, March 06, 2020 | More Post by

48, diagnosed at 46

No family history, No known genetic mutation

Joyce noticed a divot in her right breast and mentioned it at her annual exam. After receiving a stern lecture from her gynecologist about keeping up with her annual mammograms, Joyce promised to get one. Within a week of the mammogram, and with her husband (who had rushed home from a work trip) by her side, Joyce received a diagnosis of stage 1 breast cancer. During treatment that included chemo, a lumpectomy, and radiation, Joyce continued her full-time work in communications while being mom to her active 11-year-old son. “I am a professional communicator, but it was hard for me to tell people about the diagnosis,” she says. A dear friend encouraged her to share her story, and this helped her get the love and support she needed from “Team Joyce,” her tribe of friends and family. She’d like to use her skills as a communicator to give hope and inspiration to other women facing breast cancer – some of which she found for herself in the calendar theme. “As a cancer survivor-in-progress, I find the stories of how women in the 1920s had the fortitude and willpower to make it through a war, overcome adversity, and create a new way for themselves to be so inspiring.”

, February 05, 2020 | More Post by

Shawnna 41, diagnosed at 39

No family history, PALB2 genetic mutation

Shawnna, mother of three and military wife, felt a lump one day when crossing her arms and quickly sought testing that revealed stage 3B triple negative breast cancer. As a nurse, she’d worked with many breast cancer patients, including Ms. April 2020, but she never expected the tables to turn. “I thought I knew what it was like until I was diagnosed and had to have a bilateral mastectomy, chemo, and radiation,” Shawnna said. Joining H4TG was a natural step. Having introduced many of her patients to them, she understood how crucial H4TG could be during and after breast cancer treatment. Now she has experienced and continues to benefit from the special loving support H4TG offers. As the nurse who became the patient, Shawnna has this unique perspective to share. The 1920s represent to Shawnna the dawn of the new woman and changing attitudes towards their roles and abilities and epitomizes a favorite quote, “Rise up.” Since her diagnosis, Shawnna feels she is a new woman, too, saying, “I am more comfortable with myself than ever before. I realized my worth, my strength, and what I have to offer this world.” This focus on personal well-being is one message she’d like to share with other survivors.

, January 08, 2020 | More Post by

Age 39, diagnosed at 37

No family history, no known genetic mutation

After a routine mammogram screening due to having dense breasts, Hope, who works as a counselor, was called back in for a 3D mammogram and ultrasound that led to a biopsy and then a stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis. Shocked to hear the diagnosis, she recalls returning to her car right after the appointment holding a binder full of information from the nurse and asking herself, did they just say I have cancer? She was scheduled to receive her Ph. D in Organizational Leadership after her lumpectomy and just as she was heading into four rounds of chemo. Determined twalk across the stage for her graduation, she pushed back the chemo until after receiving her diploma. Radiation treatment followed chemo. Hope’s name reflects her attitude in life. During treatment, Hope always kept a smile on her face and in her heart, and it was important to her that her friends and family shared her positive energy. When thinking about the 1920s, Hope says she appreciates history for its lessons. “My hope is that history won’t repeat itself with the negatives but rather that we learn from them, grow, and have the tools needed to do and be better.” Now, Hope is using her history of breast cancer to help others. 

, 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.