Guest post: Donna Terrell, Fox 16 News Anchor, daughter of breast cancer survivor

Around this time of year I am often reminded of how far we have come in raising awareness about breast cancer. How easy it is for us to have open discussions about it. How we celebrate survivor-ship and how we remind our friends and family members to do self breast checks and get mammograms.

Many years ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Looking back she never really told me what was going on but that something was wrong and she believed God would take care of her. I was living and working in another state at the time – so when I came home and discovered she had a radical mastectomy I was shocked and heartbroken. I saw where her breast had been removed. She also showed me her prosthesis – back then it was an object shaped like a small pillow, stuffed with material that she placed inside of her bra. I kept thinking why did I not realize the extent of her surgery. How could I have not known.

She was right – God did take care of her and allowed momma to become an 11 year breast cancer survivor. Those years were full of life and the breast cancer never returned. She eventually died from another form of cancer that doctors told us was not connected to the breast cancer.

Not long after she died, my aunt and I were talking about my mom – her only sister. We were reminiscing about her life and impact on all of us. I said to my aunt “well, after momma had breast cancer…” and before I could finish the sentence my aunt looked at me in shock and said “breast cancer? I didn’t know sister had breast cancer!” And she began to cry.  After all the time the two of them spent together living in the same town – after all the phone conversations, holidays spent together, family dinners and going to church together she never knew her only sister was a breast cancer survivor.

Over the years I have come to understand why I didn’t know the extent of momma’s surgery. I never realized she would lose a breast because she didn’t want me to know. It was too personal – too private and she was too fearful to talk about it openly. We all know there was time when women didn’t talk too much about female medical issues. It was taboo in our society.

I am grateful to Komen for helping us lift the veil of secrecy and talk about breast cancer. Being able to share the news with friends and especially family members has saved many lives. Thanks to Komen we have come so far in raising awareness and money for research. And thanks to research we have made tremendous strides in eradicating this disease. Let’s keep putting one foot in front of the other through events like The Race For The Cure. We’ll get to our destination – it’s just a matter of time.

– Donna Terrell, Fox16 News Anchor and Susan G. Komen Board Member

Let’s TALK about it!  OUT LOUD!  Women need the information, the education, and the support that comes with sharing.  You, my beautiful survivor princesses, have no reason to be ashamed!  You are a champion.  And you are my hero.

- Ashley Hurst, 2014 Race Chair

Today’s fundraising tips

Here are a few fundraising tips I’ve gathered from some great teams:
1) Have a bake sale. It’s easy and everyone wants a treat in the afternoon. $3 for a brownie is fine, since it’s for a good cause!

2) See if your company will help with the contest. Every $5 raised gets your name in a drawing for a grand prize. Past prizes have included an iPod, a Yeti cooler, and other expensive gifts!

3) Place a jar on your desk for people who’d like to, to donate to Susan G. Komen.

These sound simple, but it adds up quickly. More to come this week! Do you have great fundraising ideas? We’d love for you to share them here!

10 days til Race day!!

Ashley Hurst
2014 Race Chair

GO PINK DAY in Arkansas

Go Pink Day
Governor Mike Beebe has declared
Friday, October 3rd as Arkansas Go Pink For The Cure Day
On October 3rd, we will show our solidarity
for the fight against breast cancer by wearing pink!
Encourage your Mayor to declare October 3rd as Go Pink Day in your town!

Decorate your office in pink. Dress up your shop windows in pink.
Encourage your friends, family and co-workers to do the same!
Use the links found on komenarkansas.org to donate to the
Arkansas Affiliate of Susan G. Komen in honor of your town.
Don’t see your town listed? Call us! We will add your town to the list!
Whether it’s $1, $5, $20 or more, every dollar raised will help someone in our communities
with their fight against breast cancer! 75% of all money raised stays in Arkansas.  This results in over $1 million dollars given to LOCAL grantees to provide education, screening, and treatment for breast cancer!

LET’S HAVE A SEA OF PINK IN ARKANSAS ON OCTOBER 3rd!

go-pink-2014

Fundraising ideas from USAble Life

USAble Life is ready to Crusade for the Cure! Our aptly named Cure Crusaders, are tremendously enthused about this year’s Race for the Cure. After years of charitable donation, the employees asked that we do more this year—and we responded with new events to heighten interest. We held a team naming competition, hoping to test the waters, and we were swamped by over 125 entries from employees in three different states (and even a few from remote teams scattered across the country). Rene Riggs—a Jacksonville employee—won the competition and $50 along with the header on our newly designed team shirts.
Our Hawaii branch has over 30% of the branch team signed up for the race and in Jacksonville and Little Rock the numbers are still climbing. LSV is paying all entry fees to encourage participation and help those who may have financial concerns. We have bake sales planned in which all proceeds from the employee-made treats go directly to the donation fund and photo contests to really help us demonstrate what community means to us, and what it looks like to serve that community. We also have a Pink Out! day to raise awareness visually while providing employees with a chance to out-do one another for a cause.
Although we never pass up a chance to have fun as a team, we recognize that these events are all awareness raising tools for the real crusaders—the ones who are fighting for their lives, sometimes in the cubicle across from ours. Our “Pink Tales” wall commemorates their stories, pink ribbons hanging from the wall between the smiling faces of office-mates and loved ones fighting, surviving, or inspiring in their absence. It’s a visual representation of what we’re really fighting for with cupcakes and racing numbers, pink suits and jeans days.
As a life insurance company, USAble Life promotes overall wellness and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. But beyond that, we have a vision of making a meaningful difference, not just within our company but in the community around us. We want to give back and pay it forward. What better way than with a cause that has touched our employees so personally that they voted en masse to dedicate their free time and passion to it? Crusade means “a major effort to change something,” and that’s what we’re putting forth: a major effort in the belief that it will make a difference; that it will further the possibility of a future without breast cancer. We’re crusading for the cure, for a brighter and healthier future, for the chance to keep our loved ones with us as long as possible.

———————————————————————————————————

It doesn’t always take a huge effort to fundraise.  Consider trying it yourself or encouraging your team or place of employment.  It’s people like this who make a difference in our state.

I can’t wait to see you all on OCTOBER 4!

Ashley Hurst – 2014 Race Chair

I was 25 years old . . . Devon Hale – 2014 Honorary Survivor

As race weekend approaches, my heart grows more excited every day. I saw my Mom battle and beat breast cancer three times with grace and an inspiring positive attitude. Our family has always strived to be positive and make the best of every situation, whatever life throws our way. We have always said laughter is the best medicine and we have always found that to be true. My sister and I had always known that with our family history of breast cancer that one day this may be the reality we ourselves would have to face. We had talked so many time of waiting till we were each in our mid to late thirties and at that time we would look into preventative measures. What we didn’t know is that our mid to late thirties turned into our mid to late twenties and it was no longer a preventative measure.
I have always been proactive in doing self breast exams, but never would I have thought that at the age of 25 I would find “that” lump. To be honest, I was 25 years old; I was starting a new career, making new friends, and just enjoying and loving every minute of where I was in my life. On December 24th, 2012, getting ready to go to my parents to celebrate Christmas Eve, I found it. I stayed calm even though inside my head I knew that this was it, this was the real deal. My mother at the time was the only one who knew and we started what every breast cancer patient knows, the rounds and rounds of appointments. For the first time, I was the one on the exam table and not my mother. After about a month of testing, I received a phone call that my biopsies had come back positive. I learned that I had stage III advanced IDC with lymph node involvement. I did 8 rounds of chemotherapy and then had a double mastectomy scheduled in the next few months. On June 10th, 2014 after I had finished treatment I received the phone call that I hope every woman who is fighting the fight gets…that all cancer is gone and you are in remission. I was so excited to hear this news and I couldn’t wait to get off the phone so I could call my mother and tell her. I drove to my parent’s house immediately, blaring Florence and the Machines song “Dog Days Are Over”, I was smiling and tears of joy were streaming down my face. I hugged my parents and we all cried tears of happiness. It is that feeling that I wish for every woman who battles with breast cancer, to have the opportunity to feel that same emotion. It is an emotion that I will never be able to put into words.
The very next day on June 11th, 2013, my sister Lindsay Hale Bender, who had gone in to look into having a preventative mastectomy, got the other type of call. Her MRI had shown that she had Stage I breast cancer in both breasts and therefore it was no longer a preventative measure. Our double mastectomies were 8 days apart. We have always been extremely close, but this carved out a whole new respect, inspiration, and love for one another that never will be broken. After our first surgeries, we would recover together and try not to make the other laugh, which in our family is a recipe for disaster. Laughing, and laughing as hard as we do when we are together was a little painful after a double mastectomy. It didn’t faze us though; trying to tell each other to “stop making me laugh” only makes it harder. As I said previously, laughter is the best medicine. We did it together and are proud to stand beside one another this year as the honorary survivor chairs.

The Race for the Cure last year was an amazing experience. The race for me and my family had an entirely new meaning. The energy and the amazing and overwhelming feeling of being downtown on race day is one of the most moving events I have and probably will ever experience. I proudly walked alongside my mother and sister with only about an inch of hair and our team, friends and family, formerly “Team Becky”, which last year became “Team Hale.” Walking among women who have fought the same fight and are there to celebrate their own lives and the lives of their loved ones, as well as those walking in memory of other friends and family is, in every sense of the word, beautiful.
Through the whole last year and a half of my life, even on my weakest and hardest days, I have had an amazing team to support me on every step of my journey. I am and always have been surrounded by so many good things in my life and you will never see me taking one day for granted. All my family, friends, and coworkers who supported me and were there for every single step in my journey, I will never be able to thank you enough for everything you have done for me.
A year and a half has already passed, and one thing I have learned, (that if someone would have told me from the start of this journey and I would not have believed them), is that more good and amazing things have come out of last year’s events than bad. I have been surrounded by so many amazing things; I would never look back without a smile on my face. I have met an amazing group of people, a loving family who is there for one another no matter what, made new friends that have changed my life forever, have a job and coworkers that I love who have supported me every step of the way, and I am truly happy. I look forward to whatever adventure life has in store for me next. Thank you to all of the people who made this all possible, I love you all from the bottom of my heart. For anyone still fighting, don’t ever give up.  Life is too beautiful.  I am with you in spirit and hope you know you are not and never will be alone in your fight. One day we will find a cure for cancer and until then we always have to remember how precious every moment is. All my love to all my amazing friends, family, coworkers, fellow survivors, and most importantly those still fighting! I hope to see you on RACE DAY!

Word of the day: Pre-vivor.

My name is Bonnie Wellborn Malzewski (a 37 year old mother of two young girls) and I am a “Pre-Vivor.” For some of you, you may wonder what that means and I will definitely get to that. I was asked by my husband, Alan Malzewski, to share my story. He has been involved with the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure’s 3 Miles of Men ever since we moved back to Little Rock a little over 6 years ago as a means to get involved and volunteer for a good cause. I would be willing to bet he never thought breast cancer would hit us so close to home. Prior to October 2012, we had NO IDEA that the women in my family or I were at a much greater risk than “normal” for developing breast/ovarian cancer.

In October 2012, my mother and her sister (my aunt) found out on the very same day that they had tested positive for a very aggressive triple negative (non-hormone responsive) breast cancer. That news pretty much “rocked” my world. I am very close to my mom and consider her to be one of my closest friends and I was VERY SCARED upon hearing this news. I was especially scared when we found out that she and my aunt had tested positive for the BRCA 1 genetic mutation. What did that really mean? After hours of researching on the internet and meeting with a geneticist at UAMS, I found out that if someone tests positive have the BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutations, they have up to a 90% chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer in their lifetime, which is a VERY SCARY statistic. Would you take a risk of flying on an airplane if it had a 90% chance of crashing? Well no! So, it was a NO BRAINER for me that I get tested for this mutation….

Fast forward to the fall of 2013, after my mother’s surgeries and chemo therapy had come to a conclusion, I decided to get tested for the BRCA genetic mutation. I had made up my mind (prior to taking the test) what I was going to do if I did indeed have the BRCA gene. So I was not shocked when they called to tell me that I, too, tested positive for the BRCA 1 genetic mutation. That was the day I officially became a “Pre-Vivor.” Simply put, I have an up to 90% chance of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer in my lifetime. Scary, huh! Like I mentioned above, I had a plan and I knew that I would undergo a preventative double mastectomy (with reconstruction) and a hysterectomy/oophrectomy. I was going to do what it takes to give me the BEST ODDS for being around as long as possible for my husband and two young girls. I am not going to lie; it has not been easy to undergo so much in one year. Fortunately, we have amazing family who put their lives on hold to help me out.

On March 31, 2014, I underwent a double mastectomy (with reconstruction) and had several stretching procedures (that were definitely NOT painless) and most of you would faint at the sight of the 3 inch needles for the fills each week. I did get a temporary reprieve from June through mid August when I underwent the second part of the reconstruction surgery to switch the temporary implants for permanent ones. I must say that I feel much more “normal” now but am still recovering. You forget that you can’t just pick your five year old up when they get a boo boo. I will say that some of the physical limitations have probably been the hardest on me but I do think that they will get better with time. I still have one more major surgery to undertake, the hysterectomy/oophrectomy. I am giving myself a little break but will undergo this last procedure in November or December. I don’t regret for a second my decision to take surgical pre-cautions to minimize my inherent risk.

I am so thankful for the scientists and researchers who developed this amazing test to give women pre-disposed to breast/ovarian cancer a chance to actually become a “Pre-Vivor.” Knowledge is power and I am so grateful that I don’t have to find out the hard way with a cancer diagnosis. On the flip side, weirdly enough, I feel a sense of guilt by preventing it. I know that seems odd. So many wild thoughts run through my head these days. I also worry about my girls and how this mutation may affect their lives down the road, although I secretly hope this mutation skips over them but I am a realist and know when they get older, it will be something we will need to address. My secret hope is that there will be a cure by the time they would need to make some of the decisions I have had to make.

I have yet to mention how very grateful I am for my husband Alan who has been my rock and support through all this. He has stepped up to the plate in every way possible, both for me and for our girls. I could not have done this without him by my side, and I am VERY LUCKY to have such a wonderful man and father in my life. I am BLESSED!

Please register at http://www.komenarkansas.org and join me on Race day.  Together, we can find a cure.

Al Malzewski – 3 Miles of Men Chair

In last year’s blog post, I said cancer has a way of changing things. This past year has proven to me that even the fear of cancer can change things almost as much.

Two years ago, in late October 2012, my mother-in-law AND her sister both saw suspicious spots on their mammograms on the very same day. In an instant, my family went from one of normal risk for breast cancer to one of much higher risk. For me, my wife, and our two young daughters, the impact was dramatic, and life altering. I support the Arkansas Race for the Cure because 25 percent of all Race proceeds goes to fund national breast cancer research. The other 75 percent goes to help educate and provide mammograms and screening right here in Arkansas. From that research, a tremendous amount has been learned about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which is now a part of my family, and a huge concern for the future. This past year, my wife earned the label of previvor. Just like Angelina Jolie did in February 2013 when she tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, my wife chose to have preventative surgery to reduce her risk of getting best cancer from 87 percent to less than 5 percent. It was an incredibly difficult decision, but her courage and determination to stand up to breast cancer has been extremely inspiring and brave. I hope that we can find a cure for breast cancer before my two young daughters ever have to look in the mirror and decide to stand up to breast cancer and fight for their lives.

I got involved with the 3 Miles of Men committee five years ago because the Arkansas Race for the Cure is an amazing event with an enormous impact on the state. Six races later, it has never disappointed!

On Race morning I will be at the 3 Miles of Men headquarters near the Capitol Smokehouse and Grill. On this amazing morning, 35,000 participants will cheer and support each and every survivor, celebrate and energize their battles against breast cancer, and encourage their family and friends who support and honor them each and every day. As members of 3 Miles of Men, guys will be cheering along the race route as well as running and walking with the tens of thousands of women who come downtown year after year. As an added bonus, all 3 Miles of Men participants can bring along a registered race guest with them to our special Tailgate Party at Diamond Bear Brewery on Thursday, Sept. 25 from 5-7pm. Join us for free beverages and Larry’s pizza, as well as music, lots of great prizes to giveaway, and lots of fun – all part of your 3 Miles of Men registration!

Please join me and the rest of Arkansas for this very special event, and help us find a cure! Register today at KomenArkansas.org and show your support. I’m going to move. be moved. Will you?

Al Malzewski
Chair of the 3 Miles of Men