For the past three years, a group of young women have gotten together to host a breast cancer fundraiser within their tight-knit community. Although these women are all friends they have become so close, they’re practically sisters. They now refer to each other as “sissy”.
Breast cancer, well any cancer for that matter, has affected each member of the group. Unfortunately, it has really "hit home" with one member in particular. She has been dealing with lumps, mammograms, breast MRI's, and breast ultrasounds since she was 23 years old! Her mother successfully battled breast cancer twice! She made an ultimate, selfless decision to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery when she was 27 years old (just like Angelina Jolie).
This event is near and dear to all of our hearts. We started off small with local businesses donating gift certificates to raffle off as a tricky-tray but as the years have progressed, so have the prizes! We are really looking to obtain a large variety of donations to hopefully draw a larger crowd. Last year we raised over $2,000 but our goal this year is closer to $3000!
We are hoping that with all your help our goal will come true. Please take the time to read our personal experiences with the disease below and why we feel this fundraiser is such a vital part of our sisterhood.
Carla's Story -
"I found a lump" are words that a young twenty something year old NEVER expects to hear. She's too focused on parties, the bar scene, continuing education, work, family, and love interests to deal with something like this! Well I heard those words and they forever changed my life. I was twenty two when I had a lumpectomy. Thank god the results were benign but that lead me down a path of doctors that I never thought I would be dealing with that young.
Everyone always said I was so much like my mother so I knew eventually I would battle the disease, and triumph, like she did. My expectations were different though. I thought I would be much older when this aspect of my life started - the aspect many women face called BREAST CANCER. From the time I was twenty two until about twenty five I went for MRI's, mammograms and ultrasounds. Always running to doctors offices - breast specialists, surgeons, genetic counselors - the list is endless. I finally decided to get tested for the BRCA gene and, as my gut lead me to believe, I tested positive. Shocker! Just like my mom, remember?! When the screenings pretty much started to consume my life, my doctor and I had a serious conversation about getting a mastectomy. I was twenty six years old, dating a guy for less than a year and not even fully settled with my life. There were so many "what if's" that ran through my head. The biggest one though was "what if I get cancer knowing the information that I know?" How could I do that to my family? I had this knowledge and I wasn't going to just file it away. I had to be proactive. So the summer of 2009 I scheduled to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Less than a week before I was about to completely change my life, the man that helped me through so much of this asked me to marry him. It was perfect timing and blew me away to know that this surgery wouldn't stop him from loving me. We now have two beautiful children with our family and friends close by and I honestly couldn't ask for more. In supporting Fight Like A Girl it's opening up the minds of our youth to be proactive and know you're not alone in the battle.
Cristina's Story -
My sister and I have a bond that cannot be broken or destroyed. I will never forget the day our results from genetic testing came back. She was strong. I was weak. She consoled me as I cried all the way home. I felt like a piece of me was being taken away that day but in true fighter mode Carla looked at me and said "Cris we will get through this". Can you imagine that?
Carla who just found out she was positive for the mutated gene was basically talking me off a ledge. I always knew she was strong but that day showed me just how strong she really was. I felt shattered because we have witnessed first hand what cancer has done to our family but Carla changed that! She stood up to it and said F#c% you!
That strength, determination and courage inside Carla brings us together each year to give back to the young women who feel defeated by cancer. We continue to fight alongside Carla until the bond we have destroys it, NOT US!
Mary's Story -
What should have been a fun birthday celebration became a devastating memory that will stay with me forever. As I prayed for a benign report, I held my breath and asked, "So what are the results?” Sam’s response was, "They found cancer." My heart sank and my birthday cheer quickly turned to worry and sorrow. My only thoughts were, "Why Fran? Why cancer?" Fran was diagnosed with cancer and our whole world turned upside down. While she may have known it was terminal, at no point did she show it or lose her spirit. Her battle was short, but so incredibly brave. My best friend,Sam, experienced a loss that no one should have to go through - the loss of a mother at the age of 29. She needed her mom. It was simply not fair. No one should ever have to see someone they love suffer so deeply. I know the loss I felt and couldn’t bear to imagine how it felt for my friend and her family. It left a piece of our hearts broken forever. After the passing of our beloved friend, mother, wife, daughter, grandmother, aunt and cousin we live on to share wonderful memories of Fran's incredible life. We remember her fondly and celebrate her life each day. She is with us as we come together to honor those who have fought, those who continue to fight, and those who have survived the battle. Each October, my dear friend Carla, along with our sisterhood, organizes a fundraising event to help build awareness and support those who are affected by cancer. As expressed by Eleanor Roosevelt, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." And together, each year, WE will always FIGHT our hardest and never, ever give up HOPE.
Tricia's Story -
"I'm a bitch I'm a lover I'm a child I'm a mother" that was the song that was playing on mtv when the phone rang, it was cancer, my mother, not the first and certainly not the last to get the call.
It all seemed to go by so quickly.
Maybe because I was young and ignorant or maybe because she was one of the lucky few that a simple (if you could call it that) lumpectomy was able to cure her.
Fast forward about 10 years and the phone rang again. A different doctor and a different diagnosis. What was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy turned into a life saving procedure. The polyps they found were cancer and they needed to be removed, but that wasn't it, the portion of colon had to be taken out too. So with a brave face my mother went into surgery and came out my father’s “little semicolon”.
A few years later my father passed away and it is left to me and my sisters to take my mother every year for her check up to make sure nothing new has come back and every time I say small prayer because I don't know what I would do if I lost my mother too.
Samantha's Story -
I was 10 years old when my mother brought me to say hello to my Aunt Diane. I remember being so excited because she always made me feel like a princess. Little did I know that was the last time I would see her. I knew she was sick for a long time but I didn't know what was actually wrong with her. She hugged me goodbye, grabbed my hands and said "I love you forever my little Samantha". For some reason, I looked down at her hands and noticed they were so puffy. In the car on the way home I asked my mother what was wrong with Aunt Diane. She told me that she had breast cancer and that was probably the last time I would see her. It wasn't until I was 29 that I saw those puffy hands again. As I watched my mother laying in a hospital bed for the fifth time the doctor asked her "Fran are you done fighting". She turned and said "what about my baby". I told my mother that it was ok, I would be fine. I held my mother's hand and told her it's ok - to let go of this fight! That day I knew my mother had to give up her fight of liver/gallbladder cancer. Deep down, I know she held out for everyone because she was loved - oh god was she loved by all. When she walked into a room, the room would just light up! Five days later I heard my mother take her last breath while my aunt, brothers, father and I laughed in the kitchen. I know she heard us being "us" and knew it was time to go. I am so blessed to have a sisterhood of friends to share my life with. We get together every October to bring awareness to breast cancer, we want to enlighten those that have enlighten us. Even though we lost the ones we love most, we know they are watching us and so proud of this yearly tradition.
Danielle’s Story -
I was just a little kid, 8 years old, when my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being so young, I really knew nothing about it because it was kept from me. As I got older, I learned of my grandmother’s battle; the chemotherapy sessions which caused her to lose her hair and wear a wig, the pain she was in and the harsh and scary reality of that terrible word - cancer, and the way it scared our family. I’m blessed because at 29, I can still say that I have my grandmother here and she beat her battle with breast cancer! My grandmother still continues to fight, but this time, lung cancer. It amazes me that to this day she always has a brave face on and she never lets her grandchildren know the pain she suffers. On April 23rd of this year, my grandfather, her husband, lost his long fight with bladder cancer. Cancer has hit home with me, and I know, in one way or another, has touched us all.
I feel lucky that in my early twenties I met one of my closest friends, Carla, and learned of her story. So many people have someone in their life that suffers from cancer, but just sit on the sidelines. Not Carla though. I’ve gotten to know and become so close to her group of friends who come together to help raise awareness for this horrible disease. I’m proud and honored to be a part of this yearly tradition and believe that it will make a difference!
Michelle's Story -
It comes in just like a destructive tornado, without warning. It's unpredictable and unruly. No one knows how large it will get or how it will end. It causes chaos and confusion for all who encounter it. It has no emotion. No heart. You can't reason with it, talk to it or stop to ask it a question. It knows no age, race or sex. It doesn't care if you're about to graduate third grade, walk down the aisle or welcome your first grandchild into the world. It has no sense of time but yet, is somehow very good at stealing it. It will test your strength, perseverance, will, heart, family and make you question everything you've ever done. It will strip away your vanity but it can never take away your pride - it's cancer. And in some way, shape or form, it has impacted each and every one of us.
According to statistics, cancer will affect 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in the U.S. and I believe it to be true. When I look around at my family and my close knit inner circle, it's unfortunately too easy to rattle off a list of people who have gone to battle the beast: from my aunt who had ovarian cancer, my mom who had renal carcinoma, my other aunt who had non-hodgkin's lymphoma, my dad who continues to fight off bladder cancer to one of my best friend's who had to undergo preventative measures in her 20s to avoid breast cancer. And while I'm beyond lucky and grateful to still have all of those people with me today, not everyone in my life has been able to overcome this. I know firsthand what cancer can do to a person. I watched two of the most influential women in my life, put up one of the greatest fights of their life. To my grandmother and my best friend's mother, Fran, I love you both and will do my part to continue to carry on your fight. It's the people that you surround yourself with that make this life worth living for. And I'm proud and blessed to say I'm surrounded by the best and strongest. Four years ago, our best friend Carla asked all of us if we'd join her in doing our part to help combat cancer. That was the day our Fight Like A Girl fundraiser, to help the young women's breast cancer survival coalition, was started. It's been an honor to stand beside seven of the strongest women we know and bring this annual initiative to life.