hereforthegirls | Thoughts from a Survivor
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, August 09, 2017 | More Post by

Natalie Bare was one of our Starlets of Dance in 2015! Here she is at that event.

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

I would say deciding to start figure skating as an adult has been a defining moment in my life. Skating has taught me discipline and perseverance and how to have fun and laugh at myself. I was able to keep skating during my chemo and radiation treatments. It was good to have something normal to keep going to. Since starting skating I have won two national metals the first one came to weeks after my diagnosis and then the second one came this year in April. Skating is giving me a whole group of friends of a variety of ages from children to octogenarians who inspire me and keep me going.

-Natalie Bare

, August 09, 2017 | More Post by

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

When my one and only child was born on Aug 22, 2009, I learned about my capacity for love and what my purpose was on this earth (Newsha and her daughter are pictured left). I felt a love I had NEVER felt before, and I was shocked by it. As a girl I was incredibly attached to my grandmother. When I met my husband, I fell so wildly in love that I feared that I could not handle it. But when Azi was born, I just stared and stared at her in awe with my heart, that was overflowing with love for this being; I felt disbelief that she grew inside me, and a daunting fear that she would somehow get hurt.

Years of doubt about my purpose in life were erased when I realized I had to work so hard to feed, protect and grow this child into a good world citizen. I learned to be less self-centered and suck it up and put on a happy face sometimes, especially during chemo. I learned to love others more and push aside embarrassment in order to take care of my daughter. She changed me completely.

-Newsha Dau

, August 09, 2017 | More Post by

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

When I was in college, I went through Rush, however, I did not get selected by a sorority. Surprisingly, looking back, I am glad that no one picked me. Because, later that semester, the school’s administration decided that the female students had more interest in belonging to a sorority than the current four could handle. They decided to ask another sorority to found a chapter on our campus, which I joined. We were a small but mighty group of women who bonded immediately and created memories and traditions that the chapter still continues. During the remaining years at school, those women became my closest friends and many still are today.

Fast forward 20+ years to homecoming in the fall of 2016. I had been diagnosed the previous July and was up at homecoming with my family. Unbeknownst to me, my husband and friends had contacted the current chapter of women at my school and had created a “Titan Strong” (Titan is our mascot) t-shirt for everyone to wear in support of me. I came around the corner to the Chapter Room and there stood 41 college students with the t-shirt on. Now, these women didn’t know me, I didn’t know them, but because we are sisters, they did everything they could to support me. They wrote letters of encouragement to me, my husband and my children. One of them had #katystrong buttons made and another’s mom knitted me a prayer shawl. There were a lot of tears shed that day, but they were happy tears because of the love that I felt from each one of these women.

What I have come to realize from 20+ years ago is that sisterhood has no boundaries. Distance, age, generation or background does not define who a sister can be. I have been welcomed as a sister throughout my life into organizations I never believed would have such an impact on my life. We had an expression in my sorority that has stayed with me throughout my life, “Love in our bond.” To me this is sisterhood defined and has been a guiding principle of my life for the last 20+ years.

-Katy Loy

, August 04, 2017 | More Post by

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

A time that made a big impact on my life was when I passed my Pharmacy Technician exam. I knew this new career change would be challenging and would allow me to be able to work anywhere. This  is a great thing because I would love to live in another state and see what life has to offer myself and my daughters.

-Letoria Boykin

, August 03, 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 genetic predisposition and breast cancer. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos). (* 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.) 

Inheritance played a lot in my diagnosis and I didn’t even know it. My mom died of a rare type of lung cancer called mesothelioma at 49. Her dad died of esophageal cancer. But there was no breast cancer at all on either side of my family until my second cousin’s daughter on my mom’s side was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36. It turns out, her dad (my second cousin) had the bRCA2 gene. He never had cancer and he is in his 70s.

Unfortunately, this information was not shared with me since I am not close to this side of the family. I was diagnosed six years later with stage 1 HER2 at 42 with the BRCA2 gene. Looking back, it was a missed opportunity for me to be an advocate for my own health. If I would have understood hereditary breast cancer risks, I would have pushed to be tested years ago.

-Christina

, July 28, 2017 | More Post by

2018 calendar model Jamie Vanek and her kids on her favorite trail near her home.

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

Meet Calendar Model Jamie Vanek

10 years ago I uprooted my life to move to a state that I hated with a man that I loved. I hated everything about Virginia until I discovered Newport News’ little treasure, the Noland Trail. When my husband first showed it to me I told him I couldn’t run 5 miles. But later, it is on this trail that I fell in love with running and truly accepted my new home. From this trail I trained for my first marathon, planned our new house, explored with our children, and pondered life. So much has happened in 10 years and so much of it has happened around this location.

-Jamie

, July 26, 2017 | More Post by

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

Meet Calendar Model Cheri Lavalle

November 20, 2007 was the day I married my best friend Hector. He has been the most remarkable person in my life. He has cared and supported me through the most traumatic time of my life which is breast cancer. He has told me how beautiful I am with no hair, how strong I am at my weakest moment and how much he loves me even though cancer has consumed the past 3 years of our marriage. I  cannot imagine my life and this journey of cancer without him.

-Cheri

, July 25, 2017 | More Post by

Our new A Calendar to Live By 2018 will be unveiled at the Pink Carpet Gala on September 9, and we’re so excited that the big day is almost here! We’re offering you a brief introduction to the 2018 calendar girls team here on our blog – we asked them to share a story about one of their life-shaping moments and we’ll post the responses here over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come meet these women at the Gala! Click HERE for a link if you’d like to learn more or get tickets!

Meet Calendar Model Miki Fett

Unbelievably, moving to Hawaii with my handsome new groom was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life (besides beating cancer!). It was a year of changes and adjustments… I had never been this far away from family and friends, my husband and I had never even lived in the same state.

A year later, once we had it all figured out, he was deploying for 15 months. I was going to be alone, on an island, far from home. A week after his deployment, a kind voice on my answering machine said her husband sat by my husband on the plane to Kuwait, had mentioned that his wife needed a friend, and passed along my number. Should I call her back, I wondered? She took a chance by calling me so I gave it a shot.

11 years later, we are still the best of friends.  We’ve been through and hell and back together. During that 15 month deployment, we bonded with six other ladies too (we’re all pictured here) and they’ve all taught me life lessons… the biggest one being that blood does not make you family. It is the experiences and bonds shared, being sisters for one and another that does. I have a wonderful blood and unrelated family, these ladies have had the largest impact on my life and I carry a piece of them with me always. We are the Band of Sisters and my life was forever changed by making that phone call.

-Miki

, June 28, 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.) 

The morning my colleague, Mary, came to my desk and asked if she could speak to me, I knew something was terribly wrong. I saw fear in her eyes — the same emotion I had experienced upon receiving my breast cancer diagnosis several years earlier. Mary confirmed then what I had suspected — she had just recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed to speak with someone who had been through what she now faced.

I recalled the early days of my diagnosis and the positive support, offers of prayers and encouraging words from friends and family that carried me through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. I knew Mary had to hear encouraging words and though my heart was aching for her that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I imparted words of encouragement and comfort to her as best I could. We spoke about treatment and what she might experience while undergoing chemotherapy. I shared with her how I handled hair loss, appetite loss and other debilitating effects of chemotherapy. We spoke about undergoing a mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive surgery. We joked that reconstructive surgery was the ‘up’ side of having breast cancer.

While Mary was going through chemotherapy, she often shared with me the symptoms she was experiencing and I told her I had experienced similar symptoms but that she wasn’t to worry, the side effects were temporary. I told Mary that in a year’s time, it would be she who would be supporting a breast cancer survivor. So, Mary bravely forged ahead in her battle against cancer and while she continued treatment, we shared happy moments even through the rough times.

Then, Mary was dealt a devastating blow. Her cancer, a particularly aggressive type, was not responding to treatment and had metastasized. In just over a year of receiving her diagnosis, Mary lost her battle and passed away. I was heartbroken.

At her visitation, I stared at Mary’s face in the collage of photographs her family had compiled, trying to formulate an apology to her. I thought I had let her down, given her hope where none existed. Then, I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. It was Mary’s sister, Kelly. “Francine,” she said. “Mary often spoke of how she drew strength from speaking with you.” I started crying then, not only for Mary but because, as Kelly explained, Mary never gave up hope, right to the end and I felt comforted that, in some small way, I had contributed to her courageous battle.

-Francine

, 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.