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Day Twenty….#31daysoflove

20 Oct

Day 20For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Sandy O’Keefe – I met Sandy at what else? Reach to Recovery training! She is a little ball of fire and is open, honest, and loving. She is a professional mastectomy fitter so her heart is definitely in the breast cancer arena, but she doesn’t do that for a living. She is one of the women who is always there ready to help out, talk to a patient, fill in at the hospital or support me when needed. She is terrific! She is great to be around and just all over a pleasure.

Lori Bourscheid – I have never met Lori in person but we share a very special friend in common. I have been watching Lori fight on with her metastatic breast cancer and she is amazing. She doesn’t let this cancer stuff, or chemo, get her down – she just keeps right on fighting. She and her husband are building a new house and she is so positive and so full of life that even being “just facebook” friends doesn’t diminish the positive vibes this girl gives out. She is amazing!

Roberta Johnson – Roberta was a Reach to Recovery volunteer when I began coordinating the program. Her breast cancer story is amazing (and I have not asked her if I could share it – so I won’t) but it is really truly amazing. She is a business owner and a dear friend and she is always willing to take a new breast cancer patient to mentor. She loves her breast cancer patients and is a true shining light to all around her. I love this woman.

Keep reading on for more breast cancer survivor love…


Day Nineteen….#31daysoflove

19 Oct

Day 19For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Kathleen Pollard-Vithanage – one of the leaders of one of the triple negative breast cancer groups I belong to on FB. She is always calm and level-headed and clear with what is appropriate and what is a decent boundary for our group. I appreciate this! You wouldn’t believe how some conversations turn into bash sessions on these boards and it can become pretty hairy. At the end of the day we have all had tnbc – a scary diagnosis – some people have chosen different treatment paths and some people don’t agree. At the end of the day – Kathleen reminds everyone to get back in their corners and behave. It is supposed to be a safe place to vent, to ask questions and to get support, but some days are better than others….I appreciate her level head and her positive direction for our FB group!

Gail Horne is a new Reach to Recovery volunteer that I just adore! She didn’t even hold it against me when I called her Ginny several times…she understands chemo brain I guess! I was able to spend time with her yesterday at the Making Strides walk and I love how she just makes friends with people and fits right in – no questions asked. She is going to be a HUGE benefit to our group – in fact she already is – and she is a two-time breast cancer survivor which makes her doubly special!!

Lynn Schilling – she had tnbc MANY years ago – I want to say 12 or 13 maybe, or longer? She was a trainer for the Reach program and she spoke with me when I was first diagnosed. She has blessed many volunteers by training them into the Reach program which means she has helped many many women! She also discovered post breast cancer that she is an artist…and I am not kidding you with that. Her work is OUTSTANDING. I keep wondering when I am going to wake up a singer, or artist, or something great like she did – but yet, I got nothing! Thanks Lynn for all you have done for Reach for years!

Marva Robinson – our singing – dancing – fun loving and laughing survivor, also in the Reach to Recovery program. She is a delight – always smiling and always encouraging people. We get a lot of compliments from our patients on how loving and positive she is…and I know this is true because I see it with my own eyes whenever I am around her! I adore this woman…..

How many more survivors are there to love? SO MANY – keep reading!


Day Eighteen…#31daysoflove

18 Oct

For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Today my #31daysoflove blog post is going to be about Michelle Belt. There are so many things that people don’t know about Michelle – and I could fill a book about her – and not come close to giving you a glimpse into the true heart and soul of this woman.

She loves her children fiercely and with every part of her being. I have never seen a Mom dedicated to loving and nurturing her children as I see with Michelle. Those girls came first with her…and that was that! I think they are very lucky to have such a loving Mom!

When I met Michelle two years ago she had just been diagnosed with tnbc cancer. We had talked about so many things, we had plans to help many women, and we wanted to DO something. As we would come up with ideas, Michelle would be diagnosed with another problem in her treatment path. She constantly got knocked in the side of the head with bad news and harder and harder parts to this disease, and yet she continued to work part-time and raise the girls and she continued going 100 mph. She never let up – ever….I admired that so much about her. She didn’t like to accept help and she kept saying everyone was getting tired of her cancer. But, we weren’t….we all watched her handle these test results, time after time, with grace and faith. She continued to lean on her faith in God and she shows those of us around her what true faith looks like.

On one of my visits a few weeks ago to see Michelle held moments I will remember forever. She was lying in her hospital bed in the downstairs bedroom and I was leaning my arms across the bed rail. I was watching her as she was facing forward, looking out the window, and dozing. I sat there in total disbelief that one of these days, this precious friend of mine, who was laying RIGHT THERE, would be gone. No more daily calls, no more texts, no more plans, no more laughing at my silly breast cancer antics, no more sharing test results and no more shared sadness of what could be coming someday far in the future, for any of us. So as I laid my chin on my arms across the bed rail I began to cry quietly. Michelle slowly turned to me and got a small smile on her face and said “don’t be sad”….I just quietly told her that I missed talking to her every day already and I didn’t like not seeing her often and it was hard knowing I couldn’t call or text anytime. She cried quietly and told me that she missed me too. I put my hand on her arm and said “you know that you are one of my favorite people in the whole world right?”….she smiled her half crooked smile that she has and she simply said “I know”….then we just looked into each other’s eyes and began to laugh and then cry again.

We have always shared such a strong bond – a cancer bond. A triple negative cancer bond. A Mom bond. A deep friendship bond. I know she has many friends that she has known and loved for years, and I know that she has friends over at her house taking care of her in shifts as her disease progresses, and I am not one of those friends. I am a different type of friend, but she is extremely special to me too. I wish I had a friendship with her outside of cancer and longer than the past two years and a month…but that wasn’t my story with Michelle. Our story was to be based around our shared bond and our shared dreams and fears. You can really get to know someone when everyone is forced to face their own mortality. Really really get to know them.

We had our Making Strides walk today and we had a large poster of Michelle made. She wanted to raise money for our team again this year and let me tell you – she did! She has raised over $4,000 and she is the second highest fundraiser in the city right now. I know she is very very proud of this and I know I am. Before we honored our survivors today at the walk, we dedicated our walk, and this day, to Michelle. I know without a doubt she was with us in spirit – and I was so honored two of her daughters were there today with a huge pile of their friends….walking in support of their Mom. This is how she would have wanted them to spend their morning and they did. It was a very very special morning for me and for all that know and love Michelle. Special and emotional….just like it should be.

I love this girl and when it comes time for her to take her first breath of heaven, I will be devastated for the loss of my personal friendship with her, but ever so grateful for the time I had with her, the friendship we shared, and the things she taught me. I will also know that she will be whole, happy, and cancer free when the time comes. Until that day, I still pray for comfort, peace and special moments with her girls.

I love you Michelle…you have changed my life and touched the lives of many. Today I wore all kinds of pink for you my friend – in fact the city was saturated in pink – and I know in my heart that it was for you …I will continue to wear our matching pink bracelets forever. Love you.

IMG_2638My Michelle

I Have Mixed Emotions While Writing This…

17 Oct

I have had my emotions running all over the place for the past week or two. Some things I can, and have written about, some things I cannot write about yet. But, for a girl who doesn’t have any hormones, I have been all over the spectrum with happy and sad times, and crying tears of sadness and joy. A lot.

 I am exhausted, but for this blog, I am so filled with gratitude, thankfulness and joy. As some of you know, my precious daughter Morgan went into labor one week ago tonight and I became a Grandma one week ago tomorrow. Haley Grace came into the world after a little bit of a struggle, but spending this past week with her has been one of the best weeks of my life. Newborns are amazing and they are truly a miracle; a gift from God. All of my friends told me to be ready for the emotions and love that come with being a Grandma and holding my granddaughter for the first time would be amazing….and it has been. But no one told me, or warned me, about the emotions I would feel watching my daughter give birth, adjust to being a Mom, holding her baby, loving her baby, and nursing her baby. Just watching Morgan hold and bond with her baby has made me fall in love with my own daughter twenty times over. I have seen a side to my daughter that I never imagined or thought of. This is the best part of the last week for me. Having a granddaughter is amazing and I look forward to growing old with her by my side as my little munchkin. But what happened this week is far more important than I ever imagined….falling in love with one of your own children, when they are adults, is the best feeling I have ever had.

 I have always been very close and very attached to my kids. I love them with all of my heart and soul – but now Morgan and I can bond on some many levels, one of the main ones is being best friends…and for this, I have waited my whole life. It is WONDERFUL having a granddaughter, and I feel blessed beyond belief because she is perfect, and beautiful, and precious. Seeing her has brought back so many memories of my own babies….but watching the love Morgan has for her baby has made me feel a whole new level of respect and love for my own Mom and has made me remember times with her when my babies were little.

 These future moments will be cherished – every single second. And Morgan – you have filled my heart and soul with so much love and gratitude – not only for our precious new baby – but for letting me see you with new eyes and a new heart. I love you sweet pea!

MorganHaley 101714



Day Sixteen…#31daysoflove

16 Oct

Day16For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Denise Kisko – I met Denise when we were both models for Cure By Design 2014. She and I talked about her volunteer work for breast cancer awareness and I knew we would become fast friends. We have had very honest talks about volunteering and now she is a Reach to Recovery volunteer, well, almost! She will be awesome at this volunteer position and will truly make a difference.

Helen Scruggs – I didn’t know Helen when she was going through treatment but I met her during her volunteer work with Buddy Kemp and then she became a Reach to Recovery volunteer. She is becoming more active in our program and I am thankful she is with us – she will help a lot of women through their breast cancer battles and I am thankful for this! She is such a sweet lady!

Gayle Dixon – another Reach to Recovery volunteer! Gayle is such a sweet lady and is always smiling and happy. She has been on our Primax Pink Warrior team a few times and I love that she allows us to honor her. She was really supportive of me as I took over the Reach program and I am grateful for her friendship.

See? Lots more women to love…


Day Fifteen….#31daysoflove

15 Oct

day 15For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Kathy Kitts – I met Kathy through a mutual friend when we were both battling breast cancer in 2011. We went to the same oncology center, we talked on the phone, we bonded. Then I got better, and Kathy was diagnosed again with breast cancer. Then I continued to recover and Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer yet again. Kathy fought breast cancer 3 times in the past few years and she is one strong woman. She is so strong and so amazing and so positive. I kept telling Kathy this last fight, and the time spent away from her family was a short-term investment for a long-term future. I say this to a lot of women, but Kathy was really a strong and amazing fighter. Three times? Jeeze. But I am hoping that she will come to the walk with us this year. I am hoping she will let us honor her. I am hoping she feels well enough. She is still recovering from her treatments and some residual damage from those treatments, and I think she is a total rock star.

LaMeka Harrison – another Reach to Recovery volunteer! She is such a loving and caring woman. I didn’t know LaMeka during her treatments, but I sure enjoy her friendship now. She is a Princess on our team and I know our patients love her a lot! LaMeka is always willing to help out and volunteer when she can and I really appreciate this! She is awesome….do you sense a theme in my blogs? These women are awesome.

Lisa Gilbert – I met Lisa years ago and she was one of our first Princesses. I will never forget her breast cancer story. She knew she had a problem in her breast but no doctors could feel it and no one would listen. She pushed on and on and finally someone listened to her. She had her issue looked into and sure enough – she had breast cancer. My message to everyone – don’t listen to anyone who says “it’s nothing” “I am sure you are fine” “it’s just a lump”…..I met Lisa before I was diagnosed and when I was sick she checked on me all of the time and gave me gifts and love. She is one heck of an advocate for following your gut. Thanks girl – your message is powerful!

My survivor friends continue to amaze me as I write about each one of them…it reminds me of just how awesome they are!


Day Fourteen…#31daysoflove

14 Oct

For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Stephanie Thomas – I remember getting an email from my breast navigator with Stephanie’s name saying that she would LOVE to volunteer with Reach to Recovery when she was healed from her surgeries. I knew the name rang a bell but I couldn’t figure out why. Come to find out – she is my neighbor! She was in the middle of her surgeries and she already wanted to help other women. I tell you all, the hearts of the volunteers we have is amazing. Then Stephanie signed up to be a Primax Pink Warrior Princess last year and she raised over $3,400. She is amazing and very passionate about the cause and raising awareness. For this year’s walk she has already raised over $3,000!

Claire Rutledge – she is in the middle of her reconstruction surgeries and she is constantly asking me what she can do to help me and where her talents can be utilized. She helped us paint Michelle’s bedroom a few months ago and is always at our TNBC meetings being open, honest, and present. She is a real trooper doing this in the middle of reconstruction and she is terrific. I am honored to know her and call her a friend. I am also thrilled she is walking with us this year on the Primax Pink Warriors.

Chris Vilchek – my oh my, what do I say about this woman? I remember when I first met her she kept telling me how she could never go through what I had been through and how strong she thought I was. Then she was tested for the brca gene mutation when her sister was diagnosed, so she ended up going through exactly what I went through; a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, and reconstruction. I remember sitting with her a dinner before her big surgery and we both got teary eyed trying to figure out how we got from being healthy to having cancer, fighting cancer, and then having our breasts removed and having reconstruction. It is a big pill to swallow sometimes and what I learned from Chris is that no matter what you say – you CAN do anything! Even when you think you can’t. You rock girl…

Doris Troutman – another Reach to Recovery volunteer, TNBC support group attendee, and friend. She is so very sweet, open, and loving. She is just terrific. I didn’t know her during her breast cancer battle but I know her now and I am thankful that I do. She has been very supportive during my last surgery and I know our patients love her!

Moira Quinn – what to say about Moira? When I was first introduced to Moira I immediately was taken with her strength and her honesty. We had lunch, we became friends, she helps me with all kinds of things breast cancer related – and now we are friends. Good friends. I believe that Moira will be one of those women who will stand by me – no matter what. We may have some hard times ahead but she will be right with me, as I will be with her, encouraging each other to keep going and to keep making a difference. It’s what we are doing. I didn’t know Moira during her breast cancer battle but I do know she is one tough lady and she took breast cancer by the throat and knocked the living crap out of it and threw it down into the gutter. Stupid cancer. But without cancer, I wouldn’t know this fabulous lady – so…as usual…silver linings are everywhere!

I am in my jammies today helping out with my new grand-daughter – so here’s to you in pink jammies!

Day 14



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