, December 06, 2019 | More Post by

Debra, 33, diagnosed at 29

No family history, no known genetic mutation 

Debra, a newlywed and mother to a young stepson, accidentally found a lump while resting in bed. Because of Debra’s age, her ob/gyn wasn’t concerned but ordered a mammogram, “just in case.” In this case, it was Stage 4 breast cancer, having already spread to other organs. She immediately underwent chemotherapy infusions, two lumpectomies, and radiation. She remains in active treatment to delay the spread and states her current occupation is “trying to stay alive.” Debra says while cancer has stolen so much from her, such as the ability to bear children and peace of mind, she has found some positives, including the H4TG sisterhood. She has learned to put her dreams first, knowing she might not have a long life to achieve them. A passionate dressage rider, Debra describes her horse Jacob as “my heart and soul.” So just as the princess in the Goose Girl is ultimately saved by her talking horse, Debra feels Jacob is her lifesaver. “He never has anything to say, he’s just always a shoulder to cry on, a big clown to lick me when I’m feeling down.” Her dream is to achieve the riding level necessary for her and Jacob to win a U.S. Dressage Federation silver medal.

, November 08, 2019 | More Post by

Jenyse, 48, diagnosed at 43
No family history
No known genetic mutation
Jenyse is grateful to her husband for first discovering the lump in her breast that led to her Stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis and for then being by her side for every appointment, treatment, and “breakdown” that followed. She opted for a single mastectomy with reconstruction and chemotherapy. A successful realtor, Jenyse says her family is her greatest accomplishment and the diagnosis that strengthened her marriage also brought her family closer together. Her three now-adult sons even shaved their heads in solidarity with their Mom. Having lost her mother-in-law to cancer just months before her own diagnosis, Jenyse remembers this advice from their last conversation: “Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Live each day to the fullest,” which Jenyse now does, joined by family as often as possible. As the Snow Queen, Jenyse makes a beautiful and fierce villain but ultimately relates to the tale’s message of individual strength and the power of love. About the heroine, one character says, “I can give her no greater power than she has already. Don’t you see how strong that is?” When tested, Jenyse indeed discovered the strength she always possessed that was made stronger by the love of family.

, October 14, 2019 | More Post by
47, diagnosed at 44 
1st degree family history 
No known genetic mutation 
Samantha (aka Sammi Jo), a finance project manager, had reported feeling a lump in her right breast for nearly a year and finally insisted her doctor order a mammogram. Just four months after her wedding, she was diagnosed with stage 0, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer and underwent a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Eight days prior to surgery, her husband found information about a study of a new type of tissue expander that allows patients to expand them at home. Determined to have them, she persevered and achieved the nearly impossible – becoming the first USA patient outside the study to get them, paving the way for others. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Sammi Jo is a fierce advocate for herself and others, like her character, Little Red Riding Hood. “Throw me to the wolves, and I will return leading the pack,” describes her well. Blending compassion with determination, Sammi Jo is committed to helping others who travel her path and says, “The fear is real, but soon I hope you will be where I am now – a little battered and bruised, but wiser, braver, and with a quiet inner strength that will remind you every day of what you have achieved.”

, September 03, 2019 | More Post by

44, diagnosed at 42

2nd degree family history, no known mutation

Shannon, mother of two teens, wife, and virtual assistant, had cervical cancer at age 37 and a family history of breast cancer prompting her doctor to order annual breast MRIs. Her first MRI found suspicious areas in her right breast. Testing confirmed Stage 1 breast cancer, and she opted for a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Shannon’s first battle with cancer was private with just her devoted husband and family for support as she detached from friends she felt couldn’t understand. With the second diagnosis, she turned outward, not inward and found a mission she calls “Reflect Ripples,” to help women through their “storms.” Attending the annual Here for the Girls retreat was “the best decision” because she uncovered the emptiness left by her first battle and found sisters to help her heal through the next. Of her character, Shannon says, “Mistress Miller and I are kindred spirits. We both are strong, resourceful women who found ways to rise above the challenge of seemingly impossible tasks – hers to spin straw into gold and mine to conquer cancer twice. I am now a better version of myself and able to spin the fear, sadness, and depression into gold – a mission of helping others, as I was helped.”

, 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.

, 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 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 14, 2019 | More Post by

48, diagnosed at 42
No family history
No known genetic mutation
Mona, an assistant supervisor, felt a lump in her breast three months after her annual mammogram. After having a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound, she was advised to wait six months, that it was likely a cyst. Her vigilant doctor wouldn’t wait that long, and further testing eventually revealed stage 2 breast cancer. Insurance issues caused additional delays, and eight months after finding the lump, Mona underwent chemotherapy and a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. She relates to her character, Maleficent, a villain and hero whose bitter heart is healed by love. Mona says, “The darkness that overshadowed my life during treatment faded thanks to the constant love, support, and encouragement from family and friends who gave me the strength I needed to change my grief to hope.” She loves the expression, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way,” adding, “I can’t do anything about yesterday, but I can make the most of today and ask God to bless me with another tomorrow.” Before her diagnosis she saw cancer as a death sentence. Now she sees it as a second chance to fill her tomorrows with the joy she experiences from time spent with her husband, daughter, and grandchildren and travel to new places, especially on cruises ships.

, April 11, 2019 | More Post by

Ashley, 31, diagnosed at 24,

No family history, No known genetic mutation

Ashley, a program coordinator, could claim what no one would want to and most could not – being a two-time cancer survivor by age 24. She was just 16 when she faced melanoma. Eight years later she found a lump in her breast. When it persisted, she went to her doctor who referred her to a surgeon, even after a mammogram revealed nothing. The surgeon did not suspect cancer, but eventually discovered malignant cells within a non-cancerous tumor. Diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), Stage 0 breast cancer, Ashley had a lumpectomy and radiation while working full-time and attending college. Beyond Boobs! Texas was not around back then, but now they are, and she says, “I am six years out from diagnosis, but I still need these ladies in my life! I want other women to know we are here to help them get through this journey.” Ashley believes the tagline from the modern-day tale of Cinderella, “have courage and be kind,” are words to live by. She knows, like the character she portrays, courage and kindness will help you get past life’s challenges while being a beacon of light and hope for others. Ashley’s happily ever after now includes a fiancé and dreams of family.

, March 12, 2019 | More Post by

Our “A Calendar to Live By” features survivors we serve through Here for the Girls programs and their inspiring, uplifting stories about their cancer journey. Get to know this month’s model, Laura!

Laura, 52, diagnosed at 49

1st degree family history

No genetic testing

Laura noticed an itchy area on her left breast and weeks later, felt a lump there. Testing revealed Stage 2 lobular breast cancer, and Laura underwent chemotherapy, a mastectomy with reconstruction, and radiation. Recently divorced with no other family nearby, Laura gratefully accepted the attentive caregiving of her 15- and 20-year-old daughters, along with their love, strength, laughter, and hugs. The importance of family is interwoven into the story of her life, even her profession. As an adoption coordinator, she’s responsible for creating families. It’s no wonder that The Little Match Girl, told to her by her great-grandmother, is one Laura remembers. The Little Match Girl uses matches for warmth and to recall images of the loving grandmother who brought her comfort in desperate times. Laura says, “The pieces of the story that resonate with me are about family; those who love you and keep you warm. You hold them close to your heart and have them with you always, even when apart.” Thanks to her eldest daughter who knew a member of Beyond Boobs, Laura now has additional family – her Beyond Boobs! sisters. Laura hopes her story shows that your life story is richer when it includes family.