What do you think of when you hear the words “breast cancer?” Do you think of October because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Do you think of pink ribbons? Chemotherapy and radiation? Survivors? Fighters?
I know what I think of, or rather, who I think of. I think of Ann. I think of Cheryl. I think of Maggie.
I think about the wonderful memories, time spent laughing together, holidays and birthdays celebrated with one another. I think about how much they are now missed—by their spouses, children, family, and friends.
Breast cancer is a terrible ordeal. Anyone that has known or loved someone affected by breast cancer knows it. There is suffering both physically and mentally. Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Fighting against your own body; trying all different sorts of treatments to extend precious time. Getting sick—really sick—from the treatments. Wanting to fight, followed by wanting to give up. It is hell.
With the help of many friends, family, and co-workers, I have been raising awareness and fundraising for breast cancer research and support for six years now. It all started when a dear family friend, Ann, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Ann was like a second mother to me growing up. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wanted to do anything I could to show her that she was supported. We had bake sales and sold lots and lots of pink shirts. She fought cancer’s butt like a champ and we thought she had won. She went into remission!
That is, she went into remission until 2015 when her cancer came back with a vengeance.
We learned on November 18th, 2015 that Ann’s cancer was back. This time, it was Stage 4, inoperable. It metastasized and had spread everywhere—to her bones, liver, lungs, and lymphatic system. The doctors gave her 6 months to live. Ann’s oldest daughter promptly moved up her wedding as soon as they’d received the terrible news. Ann hung on as long as she could, but ended up passing the morning of the wedding—only 17 days later. She passed on her daughter’s wedding day. Can you imagine the pain and mixed emotions? There are no words to really describe a situation like this. Unbelievable sorrow. Heartbreak. Profound sadness.
Cheryl’s battle with cancer was much shorter, but equally tragic. Cheryl found out she had cancer in October of 2013. After a long diagnosis process, she learned she had a rare and aggressive form—triple-negative breast cancer, meaning it was estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative. When they discovered the cancer, it had already metastasized into her liver and many other parts of her body (stage 4) and the doctors couldn’t figure out where it had started from. She went through several rounds of chemotherapy, but the cancer had already metastasized too far throughout her body.
Cheryl was fighting hard to attend her son’s wedding which was approaching in May of 2014. She found out she had cancer October of 2013, was officially diagnosed January of 2014, and passed away May 18, 2014. Her son Kyle was married the weekend after the funeral. One of the things that sticks out in my mind the most from the funeral is something they had shared from Cheryl’s time getting chemo. Cheryl was such a positive person and very intent on attending Kyle’s wedding. Her personality was infectious and other women at her Chemo clinic started changing their appointments just so that they could get Chemo at the same time at Cheryl. That’s exactly how she was—everyone wanted to be around her. She was taken far too soon and is missed dearly.
Maggie was larger than life. It only took a few minutes in her presence before you felt like you were one of her oldest and dearest friends. Maggie was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2013. She went through the treatments that many do, fought hard for almost a year, and was given a clean bill of health the summer of 2014. Less than a year later, she was told that her cancer had metastasized to her liver. The diagnosis for metastatic breast cancer is terminal; there is no cure. The most they can do is hope to prolong your life through treatments and trials. Maggie fought every single day for as long as she could because she truly believed that every day matters. Sadly, she passed in August 2016, leaving a huge hole in so many lives, especially those of her young girls and her husband. She was 40 years old.
There are countless stories similar to these three.
So, I continue to spread awareness and fundraise in honor of Ann, Cheryl, Maggie and so many others in hopes that no one, no family, will have to endure a situation like this again.
Tequila for Tatas
In 2015, Tri-North began a new fundraiser called “Tequila for Tatas.” In our first year, we raised just over $1,800 for an amazing organization called METAvivor. METAvivor is such an important organization because they focus specifically on metastatic breast cancer. While 30% of all breast cancer will metastasize, only 2% of research funding currently goes to metastatic breast cancer. METAvivor seeks to change that. The way they see it, if 30% of cases metastasize, 30% of funding should be going to research metastatic breast cancer.
Tequila for Tatas was such a huge success last year that we’re turning it into an annual event. Together, we will spread awareness, get the support and research needed for those affected by metastatic breast cancer, and eventually find a cure. We hope you can join us on Wednesday, October 26th. A minimum donation of $25 will get you two hand-crafted margaritas, delicious appetizers provided by Pasqual’s, and great conversation. Please join us for this fun fiesta for a fantastic cause.
For more information about METAvivor, please visit http://www.metavivor.org/.