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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!

 

Easter – Old and New

27 Mar

I love seeing all of the family photos and happy posts from Easter brunch, Easter egg hunts, Easter baskets, and making memories today. It is always such a cool glimpse into other people’s lives while they record memories and share their love with their family and friends. Usually, I am right there with everyone happily posting their events and photos, but today, this was not a happy Easter photo opportunity and it wasn’t really us making happy memories, but it was an important afternoon in our lives.

I didn’t get to spend Easter today with The JellyBean of all JellyBeans….I am sad to have missed her second Easter but we were exactly where we were supposed to be – with Kevin’s Mom. We drove down this morning for a nice lunch with her in her assisted living home. It is a really nice facility in Fayetteville and the staff is always so nice and very friendly. But, it was a really hard day. Kevin’s Mom didn’t show much recognition for us at all. She is quite immersed in her dementia and Parkinson’s disease has now crept into her life too. They think she might have had a slight stroke last week and our ability to understand her speech or her thoughts is gone. As she sat there at lunch I realized, for the first time, that the women I know and love, is gone. It was a very hard lunch and I realized again today how fleeting life is. As I sat at our table I had time to look around and see what was around me. There was a woman across the way that had tiny hands but her knuckles were huge. Her fingers were twisted and turned all which ways but she was alert and enjoying conversation with her family. There was a family behind Kevin that kept having the same conversation over and over and over again. The same sentences repeated, the same questions asked. You could sense the family’s frustration with the total repetition during their lunch. Then I saw a woman lovingly pushing her hubby in a wheelchair and her left leg twisted inward at the knee and then her ankle was almost hitting the floor as she walked. It sounds like a scary movie but it wasn’t….it is simply old age. I saw some of the people there visiting their parents with boredom/dread on their faces and I couldn’t help but be jealous of them. I wish I would have had the opportunity to visit my Mom in an assisted living facility. I would have given anything for more time with her. Kevin’s Mom has lived 31 years longer than my Mom. Shoot – that is how old I was when my Mom passed away. 31 years…what a huge blessing to have all of those memories and moments tucked away in your mind and heart. How lucky are these people at lunch today? Pretty lucky I think.

As I sat there I realized how fast my life is going by. Several years ago we were celebrating Thanksgiving with Kev’s Mom and Dad, at their own home, with tons of people and lots of laughter, and it seems like it was 6 months ago. Now Kev’s Dad is gone and his Mom is leaving….maybe not physically yet – but she is definitely slipping away. And my Mom is gone – shoot – she has been gone for almost 20 years. That sentence seems almost wrong – a big fat lie….20 years since I hugged my Mom? 20 years since she hugged my children? 20 years since she called me and asked me if I wanted to take the kids out for lunch? Over 20 years since we laughed together so hard that we both began to cry…..

I remember it like it was yesterday – dressing Morgan in her Easter dress and Kyle in his little Easter suit and going to my Mom’s house for a big Easter egg hunt and lunch. Now my daughter is dressing her little girl in a beautiful Easter dress and I am looking at pictures from a distance. Where is time going? How can Kev’s Mom be so old (and precious), my Mom be gone, and my daughter is a Mommy?

Sometimes I feel like I am sitting in the middle of a busy road and everyone is speeding by me in all directions and I am just sitting still, dumbfounded, that life is going by so quickly and I am missing it. I feel like I am trying to enjoy it and do it all and I am missing it….but today, even though I missed Easter with The JellyBean, we were where we were supposed to be; with Kevin’s Mom. I couldn’t help but think today’s message for me was to slow down and pay more attention. To what I am not sure – but something. I can feel it….the thoughts and feelings today were clear. People, enjoy time with your parents, no matter how crazy they make you (they grow old awfully fast)….savor every second with your children, no matter how crazy they make you (they grow up awfully fast)….and soak up every second you can with your grand babies – and we all know they don’t make you crazy at all….it seems that having a grand baby sets everything right – exactly where everything belongs and makes sense out of every other moment in life. Now I understand what all of the grand children hoopla is about. Now I understand why I see such loss in the eyes of Kevin’s Mom…today was a day of seeing old and new – through another set of reflective eyes. JellyBean

 

An Audible Gasp

21 Mar

Yes, last night after I posted my blog, I could almost hear an audible gasp throughout my Christian friends who are probably not happy about my blog. Maybe a sigh and some peeps shaking their heads. Hmm…there she goes again!  Did I mix a public post about my faith and my thankfulness about Mr Lumpcake being gone in the same post about God AND the insanity in which I live? Well yes, yes I did. That is reality of my life, my friends.

I know it’s easy to cheer on the rah-rah blogs of test results, clean scans, fun survivor things in which I get to participate. But my real life is exactly as I post it – and I always told you I would be honest with my blogs. Am I looking for sympathy? No I am not. Do I want people to be able to think once, twice, or ten times about their actions and how they treat other people – especially those going through medical issues. Yes I do.

No matter what people are going through – cancer, heart issues, chronic fatigue, Crohns Disease, or a car accident….life still goes on. People still do crappy things to you. People do wonderful things for you. People give gifts, and cards and love and attention. Some also give heartache and heartburn. The odd part is – people just don’t want to hear the truth. We live in a world full of political correctness and the premise of perfect lives due to facebook and twitter. Not many people tell about the things that really go on behind their facebook pages and posts. After all, that would be a downer, a buzz-kill, a bummer. But….it is reality. Divorce still hurts, death still breaks hearts, and people still disappoint and hurt each other…all of the time.

Did I write something sarcastic about someone being “a positive addition to humanity” in the same post I talked about God and His perfect timing? Yes, I really did. Because that is real life….mine anyway. The good, the great, the bad, and the ugly….it’s what makes us all human.

Seeing Into The Future

20 Mar

It would be amazing to be able to predict the future wouldn’t it? Or maybe not so much. Five years ago tonight I was preparing myself mentally for a lumpectomy in the morning. Cancer removal – great thing! Being able to know exactly what type of cancer I had and what needed to be done – great thing! If I had been able to look into my future that night, and see what was coming versus what I thought was coming, would have freaked my butt out. I was totally “sure” I was going to have a lumpectomy and radiation. That was my deal, I just knew. But, as we all know, things turned out quite a bit differently. I blogged five years ago tonight and called it something like “My First and Hopefully Last Surgery”….something naïve like that. If only I could have looked into the future – but would I have wanted to? I know now that God unfolds our story in the perfect timing for what we can handle or what He knows we can handle.  I certainly didn’t ever think I could handle everything that has happened. But I have – and I am better for it.

Had I been able to look into the future five years ago tonight – I would have also seen Kevin’s ex-life (yes that is the correct spelling) coming to our house the day after my surgery and handing a folder of her and Kevin’s wedding photos to their teenage son – who happened to be at our house for our custody time. I guess she woke up that morning thinking it was a good day to deliver 20-year-old wedding photos to her ex-husbands house the day after I had cancer surgery. And to hand them to her son. Double whammy – she got to pull one of her lovely escapades and teach her son how to treat other people all at the same time. If I could have been able to look into the future and see what my life held, for the next five years, with that insanity, I am sure I would be living in another state by now. Or another country. (Yes, this is the same woman who just dumped her 20-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome, with no warning, for us to raise 100% of the time instead of having 50/50 custody. She is a positive addition to humanity. If everyone could have a Mom like that – the world really would be a horror show.)

So, the question is, knowing what we know now, in each of our lives, would we really want to be able to see into the future? Hmmm…..I think not. I think God has us all covered with His perfect timing and His ability to see us all through the trials and tribulations of this thing we call LIFE.

Five years ago tomorrow was the death of Mr. Lumpcake – and as I say each year on this anniversary – you lose Mr. Lumpcake…you lose.

 

 

 

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