important things we do is help these women rebuild their self-esteem after breast cancer, and if they never had self-esteem, we help them build it now. Somehow the river had brought me to the thing that I said would do but was too afraid to.

I don’t know what else life has in store for me downstream, and my kayak may have dents, but I have my paddle and my helmet, and I know I will be okay.

, May 23, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share a story about helping another woman with breast cancer. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here. (* Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.) 

In June of 2015,  I was diagnosed with stage 2a, triple negative breast cancer. While fighting this battle, I met a young lady who was battling not only breast cancer, but also Stage 4 lung cancer. Before I got to know her, I observed her daily activities through her posts on Facebook and thought to myself, how in the world does she do it? She instantly became my SHE-RO. After treatment she would hit the gym or the track to work out. Meanwhile, I was too sick to do anything.

As the days went by, I began to see less of her but thought of her always. Then one day we ran into each other. We hugged and exchanged information. Late at night we would have our chats about the journey and committed to supporting one another no matter what. I eventually finished my chemo treatments and moved on to surgery and later radiation, while she was still undergoing chemo treatments. During this time, we didn’t talk as often because radiation took a toll on me. When I was finally done with all of my treatments in March of 2016, it was time to heal.  Many did not understand this process, but I knew one person understood. We started back calling and texting each other as the days went by and then suddenly, I didn’t hear from her. No returned calls or inbox messages. I grew a bit concerned but I didn’t have anyone to connect with to check on her. Then one day, I saw a post on her page from her son. He was scared and needed help. I sent him a message and told him to call me. Earlier that evening while having dinner with her son, she had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. After hearing this, I threw my clothes on and drove to meet him.

From that point on, I stayed with her. Her son didn’t know what to do and although she had a few friends by her side, no one really understood what was happening. They kept her in the hospital for a couple of weeks and then eventually released her… the cancer had spread to her brain rapidly and there was nothing else they could do. The last two weeks of her life, while trying to heal myself from the pain and stiffness that chemo left me with, I made sure to keep my word to her by helping her fight. Each day when she would wake up, her mother and I would pray over her and I would make her a breakfast juice or smoothie. Afterwards, we would get dressed and I would wheel her outside to get some sunlight for a few minutes and then bring her back in so that she could rest. Her mother eventually made her way down and was so grateful for my help. We agreed that I would stay and continue to help because it was needed as her health was declining quickly. It was challenging, but I remembered my promise to her.  I didn’t give up on her, even up until she took her last breath.

Since then, I have committed my life to helping others that have been impacted by can’t-cer; to be a light of HOPE, when at times it seems like there is none. I started a Facebook group just for women in my local area to help support one another.  From time to time we meet up to rally around each other because we have a special bond.

-Tiah

, May 04, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to the first in our series called Co-Founders’ Corner! These are posts by either of our two Here for the Girls Co-Founders, Rene Bowditch or Mary Beth Gibson. Enjoy these (sometimes funny, sometimes serious, always interesting) reflections on life!

Poor Monday. It has a real image problem. Most everybody loves Saturday. It’s the creamy filling in the Oreo cookie that is the weekend – sandwiched right in between the chocolate-ly goodness of Friday, the official launch of the weekend, and Sunday, the traditional day of rest and renewal. Thursday is pretty popular too as the prelude to the weekend. Wednesday’s claim to fame is as Hump Day gains it points and even the nondescript Tuesday has status as being the day after Monday, when one can breathe easy again. Poor maligned Monday.

Let me give you a few examples of just how bad it is. When I googled sayings for Monday, here are some of the ones I found:

If Monday had a face, I would punch it.

Go home Monday. No one likes you.

If each day is a gift, I would like to know where to return Mondays.

There should be a holiday for all the brave people who show up to work on Mondays.

Monday. How do I block you in real life?

Keep calm and pretend it’s not Monday.

Shortest horror story in history. Tomorrow is Monday.

Dear Monday. I think you should take a vacation. Seriously, no one will miss you.

I also unexpectedly discovered an interesting correlation between Mondays and coffee.

Too much Monday. Not enough coffee.

May your coffee be strong and your Monday be short.

Coffee. Because Monday happens every week.

Monday. I don’t think there will be enough coffee or enough middle fingers for today.

Apparently, if you don’t show up to Monday armed with massive quantities of coffee, you are doomed.

So who is responsible for this sad state of affairs? Well if we are going to assign blame, I guess we have to go back about 4,000 years. It was the Babylonians. They are the ones who decided to divide the 29 day lunar cycle into smaller periods of time and picked seven because it had mystical significance. And then beyond the Babylonians, we can attribute it to whoever decided in more modern times that Monday would be the official start of the work week and school week.

Because when you come right down to it, I believe the reason most people who resent Monday feel that way because it means they have to go back to either work or school. So the problem isn’t really Monday!! The problem isn’t even our attitude about Monday. The problem is we may not be content with what we have to do on Mondays – whatever our responsibilities are – and Monday is a reminder that we have to start it all over again until our next break from it. So here’s the solution. It is simple but may not easy.

We have two options:

We can change our responsibilities, or we can change our attitude.

I used to be one of the Monday moaners. And then I faced a serious health crisis that compelled me to reevaluate my life, my priorities, my values and also how I was spending my time versus how I wanted to be spending my time. That seismic shift resulted in a new attitude about many things including Mondays. Ultimately, here is what I believe is the most significant fact about Mondays:  They represent 1/7 of your life. So do you really want to spend your time dreading, complaining about, and wishing away 1/7 of your life? I know I don’t. So I embrace Monday as I do every other day of the week – with gratitude and the knowledge that I own it, and I am going to make it what I want it to be. Mondays are a gift I have no desire to return.

So I suggest we reconsider Mondays, and to help us, here are a few of the very few positive sayings I found in my Google search about Mondays.

Monday. A fresh start. Embrace it.

Monday, Funday. Live, Laugh, Love.

Monday is a new start of your life, new beginning, new perspective. Make today count.

Monday, just another day to be amazing.

Do what you love, and you will never dread Monday.

And of course, we can’t forget the coffee. It’s Monday. Grab some coffee and be awesome.

And if you are still not convinced, I’ll share this little-known fact with you: Monday is the only day of the week that is an anagram of a single word. And that word? It’s dynamo. So I leave you with this thought. When Monday rolls around again, and if you are lucky, it will continue to do so over and over and over again, just use it as a reminder that Monday is a special day for you to shine as the dynamo you are! And the coffee? It’s optional.

Mary Beth Gibson

, April 27, 2017 | More Post by

Julia is a Boober! who was invited to attend our “Renew, Restore, Retreat” this year and couldn’t make it. Since she’s many years out from her diagnosis, she had these thoughts to share about women who, like her, are at least a few years beyond treatment. We thought we’d pass along her insights and thoughtful words!

…I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 at the age of 44 (stage 1, estrogen receptor positive).

I had a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. I think no matter how good or bad your diagnosis is, it is a very traumatic experience and very frightening. Somehow reason and common sense don’t quite work anymore. It’s a challenge to find a balance and normalcy. But during this journey and through many doctor’s visits I had some words that stuck with me for years. You were probably told that the survival rate is 12 years. In your state of shock you don’t really understand the meaning. For me, it sounded like a death sentence in 12 years. I could not find any reason or sense in these words. I went on a search for survivors of more than that. I became obsessed with it. I joined Dr. Reed’s support group, I went to a retreat offered by Beyond Boobs! several years ago, and took part at the event “Dancing with the Survivors.” But I never met anybody who was a survivor for more of 4 or 5 years. I know it would have helped me to know at least one long-term survivor.

Today I am cancer-free for 9 years. My check-ups have been all good so far, and I feel good. Besides minor long-term side effects from radiation (times of fatigue, sudden pain attacks in the area of radiation), I have a normal life. I also learned that my grandmother had breast cancer in her 60s (which I never knew), and that she died of old age. Without knowing, I had a long-term survivor in front of me. She passed away over 30 years ago, so she could never tell me her story. There is a life after breast cancer, and there is a very good chance to live a long life and grow old. I don’t worry about numbers any more. I try things that I always wanted to do. After “Dancing with the Survivors” I continued with ballroom dancing and now I am competing with my new husband in Standard and Latin ballroom dance. My second dream is to have my own business and I just started to work as a freelance Graphic Designer.

I met a lot of other survivors who also struggled with the “12 year thing”. Don’t focus on this, it only means that today’s survival rates are very good. Every person and every diagnosis is different, but with today’s treatment options we all have (in general) the best chances.

It is okay to worried and to be scared. Don’t let anyone tell you how you have to feel. You can grieve as long as you need to, and then you are ready to move on. This is your life, and you set the rules. You need to let out your grief and sadness to get your strength to fight. Beyond Boobs! is an amazing group of extraordinary women and I can’t thank you all enough for the support you give to each other.

Hugs and Love,

Julia

, April 20, 2017 | More Post by

I am not a doctor, only a Lymphatic Fanatic. I am a 10-year breast cancer survivor with Lymphedema in my right arm. I am one of the 30% of women who will get Lymphedema as a result of a compromised lymphatic system due to surgery, removal of lymph nodes, and radiation. In fact, all breast cancer patients and survivors are at risk if their lymphatic system has been compromised from any of the aforementioned treatments for breast cancer. I know this because I have done my research. Like some of you, I have thoroughly researched everything to death!

Research can be good. Being an informed patient is tantamount to recovery. Being your best advocate and striving for risk reduction and prevention of further disease and illness is our global goal and responsibility.

Like everyone else, I have a busy life and many goals. One of my goals is to exercise more because we all know that exercise plays a huge part in lowering our risk of recurrence. But does exercise conflict with people who have Lymphedema?  Is it recommended that we not do “too much?”

While it is true that not all individuals who have had lymph node disruption (surgical or radiological) will develop Lymphedema, until physicians can better predict who is at greater risk for Lymphedema, a slow and progressive approach to exercise is advisable. In fact, working up to a level of exercise that promotes fitness while avoiding exacerbating the Lymphedema is a good goal.

Exercise for Lymphedema may be beneficial, however the question is how much is too much? That is very individual. It is important that any exercise program be gradually progressed to avoid sprain/strain. More importantly, a slow progression allows the individual to monitor their affected limb or limb at risk for any sensation of aching or fullness that could indicate an overwhelming of the lymphatic system. I love yoga. That is my favorite exercise. Sometimes, however, I notice my arm swells more or begins to feel heavier than usual. It is at those moments that I reel myself in and weigh the benefits of either changing my pose to accommodate my arm or possibly suffer consequences of too much strain and eventual additional swelling. Over the past years, I have learned my body and specifically the cues it sends me. We all must learn and listen to our own bodies.

One fact is certain…. exercise for Lymphedema is best done with compression on the affected limb. Compression garments actually provide a new “tight” skin for the muscles to contract against, assisting in pumping the lymph out of the extremity into the central circulation. When Lymphedema exists, the remaining lymph vessels that are functioning are working double time to try to carry the load. Wearing compression bandages/garments provides support to the skin and to the lymphatic vessels directly under the skin, called the superficial lymphatic network. It is these vessels that help to carry the load when the larger vessels have been cut away from the lymph nodes or have been damaged.

Cancer gave me a whole “New Me.” I may not be able to play tennis anymore, but I can certainly achieve my exercise goals nevertheless. Become informed about Lymphedema if you are at risk.  Recognize that certain types of exercise are considered higher risk than others for individuals with Lymphedema. For example, high speed activities like tennis, bowling and racquetball, place more stress on our arms. In my case, tennis was “too much” for my affected arm.

Unfortunately, even the guidelines put forth in the “Risk Reduction Guidelines” of most Lymphedema Centers and Research Facilities are “anecdotal” at the present time, because of the lack of controlled double-blind studies to prove their efficacy.  In addition, some medical professionals have taken the position that the individual with a limb at risk (or with Lymphedema) should go ahead and pursue whatever exercise/activity they wish and “see what happens.” What they fail to tell us is that, Lymphedema is a chronic condition, which, presently, has no cure.

So as you strive for a better “you,” strive to be informed about Lymphedema and ways to lower your risk as it pertains to exercise.  Always be aware of your arm and any possible changes after exercising and for goodness sake, wear your compression garment!

Peace and Veggies,

Carolyn I. Newman

(Carolyn is the President of Warrior Wear, Inc. (www.warriorwear4u.com), and graciously shared this post with us.)*

 

*Here for the Girls is grateful for our guest bloggers and by sharing their experiences is not promoting or endorsing any particular products or services.

, November 10, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

Melanie Georges has always loved to dance. She danced with her father, who headshot-for-melanie-georgesalso was a dance teacher, and as a teen she performed with a dance group at her Greek Orthodox Church. This year her passion for dance will light up the stage at Starlets of Dance.

Melanie was diagnosed with leukemia in 2004, and then in April of 2014 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found out about Beyond Boobs! through her oncologist, and shortly thereafter attended her first Not Your Typical Support System meeting.

She is undergoing her third round of chemo, and she has had to adapt her training schedule for Starlets around her energy levels during treatment. “I’ve gotten it down to a science,” said Melanie. “Since I receive a steroid with my chemo treatment every Monday and that gives me lots of energy, I make time to practice Monday evenings.”

Lauren Kelly, Director of Music in Motion Dance Academy, is Melanie’s instructor. “Melanie and I come together for a little over an hour each week and jump right into moving and grooving,” Lauren said. “It’s the best part of my whole week. Sometimes it’s serious, but most of the time it’s just plain fun. Melanie reminds me of what it’s like to open up your heart and your time to a new friend, and all the amazing things that come out of support for our fellow ladies.”

Melanie is pleased to have been selected as a performer. She is also a little nervous about the big night. “First and foremost, I want to do a good job,” she said. “I want to entertain people and make my family proud.” She and Lauren will perform a number from the musical Chicago, and Melanie wants to send a message to herself and the world. “I feel like cancer has taken away my femininity,” she said. “I am struggling with my attractiveness, which is why I want to be sexy and sassy on that stage.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Melanie.

, November 09, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

Deirdre Matthews danced in a recital when she was in kindergarten, and she deirdre-matthews-head-shotcan still remember the pink dress with white polka dots she wore that day. She lived vicariously through her two daughters when they took dance classes growing up, and now it’s her turn to hit the stage again during Starlets of Dance.

“I have always liked to dance,” Deirdre said. “It’s going to be so fun to up on the large stage at the Sandler Center.”

Deirdre has chosen a disco song to dance to and has been busy putting together the perfect outfit, including a pair of bell bottoms. She has been training with dance instructor Regina Kalbacher and feels like she has her routine down.

Regina has been having a blast working with Deirdre. “Little did I know how much the women from Beyond Boobs! would inspire me,” Regina said. “Their stories really touch my heart. Because of this and many other reasons, I have taken part in Starlets of Dance for the last four years. Working with survivors is a way for me to share my passion and joy for dance with survivors who could use dance in their lives.

“Dance has helped me personally get through some really tough times, and I’m honored to work with Deidre this year,” Regina continued “Her energy and excitement for the Hustle is a joy to watch. I’m so proud to see her improve each week and I look forward to her performance for all to see.”

Deirdre wants her dance to encourage all survivors to follow their dreams. “I hope my performance inspires someone to let loose and have fun,” she said. “Don’t let your diagnosis keep you down.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Dierdre.

, November 08, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

From the time she was a little girl, Lisa Marshall always wanted to take dance lisa-marshall-head-shotlessons, but her father couldn’t afford the extra expense. So when Lisa got involved with Beyond Boobs! in 2014, she knew right away she was going to one day compete in Starlets of Dance. For the first few years she could never incorporate the event into her schedule, but this year she is ready and eager to take the stage.

“Everything has worked out perfectly,” Lisa said. “The event is on November 13 and it is my thirteenth year as a breast cancer survivor. My father’s birthday is November 13 and I’m dedicating my performance to him. For some people, 13 may be an unlucky number. But for me, any number is a lucky number!”

Lisa is a retired schoolteacher, and she was thrilled when she found out her dance instructor, Melinda Trembley, is also a teacher. The two practice together after school at Melinda’s dance studio at Woodside High School in Newport News, Virginia.

“It’s so weird to walk through the school on my way to the studio,” Lisa said. “I love working with a fellow teacher, and I appreciate that she is willing to work with me after a long day of teaching.”

Lisa and Melinda developed the dance together, and Lisa is eager to tell a story through movement and song. “My first goal is not to make a fool of myself,” said Lisa, laughing. “I also want to entertain people. It’s a soulful dance, and people will realize that breast cancer is tragic, but I want to also tell them that cancer doesn’t have to overtake you. I am a thirteen-year survivor, and I want other women going through the same thing to take away the confidence to overcome their daily trials and tribulations.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Lisa.

, November 07, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

Shahana Keisler is no stranger to performing, but when she does she is head-shot-for-shahana-keisler1usually standing behind her trumpet. She currently plays in two orchestras in the area, and is ready to step outside of her comfort zone to perform during Starlets of Dance.

“I love to dance, and when I heard about this event it sounded like a great self-confidence booster,” Shahana said.

Shahana enjoys Latin rhythms, which is why she chose a tango for her performance. “Training has been very creative, fun, and challenging,” she said. “The dance evolves every time my instructor and I get together. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that I will be onstage at the Sandler Center, though.”

DeDe Anderson has been working with Shahana on her moves and getting her ready for the big night. “I’m no stranger to the illness our starlets have experienced,” said DeDe. “Cancer has affected too many of my immediate and extended family, and just one is unarguably too many. Shahana is a strong, sincere and funny young woman whom I enjoy working with. After speaking with her, seeing her strength and undefeated quick smile, this unexpected opportunity came along allowing me to show my support for Beyond Boobs! I’m able to use my passion to rejoice with these courageous woman who fought and still stand. I do this for them, my family, and anyone fighting or surviving.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Shahana.

, November 06, 2016 | More Post by

After weeks of training with professional instructors, seven survivors will grace the stage at this year’s Starlets of Dance, to take place on November 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks to learn more about these incredible women who are poised to dance their way into Beyond Boobs! history.

We would love to have you join us as this inspiring celebration of life and dance. Click HERE to purchase your ticket today.

When reigning Mr. Breast Fest Scott Mielock encouraged Rachel Kirkland to compete in Starlets of Dance, she went for it.

Rachel was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 2012, and she head-shot-for-rachel-kirklandbecame cancer-free that November. Four years later, she is celebrating her journey by practicing her dance routine for a performance at Starlets of Dance.

Rachel has been paired with professional dancer Melinda Mielock, Scott’s wife. The two will be dancing to a song from the group Gym Class Heroes. “Training has been great,” Rachel said. “It’s not something I have ever done before, and I’m really enjoying it. I look forward to each session, and Melinda and I laugh a lot.”

As Starlets of Dance draws closer, Rachel feels nervous about performing on the large stage at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach, but she is also excited. “I want to do my best and feel proud of myself,” she said. “I want my dance to be a moment in my life that is pure joy. Life is a gift, and I want to be present in that moment and soak it all in.”

Click here to see a video about what participating in Starlets of Dance has meant to Rachel.