For the girls

For the girls

The Official Blog of Here for the girls

, November 14, 2014 | More Post by

Faith Unites Mother and Daughter


Joanne Cox was stunned when her daughter, Boober! and 2015 calendar model Donna Matherne, told her she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Donna fought to get a correct diagnosis for more than a year before she was diagnosed in 2009. Up until then the doctors had told her she had inflammation in her breast from nursing her newborn son.Joanne&DonnaCurrent

“The doctors had told her not to worry and that it was nothing, so that’s what I believed,” Joanne said. “Hearing her tell me she had breast cancer was scary.”

Joanne has always placed her faith in the Lord and she knew her daughter was a strong woman. “When Donna was diagnosed, she told us she was going to get better and that was all there was to it,” Joanne recalled.

All-American girl

Joanne’s husband Don worked for the government and Donna, her second child, was born in a British nursing home in Bangkok. “While I was pregnant I thought I was going to have another son,” Joanne said. “But I prayed for a girl and I was ecstatic when my daughter was born.”

From her earliest days Donna showed signs of growing up to be a strong, independent adult. “When she was a toddler, I would always tell her, ‘I don’t know what you’re going to be, but you’re going to be the boss of it,’” Joanne said. “Donna was very determined. She didn’t even bother with crawling. When she was 14 months old she just started walking.”

Being with her children always made Joanne happy. “It’s an amazing thing to think of a child growing inside of you,” she said. “When I was pregnant I would sing and talk to each of my babies and wonder what they were going to be like after they were born.”

Joanne described Donna as a quiet, observant little girl. As Donna got older she had lots of friends and was involved in several activities, including Girl Scouts and running track in high school. “She was a very involved, sweet girl,” Joanne said.

Conflicting roles

Donna’s first cancer diagnosis came as her father struggled with kidney failure. Joanne had retired from her job as a schoolteacher in Northern Virginia so she could care for her ailing husband. When her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer she felt torn in two directions. Should she stay with her sick husband or should she travel to Germany, where Donna and her husband Chris were stationed with the Army? Her daughter had just been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and she wanted to be with her child. However, her husband was battling a terminal illness and she wanted to provide love and comfort to him, too.

Joanne decided to make a brief trip to Germany to be with Donna while she was undergoing chemo. Donna also had her first mastectomy surgery in Europe after Joanne had returned to the States. Even though she wanted to be with her daughter when she had her reconstruction surgeries, Don had taken a turn for the worst and Joanne wasn’t sure if she could leave her husband’s side. Ultimately Donna came back to Virginia for her reconstruction surgeries and had the first one at Portsmouth Naval Hospital shortly before her father passed away.

Life after loss

For six months the whole family was together, and then Don decided he no longer wanted to undergo dialysis. Donna, her brother Carl, and Joanne sat with him at the house, talking to him and telling him what a good dad and husband he had been. When Joanne briefly let go of Don’s hand, he passed away.

“My children and grandchildren were my salvation after my husband died,” Joanne said. “They gave me purpose and kept me from sitting around feeling sorry for myself.”

When Donna was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in 2012 Joanne stayed with the family, helping Donna with housework and caring for her two sons, Nathan and Joseph.

“She is my baby and I wanted to do everything I could to help her,” Joanne said. “Donna is my hero. She felt so much pain and nausea during her cancer treatments. She lost a part of her body during her mastectomy and I just can’t imagine that.”

Lots of thoughts entered Joanne’s mind during Donna’s two bouts with breast cancer, but she placed all of her trust in the Lord and prayed to him for guidance and strength. “I pray for my family every day,” Joanne said. “I pray for each little issue in their lives and for their futures. I’m not young, but I am strong and I want to help my daughter in every way that I can.”






Category: Blog

, November 07, 2014 | More Post by


Cancer Diagnosis Can’t Diminish Couple’s Devotion


Mike Birgen and his wife Christy love each other so much they got married twice. They wed in December 2005, once on land by a Justice of the Peace and again on a Disney cruise by the ship’s captain.

Christy&MikeBirgen“Every year we celebrate two anniversaries,” Mike explained. “I give her roses both days. On the first day she chooses what she wants for dinner and I make a special meal for the two of us at home. The second day we go out and celebrate again.”

The couple met on Mike saw her picture and read her profile on the site and decided to send her a message. The two hit it off and spoke on the phone every day. Mike lived in Virginia Beach and Christy was in Maine at the time so he would fly up to visit her every two months. After they got married Christy relocated to Virginia Beach. The couple has two teenage sons, Ryan and Jacob.

A heart-wrenching diagnosis

Christy was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2013. She underwent a lumpectomy and a mastectomy of her left breast. She had TRAM reconstruction surgery and is scheduled for more surgeries in the near future.

“My wife’s breast cancer diagnosis was heart wrenching,” Mike said. “She was at work when the doctor called to tell her the news and I told her she needed to come home right away. At that time we talked about what she was feeling and what her options were.”

Christy’s diagnosis was not Mike’s first experience with cancer. His grandmother was diagnosed and passed away when he was a teenager.

The couple decided not to tell their sons about their mother’s cancer diagnosis right away. They wanted to wait until after they had received more information from the clinic.

“The boys and I, all three of us, were wait staff for Christy after her surgery,” Mike said. “She had a phone by her bed and called the boys whenever she needed help. They didn’t complain and would drop whatever they were doing to help her.”

Mike admits that he often felt helpless during his wife’s cancer treatments and surgeries, but he did his best to be there for her and to hold her hand. “It was my job to be strong for her,” he said.

The darkest night

After her surgery Christy didn’t want to talk to her husband about her cancer. She would talk with him about other things, but whenever the subject of her cancer came up she wouldn’t discuss it. She told him that he didn’t understand what she was going through. Mike, upset and concerned about his wife, found Beyond Boobs! one night during an Internet search. He contacted the group and they called a few hours later to talk to Christy at 2:30 in the morning.

“I sat downstairs while she talked on the phone upstairs,” Mike recalled. “I owe so much to Shawni [Twyman] and Charlene [Cattoi] from Beyond Boobs! They gave me my wife back that night.”

Love after cancer

Mike feels that he and Christy have an even stronger bond after what they have been through together. “After her surgeries I still kissed her in all the same places,” he said. “I would kiss her where her breast used to be so that she wouldn’t feel the loss. I love her for who she is and her boob doesn’t make a difference to me.”

Mike advises other husbands whose wives face a cancer diagnosis to be there for their partners and to help guide them. “Be there for your wives however you can,” he said. “If you encounter problems, a cancer-support group can offer help. Beyond Boobs! is amazing and they have made all the difference in the world for us.”




Category: Blog

, October 31, 2014 | More Post by
Behind the White Coat ~ Cancer through an Oncologist’s Eyes

By: Jamie McAllister

Dr. Christina W. Prillaman drives 45 minutes each way every day from her home in Newport News to her practice at Virginia Oncology Associates in Williamsburg. In the morning she is eager to get to work and see patients. At the end of the day she takes those miles a little bit slower in order to give herself time to decompress and make the transition from her professional role as a healer to her personal role as wife and mother of two teenagers.

A Day in the Life

A typical day for Christina starts with arriving at the clinic and following up with 30-50 patients who are receiving injections or chemotherapy in the back rooms. She also sees new patients, spending a little more time with them as she gets to know their histories and conditions. Later in the day she is pulled over to the treatment side to see more patients and review pathology reports and studies. Several of the patients she treats are women from Beyond Boobs!

After a busy day at the office Christina heads home to dinner with her family. Henry, her husband of 22 years, is also a doctor. He too sees cancer patients at his urology practice.

“Having two doctors married to each other isn’t for everyone,” Christina said. “For us, though, it works. We try not to dump too much on each other, but we know we have someone there if we need a sounding board. There is also a lot of understanding between us about being late and appreciating what the other goes through at work.”Dr. Prillaman & Son

Dr. Prillaman & DaughterChristina and Henry have two children: Grace, a high school senior, and William, a freshman. Grace has been applying to colleges and recently told her mother that she wants to pursue a career in medicine, too.

A View from Both Sides of the Bed

Christina understands what her cancer patients and their families go through because she was in their shoes – twice. When she was in college her mother was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer from a blood disorder and her father developed cancer of the pancreas and kidney. He did not survive.

“My experiences with my parents’ illnesses frame my practice,” Christina said. “In my lifetime I have found myself on both sides of the patient bed and that has given me a deeper understanding of what my patients and their family members are going through after a cancer diagnosis.”

She wants her patients to feel in control of their treatment and their lives, with or without cancer. She believes that the patient is the captain of the ship and she is the rudder, offering guidance and helping to steer treatment.

Pyramid of Perspective

Christina joked that she is better at hooking and unhooking a bra than a teenage boy. She uses humor to keep her job and her life in perspective.

“People are amazing,” she said. “I love seeing my patients and staff every day. I had a medical student with me one day while visiting a patient who had had breast reconstruction and she flashed her new boobs to the student. I love seeing how humor and the human spirit can help people overcome.”

Even though Christina strives to keep up her patients’ spirits as well as her own, there are days that are just miserable. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a living nightmare for patients and their families, but it is just as heartbreaking for the doctor who has to deliver it.

“It is miserable to give someone a cancer diagnosis,” Christina said in a quiet voice. “The sadness is overwhelming. If a patient suffers a relapse I have to try to buck up and deliver a message of hope to that person.”

Even though she knows that she did not put the cancer in that patient’s body, when a patient suffers a relapse she often blames herself.

“I wonder if I missed something or if there was something more I could have done for that patient,” she said. “I have to remind myself that just because I feel pain and grief doesn’t mean that there were errors.”

When Christina was deciding on whether or not to pursue a medical career in college she spent time with a relative who was an anesthesiologist. One of the first things he did when she visited him was draw a big triangle on a piece of paper. He said that at times in her career as a doctor, it would seem like everyone in the whole world was sick. He pointed to the wide base of the pyramid and said that that represented the entire population of generally healthy people. At the tip was the patients she would see. He told her that, while some people are sick, the majority are well. Christina took that lesson to heart and, on bad days, recalls that pyramid of perspective.

“When I am having a really bad day I will try to keep things in perspective,” she said. “I believe that knowledge is power and I try to arm myself with a plan to get through whatever is troubling me or my patient.”

A Doctor’s Advice

Christina sees cancer in all of its forms every single day. She cheers her patients through the highs and cries with them during the lows. She has a deeper appreciation for life in general and doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

“I encourage all of my patients to live life right now,” she said. “You’re well now and you need to enjoy that. I want everyone to be involved with life and not be absorbed by the minutiae of a cancer diagnosis. Take care of yourself, do what you can, and enjoy life.”

Category: Blog

, October 24, 2014 | More Post by

Welcome to our new Blog series, Beyond the Boobers!, Stories of  Support.   We begin with The Mammosphere, reflections from one of our Boobers! as she shares some of the feelings and fears that persist after the initial treatments are over.  As we know, our Boobers! don’t walk through the Mammosphere alone, and friends, family members, and caregivers also are confronted with their own challenges when facing the disease.  The stories that follow expose the experiences of caregivers based on interviews our blogger conducted with a variety of individuals who have helped love our Boobers! through breast cancer.  

By Becca Ostman

As I stroll leisurely through the doors to the Breast Center, the stark contrast of my current self, to the me that walked in here almost three years ago, is overwhelming. I barely remember that scared little girl, shaking, nearly crying, touching my lump every 30 seconds hoping to find it gone so I could cancel the appointment and run out. If I met her today, oh the things we would talk about! So many things I would share with her, warn her about, comfort her on. But today, I’m not that girl. That girl was shipped off with my right breast to pathology in a biohazard bag.becca for blog

I’m a different woman now, a phoenix, a recreation arisen from the ashes of my cancer journey. I’m confident, armor plated, irreverently fearless. The results of this mammogram don’t matter because I’ve done it before and I could do it again. I know what “you have cancer” sounds like, and what follows it, so the thought of hearing “you have cancer again” isn’t scary. I liken it to going in for an oil change and being told I need a new transmission. Ok, well get on with the repairs then.

The Waiting Room: “I can’t bite my tongue on her crappy sales pitch.”

In the main waiting room, I chat with the other women. The front desk lady says I don’t have to fill anything out, they have all my info. The women waiting, filling out their endless forms, look up, perplexed as to why. I joke that “I have a cancer fast pass past the paperwork. It’s like Disney, but the rides are less fun.” Their faces relax just a bit, their shoulders slip down, they seem to breathe a little deeper. They smile and giggle at my off-color humor and flippant joke.

One woman asks the front desk lady if she needs 3D mammography as she encounters a form about it. The lady says, “It’s an additional diagnostic tool, it’s optional and insurance doesn’t cover it.” I can’t bite my tongue on her crappy sales pitch. Post-cancer Me KNOWS the correct answer to her question. This Me isn’t sitting there agreeing to whatever the nice people in scrubs say because they HAVE to be leading me in the right direction, right? I tell her how 3D can see things that regular mammo can’t. I tell her how my own tumor could be seen from across the room through my shirt like a third boob, but did not appear on a mammogram or ultrasound. I tell her that good old-fashioned self-inspection is still a monthly must do, but 3D mammo has been shown to detect tumors that regular mammo can’t and it is very proactive and worth it if she can afford it.

As I’m saying all this, my arm flies up involuntarily like a breast cancer info-puppet on a string and demonstrates good self-exam technique. She tells the front desk girl she has changed her mind, she wants 3D. The lady next to her mentions that she does her monthly self-exams and every time she hits her pace maker, she freaks for a second. I tell her I have the same reaction to my scar tissue sometimes, but congratulate her on doing the self-exams monthly. They call my name and I wish them luck. As I walk to the next corral, I say a silent prayer that the one lady’s 3D is clean and the other lady always finds only her pacemaker.

The Inner Waiting Room: “Her eyes are bleeding unadulterated terror.”

I walk into the inner waiting room. I know where the lockers are, where to change. I don’t really hear the instructions from my escort nurse, because I am already scanning the faces of the other girls. I change, barely wrap my gown around me; keep my phone in my pocket, despite knowing I’m not supposed to. I lock up my stuff and sit down.

A soap opera plays on the TV as always, which annoys me, as always. Why play a TV show that overdramatizes EVERYTHING while a room full of scared women wait to hear if they have suspicious breast tissue? I wish I could put on animal planet or something relaxing for them. It is a silent room as usual. I smile chat with two women close to me until they mention Chinese food. I joke that they made me hungry. One says she is headed home to “eat the fridge.” I pipe up and say “fresh veggies and hormone free meat only right? It prevents cancer!” I realize I sound like an overbearing health food infomercial. But maybe they will do some Googling.

Two 20- and 30-something ladies sit in the corner, arms folded, scrutinizing their shoes. I know that posture. This is not a preventative mammo. They are here to further investigate something. I smile at them knowingly. There are a zillion things I want to say, but now is not the time. I wonder if I will see them at a meeting in the coming months, if they will pick up a Beyond Boobs! rack card on the way out. I hope not.

My own posture is relaxed. I stretch out sideways on a couch, like I live there, feet up, annoying one of the nurses. A new lady checks in. I see her face not register anything her nurse escort says, not because she is comfortable like me but because her eyes are bleeding unadulterated terror and all she can look at is the other women waiting. Her nurse scuttles off to get the next woman and the new patient stumbles around trying to remember what the nurse said. I get her a locker key and open the changing room door for her. “You can change in here,” I say, “then lock up your stuff and come join the party with us.” She finally exhales; I can see she feels a bit less alone despite the six other women here. Another woman’s name is called. It shakes the magazine right out of her hand. She goes to pick it up and I grab it saying, “I got you” with a wink. She smiles. I got you. I wish. I can’t get her anything to make this suck less.

Let the Pancaking Begin: “I feel tough, like a warrior, a soldier.”

They call me back. Everyone looks to my face; to know what to feel when their own name is called. I panic and buckle under the pressure. I fall back on what I always fall back on in this situation: inappropriate humor. “Let the pancaking begin,” I say with a confident smile, and storm through the doors like I have an “S” on my chest and a cape trailing behind me. I have no idea if this was comforting or scary to them, but it was all I could muster.

In the room, I am checked in by a sweet little lady whose long dead parents’ anniversary and my birthday share a date. This is enough for bonding and we banter. She seemed shocked by my calm demeanor. I see this in her expression and say it doesn’t matter what you find today, because I’m getting the left one lopped off anyway prophylactically in September. She looks shocked for a second, then smiles. Thankfully, she understands my unorthodox breast cancer humor. We go through my history, the usual questions that I should be able to answer instantly, yet I stumble around them. Unlike most survivors, I don’t know all my dates off the top of my head because of my faulty stroke/chemo brain. I ball park my dates, since I know they don’t matter that much anyway. I jokingly tell her not to pop my implant as she readies the mammo machine, my “funny” propelling me onward. We both laugh.

Then the fun begins. I am thankful for the numbness in the front of my breast, but my ridge of scar tissue hurts as she takes the pictures, even though I can tell she isn’t squishing me as much as she should. I wonder if she sees me as fragile and get indignant for a split second, followed by feeling thankful. My chin keeps getting in the way, because I am protective and I want to see what is happening to my body. I want to watch as the machine closes down on it to be sure it stops; to be sure she doesn’t hurt me. She tells me I have to look away to get good pictures. She is nice so I choose to trust her and I look at the ceiling art, keeping my chin out of the way. We take four pictures, chit chatting between shots.

She politely asked if she can ask why I’m having a second a second mastectomy. These types of questions always amuse me, because she has effectively already asked. I tell her that it was recommended in the first place to remove both breasts, but that my partner at the time talked me into keeping one for the sake of our relationship, and then left me during chemo. She feels bad for asking the question and apologizes for dredging that up. I tell her it is OK and not to feel bad. I tell her it has made me stronger and now I’m making the right decision; the best decision for my breast health. I explain how I thought I would become very attached to my real breast and grow to hate my reconstructed breast, but that the opposite happened. I am protective of my reconstructed breast and completely emotionally detached from my real one. I see it as a bomb strapped to my chest, a disaster waiting to happen. I share that removing it is the right decision to lower my chances of recurrence. She looks at me for a split second like I have just said I plan to amputate my leg because my toe hurts, but then says “Good for you, girl, good for you,” as it fully processes. I feel tough, like a warrior, a soldier. I take a cell phone picture of the four shots, so I can self-diagnose in the waiting room. She tells me to go have a seat and she will let me know when I can go.

In the Lobster Tank

After sitting down, I immediately open my picture and start searching for anomalies. After two years of being a survivor, I’m pretty good at reading a mammogram. The first and second shots look okay. The third makes me a little nervous and I zoom in and out a lot. There are some spots I’m not very comfortable with. The fourth is just fuzzy. I start to wonder if there will be a retake. I noticed the other women watching me analyze the photo on my phone. I can see them longing for whatever knowledge I have that allows me to have an inkling of what to look for. I want to tell them what I’m doing and why, but I know it is inappropriate. I don’t want to scare them or encourage them to play doctor, so I stow my phone and smile a compassionate smile.

The women in the waiting room in the short time I was being mammoed are all different than the ones who were there when I was called back for my pictures. The turnover and a half an hour’s time is astounding to me. I have the abstract thought of lobsters in a tank and wonder if they think what we think when the lobster next to them is plucked out. The woman closest to me has the most scared expression I have seen today. I wonder if she has been called back for a second set of pictures or gotten the ambiguous letter that says the first results were inconclusive and to return for more screening or an ultrasound. I start to get a little nervous myself. The nurse had informed me that my doctor ordered immediate diagnostics on my images, so I know that a radiologist is back there scrutinizing the same dark spot that I am as I sit in the waiting room with the other lobsters. My nurse pops through the doorway like a groundhog popping out of a hole, bright and cheery, and says, “Come on back, Ms. Ostman, we’re going to take another shot.”

Another Shot: “Suddenly, I’m the Panicked Girl.”

The lump in the throat is instant. My jaw clenches. My arms fold instinctively. We are suddenly not old friends. The gown that has draped on me like an unnecessary jacket all morning, barely hiding the bumps I loosely view as breasts, I suddenly tied in a knot and a bow, as if to say, you’re not getting in this fortress lady. Not to my nurse, but to cancer. She escorts me into the room and asks if my mastectomy is already scheduled, I answer, “Not yet, I am planning for September unless these pictures necessitate it being earlier than that.”

She realizes I know exactly what is going on and cuts the crap. She tells me it is nothing like that and not to worry. She says she is sorry, but she is going to have to pinch harder because the scar tissue and implant are making it hard to read the third shot. I immediately eyeball the orders on the clipboard. She sees this and slides it to the far table. I begin strategically planning the moment I will take a peek at them when she isn’t looking. The breast cancer journey has taught me to get all the information I can no matter how it must be obtained. I have the tenacity of an FBI agent when it comes to my breast health. Beyond Boobs! has taught me to be observant, to gather intel, to question, to be aware. So I transform into a CIA operative instead of a frightened woman with her breast smooshed between two glass plates. She takes her shot; I cuss a little at the pain, and then walk over behind her, inching closer to the clipboard. She asks to see the screen shot I took on my phone earlier, saying, “who knew this would come in handy.” I show it to her and she compares shot #3 to the new shot and says, “Ok, just wanted to be sure we got everything I needed.” I don’t have time to watch her and see much on the clipboard other than the words, “continue screening.” This is no comfort and I silently curse my outdated contact lenses.

She escorts me to the holding tank again and I have no earthly idea what to conclude from the scraps of intel I have gathered. Suddenly, I am the panicked girl out there looking to other women for comfort, comfort that does not come as they stare back in equivalent blank fear. I lose track of time but begin memorizing the dirt spots on my shoes, arms folded, jaw clenched. How quickly I look like my pre-cancer self, how quickly the mighty phoenix, the Iron Boober!, shrinks into the chair in a puddle of worry.

Eventually my sweet nurse groundhogs out and says cheerfully, “Ok, Ms. Ostman, you are all set.” I say “thanks” way too chipper, like I have won a fruit basket. As we both exit in opposite directions, I know we both are aware that neither of us has a clue what either of us really meant, but that is how the game is played. Did her heart sink as she closed the door behind her, knowing I will get a call for an ultrasound? Or did she breathe a sigh of relief and smile, knowing I will share many more birthdays with her dead parents’ anniversary and my surgery will go as planned in September? Is she wondering if I bought it, and am strolling out into the sunshine to enjoy my day? Or does she know that I didn’t and I’m going to be a hot mess until I get my letter or call? Could the women watching tell anything from our exchange? This is the role we both must play, like spies, her betraying nothing to me or our audience of patients, I betraying nothing for the women looking to me as a confident survivor.

The Heart of a Boober!

It is different for all of us based on our situation when we step out into the hot sun after the sterile air conditioning of the mammography waiting room. But as Boobers!, no matter what we walk away with, we know we are not alone. And the more Beyond Boobs! grows, the more we know that women will KNOW where to turn if they walk out of their Breast Center with bad news.

I go to my car and back inside to top off the rack cards in the waiting room about BB! before I leave. This is one of my jobs for Beyond Boobs!, to keep our information in the offices at the Breast Centers.

As the automatic glass doors open, I see the scared 20-something woman exiting, with a few silent tears on her cheek, but a strong determined expression on her face. She has a “What Now?” Beyond Boobs! rack card in her hand and sees the refill stack of them in mine. I smile the best I’m there for you smile I can muster and say, “I hope to see you soon.” She smiles back, but does not slow her gait. I don’t press.

As soon as the glass doors close behind me, I lose it completely for her. But I know as I cry and restock the cards, why we do what we do, why we spend our time in this way. And I know that this time spent, just like my pending second mastectomy, is without question, the right decision.


Category: Blog

, September 17, 2014 | More Post by

Tracie Tysinger’s mission in life is to offer help and inspiration to women with breast cancer. Six months after she was diagnosed she became a Boober! and she is now a co-facilitator for the Peninsula metastatic group that boasts a membership of 20 women.20140912_123307-1

“I want women to get access to the information they need to know their bodies,” Tracie said. “I want women to have this calendar hanging on their walls so we can get the message out there about breast health.”

Tracie, 41, had a lot of fun posing for the calendar and she loved getting to know the other women involved in the project. “This calendar means more to me than just having my picture taken,” she said. “Through my photo I want to give a smile to the women going through treatment right now and let them know that if I can get through it, anyone can. I am proof that there is life after breast cancer.”

Tracie lives in Newport News with her husband Kevin and their two sons, CJ and Trevor. She is employed at a local Orthopaedic Office.

Category: Blog

, September 12, 2014 | More Post by

As a member of the Air Force, Rashida Mahoney knows about strength and dedication. As a breast cancer survivor, she wants to share that strength with other women who are facing a similar battle.image

Rashida, 30, was diagnosed in 2013. After just being diagnosed, she was working out at a boxing club and saw that the club supported breast cancer awareness. She thought maybe the Zumba instructor was a survivor so she summoned the courage to confide in her about her breast cancer. The instructor introduced her to a Boober! and soon Rashida was a Boober! herself.

“The first time I saw the Beyond Boobs! calendar I thought the women in it were professional models,” Rashida said. “When I realized I could be one of the models I submitted my information but I had no idea how it would turn out.”

Rashida loved her time in front of the camera. She shared the experience with two other strong women in her life, her mother and her nine-year-old daughter Kiara.

“I loved the whole experience of modeling for the calendar,” Rashida said. “It was a lot of fun and everyone there made sure I felt comfortable.”

Rashida believes every woman should educate and empower herself. She attends seminars to learn about women’s empowerment and resilience. Through her own public speaking she spreads awareness about breast cancer and seeks to teach others about the disease.

“Being part of a support group has been a blessing for me,” she said. “Not all people can relate to the physical and mental changes that a woman goes through when she has breast cancer. Things change so fast and being with other women who have had the same experiences helps me feel normal.”

Category: Blog

, September 05, 2014 | More Post by

Janet Knode of Norfolk is proud of her ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone. The 46-year-old Norfolk resident has been a delivery driver with UPS for 12 years and comes in contact with a variety of people every day on her route.Janet

“I love people,” Janet said. “I’m an outgoing person.”

But when Janet was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer on April 1, 2009, it was no laughing matter. A friend told her about Beyond Boobs! After she joined some of her friends who had been calendar models encouraged her to try the modeling experience herself.

“I wasn’t sure about being a calendar model,” Janet confided. “Even though I am an outgoing person, I developed low self-esteem because of my scars. Modeling for the Beyond Boobs! calendar was a kind of therapy for me. During the photo shoot I was able to let my inner spirit shine on my outward appearance, scars and all.”

Janet admits the photography session was difficult for her. “I was a little stressed and nervous,” she said. “I’m not good at having my picture taken. But it was great to do something different. Everyone there was laughing and supportive and they made the experience fun for me.”

When Janet was diagnosed with breast cancer she adopted a lab/Great Dane mix named Kemosabi. He and her 17-year-old dachshund Sparky were beside her every step of the way during her treatment and recovery. When she isn’t driving her delivery route or volunteering with Beyond Boobs! she coaches an adult rec softball team called the Loggerheads.


Category: Blog

, August 29, 2014 | More Post by

Michele Yepez of Norfolk stumbled onto Beyond Boobs! after she went to another support group and left feeling more depressed than when she arrived. “I was reeling and upset after my breast cancer diagnosis and I felt so out of place at the first support group I attended,” Michele said. “I went to a BB! support group and the women there were so loving and full of life.”Headshot

Another calendar model encouraged Michele to submit a modeling application a couple months after she became a Boober! “I wanted a way to accept my diagnosis and move on with my life,” Michele explained. “I had to write a bio for the application and that was the first time I really put in writing how I felt. I started writing and the thoughts and feelings just kept on coming. It was such an emotional release for me and really helped me open up to myself.”

Michele had a lot of fun during the photo shoot but it was still a scary and taxing experience for her. “I was bald and not really comfortable without my wig,” she said. “I wanted to wear my usual bold makeup and look dressy but I started to doubt my choice because of my baldness. Now that my hair is starting to grow back I am more comfortable with the way I looked at the shoot.”

It was difficult for Michele not to be able to see the photos after becoming so emotionally invested in the project. She is eagerly awaiting the grand unveiling at the Gala in September. “Modeling in the calendar was definitely worth it,” she said. “The experience changed my outlook and gave all that I had been through new meaning.”

Michele has two children, Mathias and Elise. She works as a marketing manager for an insurance company.


Category: Blog

, August 22, 2014 | More Post by

Donna Matherne of Williamsburg, VA, has been a Boober! for a year-and-a-half. She and her husband Chris are parents to two boys, Nathan and Joseph, so it is difficult for her to attend other Beyond Boobs! fundraisers because of family commitments. That is why she is doing everything she can for the 2015 calendar in order to raise funds for the group.Donna M

“Beyond Boobs! has been so helpful for me,” Donna said. “I had good support from my family and friends but I didn’t have anyone who really knew what it was like to have breast cancer. Being a Boober! gives me the chance to connect with other survivors and vent my feelings. I can complain and give voice to my true emotions without worrying about being judged because I am with other ladies who have been through the same experiences.”

Donna, 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time in 2009 after trying to convince doctors that something was wrong for more than a year. The doctors kept telling her that everything was OK but she knew it wasn’t. She trusted herself and kept pushing to finally get the correct diagnosis. After six months of chemotherapy as well as reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy she was diagnosed with cancer again in 2012. She finished her second round of chemo last June. She stresses that women should trust their gut instincts and wants to share that message through her part in the calendar.

Donna believes that laughter is the best medicine and she received a hearty dose during her photo shoot. “There were lots of different movements for the poses and it was so comical,” she said. “Everyone at my shoot laughed the entire time. I had so much fun.”


Category: Blog

, August 15, 2014 | More Post by

Lucy McKay of Burke, VA, was first introduced to Beyond Boobs! when she attended the 2013 Dancing with the Stars event put on by BB!  She received a copy of A Calendar to Live By 2014, and when she saw it she knew that she wanted to be a part of

“I was in the middle of treatment when the photos were taken and I wanted to show people that a woman can be beautiful without hair,” she said. “In the midst of sickness, I was able to still have fun and keep a big smile on my face.”

Lucy has been through so much in the past four years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time in September of 2010. She had numerous surgeries and a double mastectomy as well as chemotherapy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer again in September of 2013, underwent 6 months of chemotherapy and had surgery at the end of July. In September she will undergo radiation treatment.

She said the best part of modeling for the calendar was the camaraderie amongst all the women. She was also impressed by the diversity of the models. “Women can open up the calendar and see themselves in the photos,” she said. “I love that the calendar models were chosen based on their diagnoses and other factors and not their appearances.”

Lucy, 46, is the Director of Finance for Hofheimer Family Law Firm in Virginia Beach. They specialize in divorce and custody cases for women only and are the largest firm in the nation to handle such cases. She and her husband Jon have two children, Myles, 8, and Liam, 5.