For the girls

For the girls

The Official Blog of Here for the girls

, August 02, 2019 | More Post by

Age 45, diagnosed at 41

No family history, No known genetic mutation

Virginia first read that she had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) on a patient portal and 20 minutes later learned from her doctor by phone that DCIS was Stage 0 breast cancer. Three weeks earlier, she’d had her first annual screening mammogram. She was asked to return for additional images and then again for a biopsy. Until her doctor’s confirmation, she had never considered breast cancer to be a possibility. After two lumpectomies without clear margins, Virginia had a mastectomy and chose to remove the unaffected breast too. She later had reconstruction. An early education professional, wife, and mother to a pre-teen daughter, Virginia said she always struggled to balance family and work commitments, often ignoring her own needs. “Cancer made me realize how important I am in my own life! If I am not making myself a priority, I can’t be the best version of myself.” Virginia considers herself confident, valiant, and independent, like Beauty. The Beast she faces are her own feelings of guilt and inadequacy, especially from the emotional and physical scars of cancer. She has learned that when she offers grace and compassion to her demanding host, herself, she discovers the value and beauty within.

, August 02, 2019 | More Post by

Welcome to our blog series, Go Beyond Pink! That’s a name we use at Here for the Girls to describe the fun-tastic fundraisers our supporters host for us (or with us)! This series is all about Go Beyond Pink — why people do it, who’s got neat ideas, and how you can participate. And of course, the point of these events is to support our mission to improve the lives of young women affected by breast cancer. To learn more about how to go “beyond pink” with us or to volunteer at any of our events, contact vicki.vawter@hereforthegirls.org.

No matter what October means to you, it’s coming fast. And like a tsunami, pink waves of ribbons in all shapes and forms will decorate the isles of stores, packaging, products, and event flyers across your communities. It’s a thing of beauty, right? Well, kinda. As a nonprofit, we relish the idea that so many people, businesses, and groups want to support our cause and the women we serve — not just in October, but the rest of the year too. We call this desire to support us “going Beyond Pink” because it’s not just about wearing the ribbon; it’s about taking action.

In our H4TG culture, we use the pink heart versus the pink ribbon because for us it IS all about the love! To us, the love our supporters show us by hosting Go Beyond Pink events means obtaining much needed funds to provide more resources for women diagnosed with breast cancer, expand our programs and retreats (at no cost to participants), better equip our facilitators who are directly engaged with these women, and (let’s be honest) pay for office space, for ink cartridges, technology needs, and so much more. If participating in the events of October by hosting a profit share, donating, or creating an event “For the Girls” is calling to your heart – let me thank you in advance! If you support us during other months of the year too, may I just say, “You Rock!” We need this support and we are most grateful.

But, what really brings a smile to my face is something else. Most certainly the money raised is crucial and the chance to see the enthusiasm at each event and make new friends is so special, but it’s also something MUCH more. It’s the opportunity — no, the honor — to make even just one woman who’s facing the challenges of a breast cancer diagnosis feel that she is not alone in this fight. It’s knowing that because of this month and our chance to get our name out there even more than normal, someone new may find a sisterhood full of women who have been there. Scars and all – skin deep or hidden inside. She will find that Here for the Girls offers a sense of hope, a place to ask questions, a network of ladies who understand, an opportunity to encourage others just by listening, or just a place to vent frustrations before heading back to work or to take care of her family.

So bring on the craziness of Pink-tober, we can handle it! We are all in this together and thanks to our supporters, donors, and friends in the communities we serve, it’s going to be a great month and we thank you from the bottom of our ‘pink’ hearts.

Vicki

Program + Community Relations Manager

, July 21, 2019 | More Post by

left to right: H4TG Executive Director Chris Schwab, Co-Founder Rene Bowditch, and Co-Founder and former Executive Director Mary Beth Gibson.

Welcome to the blog series “Thoughts From Chris,” a quarterly letter from our Executive Director, Chris Schwab. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!
I write to you today as the new Executive Director of Here for the Girls. It is an honor to continue the work that Mary Beth Gibson dedicated over the last twelve years as the organization’s first leader. My commitment is to continue the goal of providing a unique style of support based on the passion and determination developed by our co-founders, Mary Beth Gibson and Rene Bowditch. With the strong team we have and the legacy and support of our founders, I am excited about the future of the organization.
My background is in the non-profit sector; most of my career was dedicated to education where I earned an M.A. ED with a concentration on educational administration. For the last ten years, I have been with Here for the Girls and have played various roles from volunteer to Board member to Managing Director.
H4TG has made and continues to make a positive impact on the lives of young women affected by breast cancer. My vision is to grow the organization to meet the ever-changing needs of even more young breast cancer survivors while maintaining our core values and culture in a way that is scalable, supportable, and fiscally responsible.
I value the importance of a team and will work closely with our Board in developing future strategy, with our staff in carrying out our goals, and with our constituents in learning new opportunities — all of which will result in mission program excellence. It is with humility that I accept this role and I will maintain the heart of the organization based on its foundation: LOVE.

Thank You For Your Support,
Chris Schwab, Executive Director

Category: Blog

, July 21, 2019 | More Post by

Welcome to our new blog series, “Mission Moment!” It’s a snapshot of the impact our mission and programs have on the women we serve. If you have any questions about Here for the Girls support services and programs, email the program team at support@hereforthegirls.org!

We are always striving for new ways to live our mission, so the program team tried something new this year. We hosted our first-ever retreat just for women living with stage IV breast cancer, and all we can say is WOW! The event was excellent and offered our women important information and extra support, but there is one moment that continued to touch the staff long after the event was over.

While seated in an intimate garden on the water with the peaceful sounds of the harp playing in the background, our attention was immediately grabbed when the harpist began singing, “H4TG, H4TG, provides love and support for me.” The women gathered even closer than before, wrapping their arms around each other in a way that said, “I understand what you are feeling like no one else can.” The feeling our women shared in this moment is one we will keep in our minds as we continue to find new ways to offer support to our women.

If you are a woman diagnosed with breast cancer under 51 and currently living with stage IV breast cancer, we encourage you to attend next year’s “You’re in Charge” retreat! Keep an eye out for more information in 2020.

, July 12, 2019 | More Post by

Raquel, 42, diagnosed at 36

1st degree family history; BRCA1 positive

Raquel, a military wife, mother of three, and office manager, was in the process of relocating the household when she felt a lump while showering. With a family history of breast cancer (mother, grandmother), she prepared for the worst but had to wait four months to be seen and to learn she had Stage 2 breast cancer. Her husband returned from deployment to help as she underwent a bilateral mastectomy, chemo, radiation, and total hysterectomy (after learning she had inherited a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, surprisingly from her father). When her reconstruction failed, she became a member of the “flat and fabulous” club. Following her diagnosis, Raquel ventured beyond the role of devoted homemaker to discover a successful career woman waiting in the wings. She says, “I have new confidence in myself. I own my space, and I am not afraid anymore.” A Disney fanatic, Raquel was thrilled to portray her favorite character, Snow White and relates to Snow’s nature – hard working, generous, nurturing, and very optimistic – and to Snow’s ability to laugh, sing, and dance through life’s hardships. “We are not defined by our circumstance – we define our circumstance,” is the theme of Raquel’s fairy tale.

, June 27, 2019 | More Post by

As an organization that serves young women affected by breast cancer, we make sure to keep up with the latest news so we know what our women face when it comes to treatment and beyond. In this blog series, we will share the month’s news that we feel is most interesting and relevant.

June 12: Findings from a recent study suggest that having an unhealthy microbiome, and the changes that occur within the tissue that are related to an unhealthy microbiome, may be early predictors of invasive or metastatic breast cancer. Read the full story in Medical News Today HERE.

June 13: A new study shows that U.S.-born black women have as much as a 46% higher risk of developing an aggressive “triple-negative” strain of breast cancer than women who emigrated to the U.S. from Eastern Africa, Western Africa or the Caribbean. Read the full story in US News and World Report HERE.

June 18: Researchers had a “Eureka!” moment recently as they managed to synthesize a powerful anticancer compound — scientists have been trying to achieve this feat for more than 3 decades and hadn’t been successful until now. Read the full Medical News Today article HERE.

June 27: New research suggests that early risers have a slightly reduced risk of developing breast cancer. For night owls and people who tend to sleep more than the usual seven to eight hours nightly, the analysis suggested a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. HealthDay News has the full story HERE.

, June 25, 2019 | More Post by

Welcome to our new blog series, “Mission Moment!” It’s a snapshot of the impact our mission and programs have on the women we serve. If you have any questions about Here for the Girls support services and programs, email support@hereforthegirls.org!

Our goal is to help women step outside of their comfort zone and live life NOW! One of the ways we do this is through our annual retreat where we provide sessions designed to empower our members to find their new normal after a breast cancer diagnosis. Check out what one of our members had to say about the experience.

“So I did a thing this weekend… stepped so far out of my comfort zone. I went to a wellness retreat for young women with breast cancer. I only knew a handful of women out of the 90 of us there and I really did the best I could to not totally hide in my shell. I had a blast. I met some of the bravest, most badass, most beautiful women ever! [I was] surrounded by so much love and positive support. [I received] great tools and guidance to take home and really start bringing some closure to my emotional healing.”

, June 13, 2019 | More Post by

Being a part of this amazing organization has brought so much joy to me and becoming friends with our ladies and the staff here make it so special. One of my favorite things about working and volunteering at Here for the Girls is that I get to also bring my family to events, fundraisers, retreats, and more! They have been so helpful with everything from traffic control at our annual run to cooking in the kitchen at our annual retreat. They get to join me in the feeling of seeing the impact it makes in the lives of our women and in our community.  It truly takes a village to run a non-profit, and I am so happy that village includes the people I love most!

-Vicki Vawter, Program + Community Relations Manager

, June 12, 2019 | More Post by

35, diagnosed at 31

No family history, No known genetic mutation

A Navy spouse and stay-at-home mom of two girls, Kendall found a lump in her left breast after having stopped breast feeding her youngest.  Although not concerned, her cautious doctor ordered testing, and within a week, Kendall was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer. Always the caregiver, Kendall was shocked at 31 to be the one receiving care as her husband, his colleagues, family, and friends all rallied to help while she underwent chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and radiation. Because Kendall is most comfortable as protector, she identified with Gretel, who saves her brother from the witch and leads them both to safety. During Kendall’s treatment, her youngest daughter was diagnosed profoundly deaf, and Kendall had to set aside her own vulnerability, fragility, and fears to help her daughter escape from a silent world. Also, both Gretel and Kendall discovered deep strength, resilience, and adaptability as they both undertook treacherous journeys that offered them opportunities to grow. Now as a facilitator of the Newport News Beyond Boobs! group that so welcomed her, Kendall is helping other young women find their way through a scary and unsettling time. Kendall’s happily ever after includes being around to meet her grandkids one day.

, May 30, 2019 | More Post by

As an organization that serves young women affected by breast cancer, we make sure to keep up with the latest news so we know what our women face when it comes to treatment and beyond. In this blog series, we will share the month’s news that we feel is most interesting and relevant.

Previous news of note: A new study suggests that rather than changing what they eat to prevent breast cancer tumor growth, a person may benefit from simply timing their meals differently. “Exploring the ability of time-restricted eating to prevent breast cancer could provide an inexpensive but effective strategy to prevent cancer impacting a wide range of patients and represents a groundbreaking advance in breast cancer research,” according to the lead researcher. Here’s the LINK to the story from Medical News Today.

May 15: In a new study of almost 49,000 women, researchers report evidence that a low-fat diet, similar to the kind doctors recommend for heart health, is also linked to a lower risk of dying from breast cancer. Here’s the LINK to the story in TIME.

May 19: Here’s an in-depth look at possible reasons for the disparity in breast cancer survival rates for African American women. One reason: they are not well represented in clinical trials. Here’s a LINK to the article in the Cheboygan Daily Tribune.

May 28: Researchers have genetically sequenced the secondary tumors of 10 women who died from breast cancer and found that there are usually just two or three waves of migration from the original tumor. This knowledge will help researchers who are looking to stop the cells from spreading in the first place. Here’s the LINK to the article in NewScientist.

May 29: Upending previous research that suggested the opposite, a new UK study shows that night shift work does NOT increase the risk of breast cancer. The study analyzed 102,869 women over 10 years. Here’s a LINK to the story in The Guardian.