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Why Jamaica – Why Not Charlotte?

12 Jun

Why Jamaica and WHY NOT Charlotte? I am glad you asked!

I am talking about the trip that Terri and I leave on in less than a week. We are providing 200 mammograms to women in Jamaica, we are also providing ultra sounds for the women, out of those 200, that need them, and we have these women on a fast track to get biopsies.

So why take our $10,000 to Jamaica to provide these services and not provide them in Charlotte? Good question and I have heard it enough times that I figured I should blog it.

In the states, money or no money, insurance or no insurance, there are ways of getting through breast cancer regardless of your financial situation. We have treatments available to everyone, regardless of our financial situation. We can get mammograms, regardless of our financial situation. Jamaica is different. In Jamaican you present with a lump, that lump is biopsied, and if you have breast cancer – it doesn’t matter what kind of cancer – you get a mastectomy. Chemotherapy and radiation are only available to certain women there, and I don’t think that door is open wide for many. So if you think of it like this – early detection is absolutely vital there to save lives. If someone is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in Jamaica, they have a big problem that a mastectomy isn’t going to fix. As we talk all about early detection here in states, it’s true. But if we miss that and say it’s in some nodes or even a spot elsewhere, we have a pretty good chance of pushing this disease back with chemo and radiation. Not everyone responds here to those treatments, but most do. Especially on round one of breast cancer.

This is why this trip to serve these 200 women is so important. It is just about awareness, although we will be talking about them knowing their breasts and self exams, but it really is about catching some of these women with early stage invasive cancer or insitu cancer. This isn’t the start of their life in mammography – a lot of them won’t be able to get another mammogram after the one we provide is given. I know there is a lot of confusion here is the states about mammography – and most agree we need more effective screening. Mammograms miss a portion of breast cancer and we need better screening! I am hoping this blood test coming out of UNCC has great effectiveness, I also know the American Cancer Society is funding a researcher for a blood smear that has a lot of promise. We need these tests because they will be more accurate than a mammogram and free of radiation!

With that being said, did you know that if a woman in Jamaica that has the means to receive chemotherapy and radiation in Jamaica gets diagnosed with breast cancer, in order to figure out her treatment regimen her tumor must be sent to the US to be dissected? They don’t even have the means in Jamaica to tell whether the tumor is ER/PR positive or negative, HER2 positive or negative…and this is heartbreaking for me. The things we take for granted here in the US is disheartening. Our society is becoming upside down on expecting who to pay what and that is also troublesome. BUT, it’s not Jamaica – the most beautiful place in the world….and that’s where Terri and I get to spend 9 days next week serving these women, paying for mammograms and ultrasounds, and enjoying successful and safe trip.

I pour my heart and soul into the breast cancer community in Charlotte. If you know me – you know this is true. Last year with my breast reconstruction issue from the plane ride to Jamaica God took my situation and turned it into something amazing. Our trip last year was not as relaxing as it could have been, it was certainly not “cancer free” like we needed it to be, and a lot of time was taken up being checked each day, checking in with Dr Appel, and watching my dark purple breast drain more and more into a marbled pink color until I got back to the states. BUT, with all of that being said…..God took my little brain and heart that week and made me ask some hard questions of the staff in the resort where we stay (Couples Tower Isle). “What happens here when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer?” “How do women get treatment here if they have it?” “What types of treatment do they get?” and “How do women here get mammograms?”….the answers broke my heart and now, finally, we are going back to do something about this. Just for a small town in which we stay, where my heart lives, some of my friends live, and the town in which we can actually make a big difference.

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Correction – Cancer Survivor Day – Buddy Kemp

25 May

BK 2016

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Cancer Survivor Day 2016

21 May

Cancer Survivor Day

Terri and I Are Providing 200 Free Mammograms!

12 May

Yes…that’s right. You read my title correctly. My friend Terri and I are providing 200 mammograms for women in Jamaica. Women, who would, under normal circumstances, probably not get a mammogram, possibly ever. So stay with me and keep reading…..

How is that for a catchy opener? I blogged once about this – but this blog is going to be the catch up blog. You all can read these posts while we begin our adventure and blog our way through it.

My survivor friend Terri asked me many months ago if I could do anything Big Big Big in the breast cancer arena – what it would be. My immediate thought was to help women in Jamaica…but how? Terri and I talked about it over lunch and came up with a goal…and she wrote her story. I remember sitting at lunch that day and thinking how big that goal was and how far-fetched the dream was. I also remember my second thought “are you crazy, how can you make that happen? Who do you think you are?” What I was forgetting is that it isn’t about who I think I am – it’s about who I know my God is.

Terri’s company RSM was giving away bucket list dreams to 9 of their employees to “Pursue Your Passion.” Over 300 submissions were received and I never thought we would win – but we did! Terri’s amazing story landed us front and center to be one of the 9 winning “Pursue Your Passion” recipients and the whirlwind began. RSM is giving us $10,000 and our plans are unfolding beautifully. We have partnered with the Jamaican Cancer Society and a radiologist in Ocho Rios to provide 200 mammograms to women who would quite possibly never be able to have one. We are budgeting money to set aside for some of our 200 women to receive ultrasounds and we have partnered with the CMO at St Ann’s Hospital to move any of our 200 women that need biopsies on the fast track to getting one. And if that isn’t cool enough – we are also trying to coordinate a thank you lunch to the Survivor Club in Ocho Rios for survivor women who support breast cancer patients just like we do here in Charlotte with the Reach to Recovery Team for the American Cancer Society.

I am so very very thankful for this opportunity to help women who are not as fortunate as we are here in the states. Anyone who knows me knows that my heart lives in Jamaica half the time and I cannot wait to go back each year on vacation. I have fallen in love with that country and the humble and thankful people who I have met there.

What can you do to help us? I am glad you asked! We need prayers….right now our prayers are for our 200 women. I am praying every single day for these 200 women, for the radiologist who is partnering with us, and for the Jamaican Cancer Society staff that are working diligently with us. We all know that out of these 200 women, some of them will need ultra sounds, some will need biopsies, and some will be diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s the reality we are facing and this trip will be amazing, and the people we meet will be amazing, it will be humbling, it will be heart-filling, it will be sad, it will be hard, it will be gut wrenching. Just like the breast cancer community can be here in Charlotte – it will be the same, but a little harder in Jamaica. I am asking for your prayers for our 200 women, I am asking that any and all cancer found is found in early stages for these women and that the follow-up care happens quickly and effectively.

I will be blogging our way through Jamaica and I will be posting pictures on instagram under the PrimaxPinkWarriors and on twitter @laurarenegarPPW. We have some surprises in store for our followers – so please stay tuned.

We leave for Jamaica on June 18 – early Saturday morning and return back to Charlotte on Sunday June 26. We are hoping and praying for a photographer in Jamaica that would donate a few hours on several different days to document what we are doing. An intern possibly, a photography student, some wedding photographers willing to donate a few hours here and there to help us with this need. If anyone has any contacts or info on this, please contact me.

I am so excited that this trip is becoming a reality and I cannot be more thankful to Terri for her submission and her giving heart, RSM for their Pursue Your Passion 90th celebration gift, and for the initial heart plant that was put into me last year when Kevin and I were in Jamaica. I had a medical issue with my breast reconstruction and it made me ask questions to the women there, it opened my eyes to what we have here in the States that Jamaica doesn’t have, it made my heart yearn to do something to help. I wish this could be an every year event somehow. I wish I could help people in Jamaica on a regular basis – not a one-time thing. But 200 women is A LOT of women and I am so very very thankful that God has used my breast cancer diagnosis in a way we could have never imagined….Terri’s too! I consider myself one of the luckiest girls in town….as I have said a million times. Who gets to have someone (like Terri) help fulfill a dream and a purpose like this? Who gets to have a breast cancer diagnosis and turn it into helping this many women at one time? Terri and I do – that’s who! The amazing part for me is that I feel, once again, this is just the beginning of my story. I always tell people “this” is the biggest I can do or “this” is the most important thing from my breast cancer diagnosis. My breast cancer story has GOT to be coming to an end and I can go back and live like a regular person, working, spending time with my family, and not talking about cancer….each year I say this – and each year God steps in and says “you aren’t done yet”….

With that being said, please pray for our 200 women, for our own safety and success with this mission, for help with the photography side to help document this trip, and for our partners in Jamaica. We are so thankful to be able to do this trip. Stay tuned friends!

 

Tested Negative For A BRCA Mutation?

8 May

But still concerned or still diagnosed with breast cancer? Check out this report from FORCE and read on peeps…knowledge is power! Thanks FORCE for your constant research and diligence to help us make sense of hereditary breast cancer. And even when it’s “not” hereditary!

https://www.facingourrisk.org/XRAYS/breast-cancer-risk-in-brca-negative-women

These studies are amazing.

 

 

And You Thought This Was About Mother’s Day….

7 May

Last night was Relay for Life and I went, as I have gone since 2012, as a survivor. I don’t work or volunteer at Relay…I just go to do exactly what Relay is meant for, celebrating survivorship and remembering those we have lost to cancer.

With that being said, on my way to Huntersville yesterday I was a little emotional thinking of all of the people cancer has taken; from the young to the old – from the recent losses to losses from many years ago. But when I got to Relay and started walking and meeting up with my friends, I wasn’t sad anymore. I was truly celebrating our survival and making memories. We talked about Michelle a little bit and I had some memories pop up from Relay two years ago….but I was still good. Not crying, not emotional about my Mom…just good.

The luminaria service was great – as always, but this year people got on the stage and just mentioned names or reasons of why they Relay. It was cool in the beginning, then it became emotional with children getting up there to say they Relay for their Mom in heaven, or their Dad in heaven, or grandparents…each person had a story and a reason…so many stories and so many reasons. My friends and I all stood together and none of us went up. Then a women went up on the stage and she mentioned a grandparent and a friend (I think) and then she said “I also Relay for Michelle Belt”….I heard a gasp, and it was my own. I walked across that dark field like a laser beam heading toward this stranger. I asked her how she knew Michelle and she was emotional (and probably scared from my lack of tact) and she was crying and mentioned that her son went to school, and was very close to Chloe, Michelle’s daughter, since third grade. She said Michelle was such an angel and such an inspiration. I told her I also was friends with Michelle and when I mentioned walking at Relay two years ago with Michelle….she really started to get upset. We talked for another moment or two. I thanked her for mentioning Michelle’s name because I didn’t, we hugged, and had a moment, and went our separate ways. I was really thankful, again, that I got to meet Michelle and know how many people she touched with her faith and her strength.

For me – hearing her name from the stage was like she was right there with us…right with our friends from the triple negative breast cancer group and I continue to be thankful that her name remains in the front of people’s minds. Her oldest daughter graduates from college this weekend and her middle daughter graduates from high school this year. It’s hard to see the girls hitting these milestones without their proud Mom right by their side. She loved her girls with all that she had and all that she was and I am sure the girls feel like their celebrations are just not complete without her. It makes my heart heavy.

So…on we go. Another Relay behind us, more memories made. This year one of my friends came to her first Relay as a survivor and she brought her precious Mom with her. It was amazing to see the bond between the two of them. And one of my friends is back in treatment for breast cancer mets to her bones, I am thankful for the opportunity to spend more time with her and make memories too. The rest of us are just regular old survivors…supporting and loving the ones around us that need us most. That’s what Relay is all about.

 

 

Want To Be Interviewed For $20

30 Mar

Are you 18-30 years old? The National Cancer Institute is looking for YOU if you are a first or second degree relative of someone who is BRCA1 or BRCA2+….this study can help a lot of people and YOU can make $20 for a phone interview.

What’s more important is that you can help with research and data collection. Please, do it for your BRCA loved one…do it for yourself….do it for me!

http://www.facingourrisk.org/documents/caya-flier.pdf

My daughter did this and you can too!

 

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