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It all started with a Beyonce concert… By guest blogger, Channte K.

It was one of the best nights of my life. After having front row seats to the Beyonce Formation concert, I was on an ultimate high. I crashed in the bed at 1:00 am, anxiously looking to recap the night. I scrolled through picture after picture on my phone, grinning at how remarkable the night had been. As I rested my phone near my chest to brace for a better view, I could see a raised lump. The site of the lump was not too frightening at the time, but I immediately knew that whatever the knot was, it didn’t belong there.

One month later; after an OBGYN visit, a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 3, 2016 at 36 years old. This was the start of my cancer journey.

After the initial shock, to me it was simple. If it were up to me, my treatment plan would be to have the tumor surgically removed and then continue on with my life after a few weeks. But it’s far more complicated than that.

I was diagnosed with Stage 2, estrogen positive invasive ductal carcinoma. When you’re diagnosed, it seems as if the process moves very swiftly at first. A plethora of hard decisions that impact the rest of your life have to be made in a matter of days. Having said that, in three weeks post diagnosis, I removed both breast. I thought that having a double mastectomy was enough. The doctors thought otherwise.

My surgical oncologist insisted that I do radiation. It was my plastic surgeon that rebutted that course of treatment. I did a second surgery to remove additional skin against my surgical oncologist wishes but with my plastic surgeons persistence. My plastic surgeon secured clear margins during my second surgery. But to my surprise and horror there were still 1 cm of cancer cells left in my right breast. Although I avoided radiation because of my second procedure. I still had to do chemotherapy.

No one tells you how much you lose when you have cancer. Since I had surgery and chemotherapy, I lost my breast, my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and the possibility for more children. There were mornings when I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself.

But the beautiful thing about my journey is that I gained so much more than I lost. A year later, most of what cancer took has been replaced with something much better. I have hair and my eyebrows and eyelashes back. I also have new breast thanks to reconstructive surgery.

But that’s not what’s most important. I have met some incredible people along this journey. I have found strength and companionship among other survivors. My faith in God has quadrupled. I am more passionate, more loving and more grateful for each day.

I could say that having cancer was some of the worst days of my life. But I won’t. Instead I will say that overcoming cancer gave me a new outlook on life. It was a beautiful experience that was painful at its worst (physically and emotionally), humbling at its core and rewarding in the end.

Now when I look in the mirror I still don’t recognize myself. I’m different. I’m a better version of the old me. I’ve been elevated to a warrior with immense strength and a clear purpose. I certainly have the battle scars to prove it.  I will continue to raise awareness, educate and help others in being their own health advocate and their best selves. ~ Channte

 

Love Amazon? Shop and Make a Donation to Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes at the same time!

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Did you know that you can have Amazon automatically make a donation to Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes every time you place a qualifying order with them? All you have to do is start your order at smile.amazon.com and select Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes as the charity you would like to support. It’s that easy!

The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of your elgible purchases price to SSPW. This offer is valid all year, not just the holidays!

Thank you!

 

Meet our next Wish Recipient, Chanda.

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At age 28 you don’t expect to hear you have cancer. I went in for a routine check up, and while being examined my doctor asked if I notice that my nipple was inverted inward. I explained that its been like that for a few weeks along with a brownish color discharge from my breast, but I didn’t think anything of it as it wasn’t a lump nor was it bothersome. She stated that she wanted to order a baseline mammogram along with some labs, from prolactin levels down to thyroid testing. Several days went by with lab testing, ultrasound and another mammogram as the first one didn’t show anything abnormal. I really wasn’t nervous at the time, because I didn’t expect to hear anything bad like cancer as it didn’t run high in my family.

After a second ultrasound, I then knew something wasn’t right when the ultrasound technician seemed somewhat distance and reserved and went to get a doctor to look at the monitor. From that momemt on it has been one emotional roller-coaster. I was told I had invasive ductal carcinoma grade 3 cancer and was told it was triple negative. I was clueless to what it was and was numb from hearing the word Cancer. I was told that this cancer mostly effects young woman and is an aggressive cancer. However with surgery and chemotherapy I would be just fine. After a few other testing, biopsy and the results of my BRCA, it was highly recommend I get a double masectomy and hysterectomy and complete 6 rounds of AC. But being only 28 and selfishly thinking of myself with not having any breast or not being able to have anymore children; along with being scared out my mind, I opted out from them taking both of my breast or getting a hysterectomy. So I ended up just having a lumpectomy with sentinel node biopsy in October 2008. After completing 6 rounds of chemotherapy (no radiation because they caught it early) I was cancer free and worried free……at least I thought.

Until June 2013 I passed out at work, I’ll never forget July 4th 2013 (my oldest son birthday) I heard that horrible word CANCER reenter my vocabulary. After several scans and testing I was told the cancer had returned in my right breast. I thought I was heavily medicated and they was just talking jubberish until I seen my oncologist and a general surgeon come in. It was confirmed again that I had cancer and I needed to get surgery immediately. From July 2013 to February 2014 I had undergone several surgeries including a double masectomy with lymph node dissection,  hysterectomy, even reconstruction surgery. 10 rounds of chemotherapy completed……..I was winning!!! I assumed I had cancer beat at this point, I kept saying I’m gonna beat this thing for the second time. Sadly to say it wasn’t until after a PET scan I learned that the infusions wasn’t responding and a new mass beneath my sternum was found and the cancer is now metastatic. Numerous scans, several surgeries, and a ton of hospital stays, I’m still standing. Currently undergoing clinical trial placebo treatments at MD ANDERSON CANCER CENTER in Houston, Texas and also locally at MASSEY CANCER CENTER in Richmond, Virginia we’re still hoping and praying for a new chemo cocktail to respond the cancer, and hopefully to get the bone marrow transplant that’s needed( fingers crossed & praying ).

Having to sit down to inform three kids and your family that the cancer has rapidly spread, and they now consider you terminal, is devastating. Though some may say youre too young for cancer, you don’t look sick or you’re going to be just fine, I dont feel as if it will be ok. Hearing terminal and you need to get your affairs in order was heartbreaking, I knew then my fight with cancer had now taken a turn for the worse, and everyday now is a struggle. I cant put in words how I actually feel, because most of the times I blame myself…..had I just had the double masectomy when I was first diagnosed in 2008, maybe I wouldn’t be here now still fighting. Then its that feeling like your on one big emotional roller-coaster, one minute I’m sad, the next minute I’m upset then there are times I find myself asking God why me, but I’m at peace with it all and I tell myself every morning God only will give me what he knows I can handle.

My kids is what keeps me going, they are the reason I’m still fighting with a smile on my face. My daughter who I feel deserves the world, at 19 that young lady has kept me and her brothers afloat during some trying times. She’s not only my son caregiver, but she played a role as second mom to her brother’s. Currently waiting on her date for basic training for the Airforce she’s still my rock and the piece that holds everyone together in this. My boy’s 16 and 13 have been the main reason I participated in this clinical trial and research study. Since my daughter left they have became my “little big men” (mama boys, lol) watching my every move, asking every minute if I’m ok, do I need anything, but most importantly trying to keep me busy and moving.

Cancer doesnt just effect me, so trying to hold on and stand strong themselves at age 19, 16 and 13, I made a promise to my children. I told them the day I heard I’m Cancer Free all four of us would take a trip and celebrate life together, but I wasnt going to have a big party with tons of people, cake and pretty pink cancer survivor stuff…….nah this time we (“The Fantastic Four”) was going to celebrate life together in Florida for a week; rent a nice vacation house and go to Universal Studio’s, as this journey over the last two years for us has been rough and tough.

So if I could make one wish come true, it would be just that……for “The Fantastic Four” to celebrate life together with nothing but love, tears of joy, fun and laughter. It doesn’t matter to me now whether it’s celebrating my life cancer free, the fact that I’m still here, still living and still fighting , and still enjoying whats important to me is enough at this moment. Though God has the final report, I hope & pray to keep my promise to them with being able to celebrate life in Florida, but to also beat cancer like I promised them as well.  ~Chanda

 

If you would like to help us grant Chanda’s wish, make your donation today! www.ShaySharpesPinkWishes.org or mail it to:

Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes. P.O.Box 11763. Baltimore, Maryland 21206

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I HATE CANCER! Our friend, Rachell, has been placed in home hospice.

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Our beautiful Rachell, is resting, pain free, in home hospice. I hate cancer! Here is the latest update, I found it on the Prayers for Rachell page.  Please keep her friends and family in prayer.  Thank you! ~ Madame President

Our beautiful girl has given an amazing, powerful, and most of all, inspirational fight against this hell-ish cancer. She has faced every obstacle with positivity. Pushing through unimaginable pain with a smile. She showed us what a true warrior looks like. She’s hid her pain and suffering so well behind that beautiful smile, I honestly don’t think any of us can comprehend the actual amount of pain that she has endored. Our warrior is exhausted from this tireless fight…her beautiful soul deserves to rest….

Rachell is ready to be free from the pain and suffering that this cancer has caused her…ready to let go. She hasn’t received chemo in over a month, it’s no longer an option as her body is too weak to handle it. She’s been put on In Home Hospice, which is end of life care in the comfort of her home. No more doctors appointments, scans, or testing. Her mom and hospice nurse are making sure that she is comfortable and feels as little pain as possible. She is and will continue to be surrounded by people who love her dearly. She will not be alone. Things are happening fast, if she continues on this path she should be letting go very soon. Send your prayers and positive energy to Rachell for her new journey.

Rachell has always informed her friends on social media of her battle, it’s important that we continue her story now that she can’t. I will do my best to keep yall updated and answer questions. Please keep our family in your prayers, this is obviously a difficult time for everyone.

Rachell’s mom asked me to update everyone on Rachell…so of course I wrote something. What I didn’t expect was how difficult it would be to post it here. I’ve held onto this for hours and hours…thinking how pissed off she’s going to be with me for making everyone think that she’s leaving us. My brain can’t wrap around the facts. It hurts so bad. It’s such a strange thing…watching someone so young, someone that you love and care about so deeply go through what she has…wanting her to let go and be free of the pain, while still wanting her to stay and not leave you. Rachell has touched so many people in her young life, I know this is painful for so many. Let’s try as hard as we can to fight that feeling of hurt and sadness. I know it sounds cliché but I know she really wouldn’t want us to feel that way. I’m sending my love out to everyone. ~ Rachell’s family

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Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes 2015 White Tie Fundraiser

 

 

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It’s our favorite time of year again! We are preparing for our 2015 White Tie Fundraiser. The theme this year is ALL WHITE! This will be unlike all the other white parties you have attended this year. When is the last time you attended an all white formal event? 100 women in all white gowns! We are gonna look like a room full of beautiful brides. I’m excited!! I cant wait to see all the beautiful survivors, guests and pictures at the event.

 

Thanks to the attendees and donors of the 2014 fundraiser, we were able to grant 15 Christmas wishes (our most to date), host Christmas brunch for families affected by breast cancer, feed and clothe the homeless on two separate occasions, and SSPW finally replaced their raggedy computer and printer. Thank you! We couldn’t do it without you.

 

Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes 2015 White Tie Fundraiser, will be held at the gorgeous Valley Mansion in Cockeysville, Maryland, on Sunday, September 27th. 6-10pm. Tickets are $125 and includes, dinner, dancing, dj, live auction, seafood buffet, open bar and hugs 🙂

You can purchase you tickets via

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PS…. You get $100 off if you purchase a table of ten $1150. Original price $1250.

Thanks again for your support and I look forward to seeing all of you there! xoxo ~ Madame President

Help Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes Send 30 Breast Cancer Survivors To Our Annual Black Tie Fundraiser, Free Of Charge!

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It’s our favorite time of year! Time for the Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes, Black Tie Fundraiser.

Every year we host a beautiful evening of food, fun, fundraising and philanthropy, to assist in our wish granting and education efforts. This year, we have 3 pending wish requests. Help us make these wishes come true!

Being a 9 year breast cancer survivor, who has lingering side effects and mounting medical expenses, I know first hand, the hardship that could be created by spending $100 on a fundraiser ticket. For this reason, we have created a Crowdrise Fundraiser in hopes of sending 30 breast cancer survivors to this event, at no expense to them.

Every year, we receive messages from young women, thanking us for giving them the opportunity, to attend this event. Some of the women have never attended a black tie event and some have never worn a gown. This event also gives women the opportunity to meet and take photos with other young survivors, many they only know from social media. Sadly these pictures have been used in the obituaries of past wish recipients and attendees.

Donate today. Every little bit counts! $10, $20, $50… whatever you can afford. Even if you cant donate financially, please share this message with your friends, followers, co-workers and family. You can donate at www.crowdrise.com/2014SSPWBTF. We thank you in advance and we hope to see you on Sunday, September 28th. xoxo ~ Madame President

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Learning To Love Yourself After Breast Cancer. By Guest Blogger Kiana B.

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My name is Kiana and I was diagnosed with breast cancer April 29, 2013 about 24 days after my 28th birthday.

I discovered the lump randomly. From there I went for a mammogram, biopsy and then was diagnosed shortly afterwards. This all happened within a two week period.

A few weeks later on Mother’s Day, I discovered I was pregnant with twins. Unplanned and unexpected due to the timing of my breast cancer diagnosis. I was shocked, confused and scared. I talked with my family and doctors and we all thought it was best to not continue the pregnancy.

That was the HARDEST decision I’ve ever been faced with in my life but I knew I had to put myself first and it would be fair to me or the babies if I was too ill to care for them and give them a quality life.

I had a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy 6/17/13. Following I had brachytherapy radiation in which 29 catheters were inserted into my breast and I received internal radiation, twice a day for about a week and a half. It was painful, scary and just plain awful but I made it through.

Once my treatment and surgery completed I began to see life in a new way a reevaluate what I needed. I changed jobs and also maintained full time enrollment in college.

Cancer has both magnified fears I didn’t think I’d ever have but also highlighted the strength and amazingly strong qualities I have.

I struggle each day physically and emotionally but I’m taking baby steps to learn to love my body as it is now due to cancer and also appreciate life a bit more than I had previously.

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My Story. By Guest Blogger Sheria N.

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At 33 years old I never thought I would hear anyone telling me that I have invasive ductal carcinoma, better known as Breast Cancer. Going in for a routine check turned bad in a blink of an eye.

I’ll always remember the day, August 23 2011, the day Baltimore had it’s first earthquake. My doctor was telling me that I have 3 tumors in my breast. The hospital is shaking. I’m crying. My husband is in the bathroom. I felt faint. All I could do was cry and think about death, because I was not educated on the topic. I was stage T2, had 72 radiation treatments, a month and a half of chemotherapy. My body took a beating. I knew that I need to lose weight but going from 150 to 100 was a bit much. I had a mastectomy on my right breast. I was sick seem like forever. I was ashamed of what I was going through, and didn’t want pictures taken. I didn’t want to be seen.

I didn’t wanna live, but my faith, family and friends allowed me to get better, so now I’m a survivor! I know a lot more and I’m not afraid to tell my story. I thank God I don’t look like what I been through….

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My Pink Testimony by Guest Blogger Tianna

January 21, 2014- The Day My Life Changed! I received the news that I had Stage 2 Breast Cancer (after finding my own lump). Receiving this news certainly hit me like a ton of bricks- everything around me got still, I couldn’t breathe, the tears started to flow and would not stop. All I could hear was my mom telling me that it was going to be alright and then she handed me the phone to speak to my grandmother. Unable to speak from crying, my grandmother softly spoke in my ear and said- Go ahead and cry, Let it all out but you FIGHT and know that the LORD is with you and will carry you through this. Finally pulling myself together and taking it all in- I decided that I needed to get a second opinion and if the results till remained, I wanted to make sure that I was treated by the best. So, I decided to contact Cancer Treatment Center of America- who handled everything from insurance verification, getting my medical records for review, travel and hotel accommodations and scheduled a visit to meet with a team of doctors that will review my test results, have all information/treatment options available and ready to discuss when I arrived.

February 4, 2014- The day I drove to Zion, IL to meet with my team of doctors with my mom, dad and cousin as my support team for the week. As I step off the shuttle to enter into the hospital, I am a little nervous but I still hear those words that my grandmother spoke to me. This place atmosphere is truly AMAZING! Upon entering the building, you are greeted right away and everyone you come in contact with are so polite and friendly. Thinking to myself- they definitely have to screen everyone of their employees- everyone here is so warm and friendly! After meeting with 5 doctors from my team- I come to learn that the tumor that was found consist of two forms of cancers- one being invasive and the other noninvasive- which was not good news b/c one was likely to spread to other parts of my body. More testing had to be done to make sure the cancer had not spread and I had to have another biopsy done because a lymph node was found in my armpit and they need to make sure that the cancer had not spread to this area. The GOD I serve is truly AMAZING because the test results were negative and showed the cancer had not spread to any other areas of my body.

February 7, 2014- The day I sat down with my oncologist at CTCA to discuss my chemotherapy options and start Round 1 of what was to be a total of 6 rounds (It just got real). First, thing I thought after hearing the word chemotherapy- I Am Going to Lose my Hair! ( those that know me, know how I am about my hair Lol). But this decision had to be made and at the end of the day- it’s just HAIR- it will grow back! The side effects you may have from chemotherapy depend on the regimen you’re on, the amount of medicine you’re getting, the length of treatment, and your general health. Chemotherapy came with a list of side effects- not just hair loss but nausea, bone/body pains, tiredness, fatigue, insomnia, low white/red blood cell counts, taste/smell change, weight change (in my case gain b/c they kept me on steroids), nail change, mouth sores, memory loss and the list goes on. And I experienced MOST of them- BUT GOD!!!!!

May 29, 2014- TODAY IS THE BIG DAY!!!!!!!! I will receive my LAST ROUND of CHEMO…..I MADE IT…THANK YOU JESUS!!!! This battle is not over yet and I still have to get through surgery and radiation but the worst part is over. Breast Cancer started the fight but I Finished it……I AM A SURVIVOR!!!
My Pink Testimony

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Breast Cancer Affects Us All. On this Mother’s Day, a young woman shares memories of her mom. Written by Guest Blogger Brandi Proctor.

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Shelia Martin Proctor… was born to overcome adversity… she had some struggles early in life… her biggest battle became the one she had with cancer. Unlike those early detection commercials… she did everything right. Shelia was high risk, she was cystic and complained of breast pain since puberty. she went ti breast specialist every 6 months, got a mammogram every year, ate right and exercised, but somehow…they missed it. An attentive nurse was the one who noticed that the lump, “felt different” From that moment on, life was never the same…

It was Election Day , 1994. Shelia was just 37, her children were 11 and 6. The rest is a whirlwind, by Friday she was in a New York Hospital, having a mastectomy. Her daughter had moved in with her father, her son went to stay with her family in Philadelphia. Shelia said when she asked the doctor how long she had they told her the life expectancy for the advanced stage cancer she had, that spread to 27 lymph nodes, was 1 to 3 years, but her children would make the difference. She said as she sat in that recovery room, staring out of the window feeling very, woe is me…she saw a little girl who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. The girl was also a cancer patient and recovering from surgery, she had once little curl of hair left on her otherwise bald head… At that moment, Shelia said, “If she can do it, I can do it…” After a few weeks of recovery, she started her first chemo with a doctor who told her, not to listen to those other doctors when it came to putting an expiration date on her life because, “Doctors are not God…” Shelia wore gold knee boots to her first chemotherapy treatment. What else would she wear? When her hair fell out, she adorned it with temporary tattoos and the most fabulous headwraps and scarves. Wigs weren’t her thing because it wasn’t her intention to hide the fact that she was bald. She’d say they itched and irritated her, but she had to admit that it was nice to be a “flaming mammie” or have “more fun” as a blonde within moments. She’d always giggle about the time she got pulled over and snatched the wig off in front of the officer…she said he emphatically replied, “Ma’am you go RIGHT home!” lol She was still working as an educator in Baltimore City Schools, driving herself back and forth to chemo treatments in Philly every Friday. She would bring her nurses crabs from bmore and celebrated everyday like it was her birthday. She’d say when you’re a patient, a birthday is a celebration of life. After a year of chemo, she went into remission, her hair came back curlier and fuller, things went back to normal. Except the fact that she never got reconstructive surgery. She wore her mastectomy scar and radiation burns as a badge of honor. She’d wear her prosthetic breast that she called a “falsey” but the second it shifted or tormented her, out it came. She’d say, “That’s other people’s problem. I only have one tittie, so…. it doesn’t make me any less of a woman and any man that thinks so….eff him!”

She was the den mother to her daughter’s friends, being a listening ear and always gave out a wealth of advice on how the be “nicety” instead of nasty and how to always keep your cool when dealing with men! To this day they joke “WWSD” What would Shelia do? In 2002, as her daughter was preparing to graduate college (she was only in 7th grade when Shelia was diagnosed, what a difference a few years makes!) she started to have some health issues… She had trouble seeing, the doctors said it was diabetes, a result of all the meds over the years. But Shelia wasn’t so sure, after feeling dizzy and seeing black spots, she went to a specialist who ordered a cat scan….she wasn’t ready for the results. A tumor was back, she’d had a hysterectomy back in 95 to stop the estrogen which was feeding her cancer… now the cancer was trying to attack her pituitary. She went in for outpatient surgery but what they found when they operated was more serious than anticipated. As a result of the tumor and where it was sitting, a part of her skull had to be cut out and replaced with plastic. This was the beginning of a journey where she showed true courage in the face of fear. She had to retire from the school system, this time her doctor warned against it. She was touched by her fellow educators who gave up months of paid leave through the sick bank. She’d still strut around her chemo sessions “dancing around her pole” She became a mentor and a counselor to some of he younger women who came in for treatment, she’d make care packages and “new patient” packets for the people in her doc’s office. She celebrated EVERY holiday to the max, that includes having Easter egg hunts for the neighborhood. Doing everything green for St. Patty’s day even though she’s not a lick Irish, and going in full Mrs. Clause gear for Christmas. Shelia just loved life and everything it had to offer! She made the most of every day! Just like most cancer patents, she had her days where she felt, blah, she described as a “wet dishrag”… but even those days she still managed to cook for her kids (who were practically grown:)). The other days she made a fashion statement! Her kids would often ask where she was going, she’d reply, to GIANT!!!! Or A.J. Wright… she bought little trinkets for everyone around her, all the time…

In 2010 a routine surgery caused her to be hospitalized. it was a turn of events that would snowball. A medical mistake caused her to go into renal failure. She fought and told the doctor’s take the word “hospice” out of their vocabulary when they spoke to her…everywhere she went she told everybody, “I’m going to live…” She was a firm believer hat you didn’t have to look sick… she and her daughter would do makeup and scarves daily, she was the most fashionable patient! After a courageous battle…she peacefully traded in her boxing gloves for angel wings on June 12, 2010. Shelia was a miracle, and she knew it! They told her 1-3 years… she showed them that you can’t put a time limit on life…18 is a whole heck of a lot more than 1!

She fought and fought and her kids passionately tell people, it wasn’t the cancer, she beat that! She did not lose her battle, she WON! Her legacy lives on in her kids and all those whose lives she touched…

She was laid to rest in true Shelia style, in a pink casket, with her signature head tats (under a blond wig) and her infamous gold boots! (what else would she wear:)) She could never be forgotten, her memory is alive and her legacy is forever…

Young Women CAN and DO get breast cancer. Newly diagnosed patient shares her journey with us. By Guest Blogger Glee Edwards

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My Breast Cancer Journey”

My Bio:

I’m 31, single mom of an 8 year old boy name Jalen, part-time student, full-time employee, I love drinking, eating, running, walking, exercising, being healthy, spending time with my friends, dating, having fun, laughing, being honest, smiling, and just living life as it should be lived. I currently reside in the White Marsh area, and I love my life. I’ve overcame many struggles in my life and I’ve used every one of those struggles as stepping stones to mode this beautiful, young woman, strong willed, God fearing, loving, caring, outspoken, woman I am today.

The Beginning:

February 2012, I went to visit my ob/gyn for my annual physical. During my visit I discussed with him that I felt a lump in my left breast. He then began to do a breast exam and he informed me that it was just a cyst without receiving any additional follow-up care. After that I continued on with my life without feeling that something could be wrong with me.

The Next Year:

February 2013, just when I was about to schedule my yearly annual physical with my ob/gyn, I was informed that he had killed himself. I was shocked. He was the Hopkins doctor who was taking photos of his patients, so you can only imagine how I felt at that point. I still wasn’t experiencing any symptoms from the lump in my breast but it was still there.

May 10, 2013, my birthday. I just turned 31 and I was feeling myself. My friends and taken me out to Blue Agave for dinner and I had a wonderful time. After the dinner I went to visit a guy that I was dating and he was sick, he had a cold. The next day I began to feel sick also. I treated my symptoms as a cold but it was affecting my left breast. My left breast began to increase in size and I was experiencing sharp pains. After a week of my cold not getting any better, I went to Patient First to checked-out for my cold and my breast. I was then diagnosed with Bronchitis and the doctor immediately wrote me a referral to American Radiology to receive a mammogram.

May 22, 2013, I received my first mammogram.

May 28, 2013, I received a biopsy of the lump in my left breast.

June 4, 2013, I was diagnosed as having breast cancer.

June 11, 2013, I had a consultation with Mercy Breast Center, where my surgeon did an exam of my left and right breast and then she indicated that I have Stage 3 Breast Cancer in my left breast. She indicated that I would have to have a mastectomy, chemotherapy for a year every three weeks, radiation, reconstruction, and that she wanted to check to make sure if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes under my armpit on my left side as well.

June 13, 2013, I had my first appointment to receive a PET/CT scan and to have blood work done. I had to have these test done to make sure that the cancer didn’t spread throughout my body.

June 14, 2013, I had to have a MRI performed to locate any abnormal findings from the cancer.

June 17, 2013, I received my results from the scans and the cancer did spread to my lymph nodes.

June 18, 2013. I had a consultation with my Oncologist, where we discussed treatment plans, medications, and leave from my employer.

June 19, 2013, I had a biopsy performed of the lymph nodes under my left armpit which indicated that cancer was visible. I also had genetic screening testing to rule out any hereditary factors.

June 21, 2013, I had to repeat my PET/CT scan due to some of the radioactive dye not getting through some of my tissues.

June 24, 2013, I had my first surgery. I had my port-line placed so that I can receive my chemotherapy medications.

June 25, 2013, I had to receive a MRI guided biopsy of my right breast due to some unfamiliar findings but they weren’t cancerous and a MRI of the left lobe of my thyroid.

June 28, 2013, I received my first chemo treatment. It wasn’t as bad as I thought but as the days went on, I’ve noticed the effects on my body, now this is when it got interesting.
1. My body became very weak. Wasn’t sure on how to adjust so I continued to do things as normal, which wasn’t a good idea.
2. I passed out twice and not to sure for how long because I was home by myself.
3. I noticed that I could stand for long periods of time without feeling dizzy.
4. My appetite changed due to the chemo affecting my taste buds.
5. My tailbone was extremely sore from my Neulasta injection.
6. My legs became weak.
7. I lost 5lbs in a day.
8. I started to have indigestion.
9. My vision became blurry.

July 2, 2013, I had my consultation with Plastic Surgeon to discuss my options for reconstruction.

July 5, 2013, I had a follow-up appointment with the Nurse Practitioner at the chemotherapy center and to also have more blood work down. My lab results were good and I discussed all my symptoms from the first chemo treatment and everything was normal except for passing out, so she informed me to take my time getting out of bed so that all my blood wouldn’t rush to my feet.

July 7, 2013, I started to feel like my normal self again so I went back to work. I put back on the weight that I’ve lost, I was smiling again and overall I felt good to be back at work.

July 12, 2013, my hair began to fall out.

July 13, 2013, I scheduled an appointment with my hairstylist to cut all of my hair off.

July 19, 2013, I received my second chemo treatment. With this treatment, my potassium was low and my Oncologist wanted to prescribe me some potassium meds but I told him that I didn’t want to take anymore pills because the only reason my potassium is low is due to my high blood pressure medication so we decided that I would increase my daily intake of potassium via high rich potassium foods. I was ready to experience the same effects from the first treatment but this one was different.
1. I had a headache or I like to say “Chemo Head.”
2. I became nausea after taking some pain meds for my headache, which I didn’t take anymore.
3. My legs and body were extremely weak and all I did was sleep.
4. I lost 5lbs again, which later, once I started feeling better, I gained back.
5. I experienced pelvic and lower back pain from my Neulasta injection.
6. Still have indigestion that I relieve with drinking Ginger Ale soda.
7. My vision wasn’t as blurry as the first treatment but wasn’t clear like normal either.

July 22, 2013, I got one of my homeboys to shave the rest of my hair off. It was still coming out and clogging up my sink.

July 29, 2013, I went back to work again. I’ve noticed that the chemo wipes me out for about eight days than I began to feel like my normal self again.

July 30, 2013, I had a follow-up visit with my Breast Surgeon. She performed another breast exam and then informed me that the chemo has shrunken my tumor and my lymph nodes and that my body was responding greatly. We discussed that my surgery to have my breast removed will be in November 2013, she wants me to follow-up with her again before the surgery. I’ve chosen to have both of my breasts removed because I don’t want to go through this experience again since they’ve already found something in my right breast even though it’s benign. Total I receive about eight bags of intravenous medications in which, my chemo meds are only two bags, so the remaining bags will continue for the length of my year battle, but on October 11, 2013, two of my chemo meds I will no longer need to receive. She stated that during my surgery, she and the plastic surgeon will be doing their part. Her part to remove both breast and the lymph nodes under my left armpit and the plastic surgeon will place fillers into both breast areas to keep my skin stretched after I receive my radiation treatments.

August 4, 2013, I received my menstrual, which was very confusing. I was told that chemo would put in my body in a menopausal state but I guess my body chose otherwise. I was happy because my body was actually fighting back. I’m not too concerned with having anymore child but this was a good sign.

August 9, 2013, I received my third chemo treatment. So far so good but I know what to expect this time so I’m just patiently waiting for the symptoms to arise. The only new thing thus far is that my cuticles are sore, swollen, and turning gray.
Next chemo treatment is August 30, 2013.

My Friends:

It was very sad for me to break the news to my friends, but some of them took it very well, while others didn’t, which was suspected. The number one person whom I’m totally disappointed in is my best friend. I can’t and won’t even try to understand her because I’m tired. She has crushed my feelings in a way that I can’t even formulate words to explain and I must let her go. We haven’t been really close for some years now but she was always in my eyes still my best friend. As for the rest of my friends, old & new, they have been really here for me showing a tremendous amount of support and I’m truly blessed to have them. We are fighting this battle together.

My Family:

I must say that everyone in my family, both mother and father sides, are really here for me. Some have even went to great lengths to setup a fundraiser to help with the cost of my medical and personal bills during my journey, some have purchased food for me, made me meals, and overall has been here at 100% for me and my son but I’m totally disappointed in two people, my youngest aunt and my own father. These two people, at the current moment, I don’t even talk to anymore. I’ve never seen such selfish people in my entire life and I’m a Taurus. The hurtful words that I’ve received from the both of them are truly unforgivable so I’m leaving that in Gods hands and I’m staying positive and focusing on my year long journey to kick cancer butt.

My Dating Life:

I’ve been dating two guys on and off but been focusing on one since April 2013. The first guy is very well known in Baltimore, nothing to brag about, but he was a decent guy and we had fun hanging out until he got caught up in his feelings. I’m the type of person who will not lie so he began to ask me questions that he really didn’t want to hear the truth as the response. He told me “Fuck You” and good luck with your cancer journey because he doesn’t need people like me in his life. I guess the “Truth” hurt more then he expected it to. While the other guy who I started to focus on, I began to notice a pattern of change. He began to distant himself from me, so I would on occasion ask him does it bother him that I have cancer, and he would reply, No, but his actions spoke a different language. I didn’t really want anything serious with either one of these guys because I’m finally enjoying being single and learning how to date but I’ve come to notice that you can’t “Date” in Baltimore. Anyway, with this guy, he stopped saying “Good Morning” to me everyday, he never asked “How are you feeling?”, he didn’t say anything, so I decided to reach out one more time before I truly gave up on him and I told him that when he is ready to communicate with me like an adult then he knows my number. Needless to say, he never communicated with anymore until Friday, August 9, 2013, my third chemo treatment, once I posted a picture of a mutual friend of him and mine on the social networks then he wanted to talk to me again. I was going to set my feelings aside but I couldn’t. So I said how I felt and that was the end of him. I don’t ask anything from any man and I’m tired of being misunderstood. So yes, I’ve come a long way of expecting so much from men because when they need or needed me, I’ve never hesitated at all but I learned that these men really didn’t care too much about me. Yes, it hurt like hell, but I’m Glee and I sucked it up and focused all of my attention on this fight to save my life. I can’t let cancer get the best of me.

In Summary:

This journey, thus far, has been a great learning experience for me and I don’t regret any of it. I stopped expecting people to be here for me and started appreciating the people who actually put fourth the effort that wants to be here for me. I would’ve never thought in a million years that I would have breast cancer due to the fact that I’m the only one in my family on both sides who is the first to have it. Nope, it’s not genetics and my results from my genetic testing came back negative. I know my strength and I know that I can win this battle but emotionally, it hurts like hell to know how cruel people can be once you have an incurable disease that isn’t contagious. It doesn’t take much to ask “How are you feeling?” but I guess it does to some people. Because of cancer, thus far, I’m a better person, and I refuse to let cancer kick my ass without a tough fight. I will win this battle against breast cancer.

This is my story up to now.

My Journey Continues…

Great news!! Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes Inc. has been approved for the Verizon volunteers program

Great news!! Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes Inc. has been approved for the Verizon volunteers program. Verizon employees and retirees have the following 4 options to donate to SSPW:

1. Matching Gifts – There is a match program where they will match monetary contributions up to $1,000. With this program the verizon employee or retireee has to donate at least $25.00. The Verizon Matching Gifts Program provides an opportunity for eligible employees and retirees to have their monetary contributions matched.

2. Payroll Deduction – The Payroll Deduction Program allows verizon employees to donate a portion of their payroll automatically to an eligible nonprofit or school. Payroll deductions are not eligible for matching gifts.

3. Team Fundraising – Teams of 10 or more verizon employees can have their fundraising matched, up to $1,000 per person, up to $10,000 per team, per event!

4. Volunteer Program – Verizon employees can work for your non profit and log hours. Once they reach 50 hours Verizon will send your organization $750.00. Once a match request is approved the Foundation supports the employee volunteer by awarding a $750 check to their organization or school. Employees may request volunteer grants on behalf of two separate organizations for a total of $1,500 each year. A nonprofit organization/school may receive a maximum of $25,000 funded from the Verizon Foundation through the Volunteer Grant program each year.

Breast Cancer Divas – The Journey Begins | guest blogger Kimberly H.

Looking back on it all, I knew I had breast cancer even before I got the diagnosis. On some instinctual, guttural level, I knew. When I got the official diagnosis, I was not surprised. Without even thinking about it, I went through everything almost virtually alone. I told probably 5 people and as far as anyone knew I simply disappeared for over a year as I waged my battle. In hindsight, not some of my best decisions.

In October 2009, I had a double mastectomy and a DIEP reconstruction. I went through 16 hours of surgery that day and when I woke up I knew my life would never be the same. I was forever changed and I never felt so alone.

When I began chemo, I was prepared to lose my hair. But no one told me that this also meant losing my eyelashes, nose hairs, fingernails….the list of losses just kept growing. At some point, I realized that I needed to pull myself out of this. I was alive and it was time for me to re-join the world. But I did not know how to do that.

How do I re-emerge after disappearing? How do you feel comfortable in public wearing a wig, false eyelashes, compression garments, prosthetics, and the scars across your chest that make you look like a road map of downtown Baltimore?

How do you find laughter and light again?

I tried to go to support meetings—but honestly, I wanted to punch people – clearly I could not do this as it is generally considered assault— God was not punishing me, my body was not punishing me and I swear if I hear that one more time I will scream!

I am a statistic—who am I going to be mad at? Math? I considered the odds—I took one for the team! I am the 1 in 8! Never was good at math….

I need laughter in my life—well that and xanax and red wine—but then again, how do I find that with all the baggage I was carrying.

So I turned to the web and asked a simple question on a cancer forum—Any Baltimore women here? On a really cold night in February I was amazed when 12 women showed up. There was an immediate sense of sisterhood—of support—of love and what I needed most—Laughter. These fabulous women have been with me every step of my journey since that cold night in February and I am proud and honored that I have been able to be a part of theirs. This sisterhood, this sorority that I am now a member of, has blossomed into a larger group— a movement away from the darkness and away from the cancer. We are the Breast Cancer Divas.

Cancer has connected me to women I would never have met otherwise. I have been embraced by this amazing group of women and I gladly embrace them back. We understand each other in ways that no one else can.

The real truth about cancer is that it is the most personal and lonely fight a woman can wage in her life. No matter how supportive her family, her friends, her co-workers are, it is those moments when you lay your head down to go to sleep and in the those moments when you awaken when you are alone with the darkness. No one can understand that fear that grips your heart and for a moment steals your breath—no one but someone who has been there.

As I have now just passed my 51st birthday and the scars are continuing to fade, I marvel that I am a 3 year survivor. I have found, reached out to, used and recommended all the resources that I have been able to find. I have created and nurtured a “sorority” that stands at the ready for any “sister diva” that needs us, and we are growing. We fill a niche that no hospital, breast center, or doctor can ever fill.

Cancer has changed me in so many ways and as odd as this may sound, I am better for the experience. I am stronger, smarter, and I am able to appreciate the journey that I have taken. Like my sister Divas, I am proud and I can embrace this new me. But perhaps the biggest impact that breast cancer has had on my life, is that I know that I am not alone and I am committed to making sure that no other woman with breast cancer embarks on this journey without the Divas with her.

I have looked back over the course of this journey and I am so grateful for, so humbled by and so proud of our Diva group. They, these sisters of mine, have gotten me to this day. They have come to embrace each other, support each other without question, and love each other immensely. They are phenomenal women.

As for me, cancer picked the wrong Diva.

Our 3rd Wish Recipient: Charelle’s Story. Written by Charelle Barnes

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Have you ever been sooo sleepy, that if you go to sleep you could sleep for hours, but you’re afraid to go to sleep, because you may never wake up? Have you seen someone, maybe you just saw yesterday, but you stare at them because you may never see them again? When you’re diagnosed with terminal cancer, that’s your reality. That’s my reality.

My story starts a little different then most.

I was diagnosed with cervical cancer on May 10, 1994. My Dr. decided surgery would be best. My boyfriend took me to my surgery and stayed with me until he had to go to work. When I spoke with my Dr. he said that they removed the cancer. I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation but I would never have kids. I was devastated! My boyfriend told me not to worry; I was going to be a mom. On April 23, 1995, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Carroll. I tried to breastfeed but he wouldn’t latch on. At my 6-wk check up my Dr notice a lump. I went and had a mammogram, a sonogram, and then the dreaded biopsy. My Dr. confirmed it was stage IIB breast cancer. I was devastated once again. I’m a new mommy how dare you tell me this. I had no one to talk to. No one to help me make decisions. It’s was then, that I decided to have a lumpectomy. I started chemotherapy 2 weeks after my surgery. On July 7, 1995, I married my best friend, my rock, my everything. I made an honest man out of him. I continued my chemotherapy and then radiation. No one told me everything that I would go through. (Body changes, loss of appetite, and the dreaded hair loss.) I kept on working and pressing on. 2 weeks after finishing radiation my Dr. ran tests, then I was told my breast cancer was in remission. I was sooo happy, I felt like I had won the lottery!

I went on with life. Being a new mom and a new wife. Everything was great. And then I went to the Drs. My blood count was a little funny. He ran more tests and in March, 1996 I was told my breast cancer was back. Once again I had no one to talk to. My husband is like whatever you decide I’m with you. My Dr had decided on a double breast mastectomy. I opted not to get the mastectomy. I had made up my mind, that whatever I came in this world with, I was leaving with. My breast cancer was at a stage IIIB. I had surgery to try to remove the cancer with lymph node removal and start chemotherapy. After completing my first round of chemo, right before my 2nd dose of chemo, I found out I was pregnant. Against Drs. orders I decided to stop the chemo in order to have my baby. On December 31, 1996, I had a healthy beautiful baby boy. We named him Brendan. After I gave birth I went right back on chemo.

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When I ran for Pimlico Ms. Preakness Pink Warrior, I learned that my cancer had spread. In 2010 at the age of 36, my cancer had metastasized to my lung, bone, and brain. I decided at that time, I will fight until I can’t fight no more. Now at the age of 39, my cancer is now TERMINAL. Still I’m not ready to give up. I’m not ready to give up!

This brings me to Ms. Shay Sharpe. I kept seeing pictures of her and pictures from the SSPW Fundraiser from last year. I’m like who is this Shay Sharpe and what are these Pink Wishes? I went to their website and read all of her information and about the wish that, the first Wish Recipient, Dana received. I emailed Shay in the middle of the night and to my surprise she emailed right back! I told her I didn’t want anything from her, I just wanted to share my experience with her. I didn’t have anyone to talk to and just really wanted to share my story. I explained to her that it’s sometimes hard for me to talk about my illness without feeling like I’m being judged. I have people saying you don’t look sick; you still have all your weight; you still have your color. I’m like, what am I suppose to look like, death rolled over? REALLY? Explain to me what am I suppose to look like!

I try to be a source of energy and inspiration to my loved ones and everyone I come in contact with. I want my boys to know that I didn’t let this disease stop me from living and being me. I am fighting with all my heart and all my energy.

As I always say

CANCER PICKED THE WRONG DIVA!!!!!

Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes Partners With Macy’s

Press Release for Immediate Release

Baltimore, Maryland – Monday, August 6th – Macy’s will partner with Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes to invite customers to participate in Macy’s seventh annual “Shop for a Cause” charity shopping event. Macy’s 2012 Shop for a Cause will take place on August 25, 2012; customers can purchase tickets now from Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes. Macy’s Shop For A Cause is a unique one-day-only shopping event created to support local charities’ fundraising efforts, which have helped raised more than $42 million for charities across the country since 2006.Macy’s has provided Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes with shopping passes to sell for $5 each. The organization will keep 100% of every ticket it sells. The more tickets sold by Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes, the more money they will raise!Macy’s has provided Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes with shopping passes to sell for $5 each. The organization will keep 100% of every ticket it sells. The more tickets sold by Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes, the more money they will raise!*Contact a teamSSPW staff member for your $5 savings pass! Spend $5 and get 25% off of your Macy purchases all day on August 25th! You can’t beat that

We Have Been Nominated For A Stay Classy Award

We are overjoyed to announce that we have been nominated for a Stay Classy award. Crossing our fingers and hoping that we are selected as a finalist. Thanks to the word count restriction I had to cut our story in half, so I will share the entire story with you here. Thanks so much for your continued support. We could never thank you enough! XOXO

Prior to August 2004, I had no idea that young women could develop breast cancer.  In that year, I would find out in the most personal way possible that they could. That I could. I did. I was diagnosed with Stage III Invasive Breast Cancer at the shockingly young age of 26. It was because of my cancer journey that I became painfully aware of the void in services for very young women with breast cancer.  Support groups, programs, and special opportunities all seemed to target older women.  I knew that if I survived my diagnosis, treatment, surgeries and recovery, I was going to have to do whatever I could to change that.  I didn’t know then exactly how I would be able to make a difference, but I knew that I wanted to be, and needed to be, a blessing to other young women facing this nightmare of a disease.

Since my journey began, I have watched in horror and sadness three close girlfriends succumb to the metastatic, or terminal, form of breast cancer.  They were each diagnosed under the age of 40.  “Gone too soon” doesn’t even begin to describe the path of devastation their untimely deaths leave for their families, friends, and other loved ones who struggle to overcome their grief.  Part of managing grief, however, is to do whatever you can while the person is still alive to create memories that can be cherished long after they have passed on.  The idea for Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes (SSPW) is rooted in the philosophy of giving your loved one “flowers while they are alive” rather than at a funeral.  My organization, founded in July 2011, assists young (under 40 at diagnosis) metastatic women in creating those memories in the form of granting wishes.  Organizations that grant wishes are not new.  But my organization is special and unique because it targets an under-served and somewhat invisible population of women whose primary goals may be to stay alive long enough to see their children grow up or reach a milestone anniversary with their spouse.   Few people think or believe that young women actually die from breast cancer.  The mistaken belief is that if we are unlucky enough to be diagnosed at a young age, surely it was caught at a stage where it could be treated and the woman can remain in remission for the balance of what is considered to be a naturally long life.  But too often, cancers in younger women are more aggressive, and while remission may be initially achieved, it is all too often ended with a recurrence of metastatic terminal cancer.  So, as we are able, we send these families on special vacations, allow couples to spend cherished time alone in a romantic setting, or help women who are facing this terminal diagnosis do the one thing they may have always wanted to do.  My inspiration was one of my closest friends, Dana, who became our first wish recipient.  Dana was initially diagnosed with Stage II Invasive Breast Cancer in 2002 at the age of 31 and after a period of remission was diagnosed again with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer in 2008 at the age of 37.  The cancer had spread to her lungs and her bones.  Her doctors estimated that she would have about 2 years before the disease claimed her life.  Dana beat the odds and nearly doubled their expectations!  Dana created a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do, not before she died, but while she was still alive!  It felt right for me to start this organization in her honor and in her image!

As Dana’s cancer progressed, I knew I had to move quickly to get the organization off the ground and grant the wish she desired. I cleaned out my life savings and canceled a personal vacation to ensure that I had the funds for the organizational start-up fees and the fundraiser.  I was willing to do whatever was necessary to ensure that this very deserving young woman was granted her final wish to take her children and immediate family on a dream vacation.  I spent many nights writing letters to potential sponsors asking for cash donations or product donations for our live auction.  I was determined to make this wish come true without any organizational debt!  Sometimes I was ignored or rejected but I pressed on.

I am proud to report that in September 2011, we held our First Annual Black Tie Fundraiser and in February 2012, we were able to send Dana and her family to Sea World in San Diego!

Dana lost her battle with breast cancer in April 2012, a mere two months after her wish trip. I was at her bedside as she took her last breath. While in the hospital in the days leading up to her passing, I was thanked and hugged on numerous occasions by friends and family members for giving Dana that special vacation. The biggest thanks came from her youngest son and favorite niece who accompanied Dana on the trip.  I wish that I could bottle the feeling that I felt while talking to her children! They recalled every moment of the trip with an amazing level of clarity and I know that our efforts permitted an everlasting memory to be created for them to cherish when navigating the grief that will come in the days, months, and years ahead.

In the 11 months that we have been in existence we have granted two wishes and touched numerous lives.  Social media and networking have been the primary source for the resources to continue granting wishes, some large and some small, to these deserving young women.   While our main fundraiser is an annual event, sadly, neither life nor death waits for us to get the money together to make another young woman’s dream come true.  The young lady who is to be honored at this year’s event may not live long enough to have her wish granted.  My primary goal is to take SSPW to the level where we can grant wishes year-round and not have to rush to outrace death or turn any deserving recipient away.  This will take increased visibility, investment, and commitment.  I remain personally committed and invested in this worthy cause and sincerely hope that the Stay Classy Foundation can assist us in our efforts to boost our visibility and the resource levels required to do this important work!

We are overjoyed to announce that we have been nominated for a Stay Classy award. Crossing our fingers and hoping that we are selected as a finalist. Thanks to the word count restriction I had to cut our story in half, so I will share the entire story with you here. Thanks so much for your continued support. We could never thank you enough! XOXO

 

Prior to August 2004, I had no idea that young women could develop breast cancer.  In that year, I would find out in the most personal way possible that they could. That I could. I did. I was diagnosed with Stage III Invasive Breast Cancer at the shockingly young age of 26. It was because of my cancer journey that I became painfully aware of the void in services for very young women with breast cancer.  Support groups, programs, and special opportunities all seemed to target older women.  I knew that if I survived my diagnosis, treatment, surgeries and recovery, I was going to have to do whatever I could to change that.  I didn’t know then exactly how I would be able to make a difference, but I knew that I wanted to be, and needed to be, a blessing to other young women facing this nightmare of a disease.

Since my journey began, I have watched in horror and sadness three close girlfriends succumb to the metastatic, or terminal, form of breast cancer.  They were each diagnosed under the age of 40.  “Gone too soon” doesn’t even begin to describe the path of devastation their untimely deaths leave for their families, friends, and other loved ones who struggle to overcome their grief.  Part of managing grief, however, is to do whatever you can while the person is still alive to create memories that can be cherished long after they have passed on.  The idea for Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes (SSPW) is rooted in the philosophy of giving your loved one “flowers while they are alive” rather than at a funeral.  My organization, founded in July 2011, assists young (under 40 at diagnosis) metastatic women in creating those memories in the form of granting wishes.  Organizations that grant wishes are not new.  But my organization is special and unique because it targets an under-served and somewhat invisible population of women whose primary goals may be to stay alive long enough to see their children grow up or reach a milestone anniversary with their spouse.   Few people think or believe that young women actually die from breast cancer.  The mistaken belief is that if we are unlucky enough to be diagnosed at a young age, surely it was caught at a stage where it could be treated and the woman can remain in remission for the balance of what is considered to be a naturally long life.  But too often, cancers in younger women are more aggressive, and while remission may be initially achieved, it is all too often ended with a recurrence of metastatic terminal cancer.  So, as we are able, we send these families on special vacations, allow couples to spend cherished time alone in a romantic setting, or help women who are facing this terminal diagnosis do the one thing they may have always wanted to do.  My inspiration was one of my closest friends, Dana, who became our first wish recipient.  Dana was initially diagnosed with Stage II Invasive Breast Cancer in 2002 at the age of 31 and after a period of remission was diagnosed again with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer in 2008 at the age of 37.  The cancer had spread to her lungs and her bones.  Her doctors estimated that she would have about 2 years before the disease claimed her life.  Dana beat the odds and nearly doubled their expectations!  Dana created a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do, not before she died, but while she was still alive!  It felt right for me to start this organization in her honor and in her image!

As Dana’s cancer progressed, I knew I had to move quickly to get the organization off the ground and grant the wish she desired. I cleaned out my life savings and canceled a personal vacation to ensure that I had the funds for the organizational start-up fees and the fundraiser.  I was willing to do whatever was necessary to ensure that this very deserving young woman was granted her final wish to take her children and immediate family on a dream vacation.  I spent many nights writing letters to potential sponsors asking for cash donations or product donations for our live auction.  I was determined to make this wish come true without any organizational debt!  Sometimes I was ignored or rejected but I pressed on.

I am proud to report that in September 2011, we held our First Annual Black Tie Fundraiser and in February 2012, we were able to send Dana and her family to Sea World in San Diego!

Dana lost her battle with breast cancer in April 2012, a mere two months after her wish trip. I was at her bedside as she took her last breath. While in the hospital in the days leading up to her passing, I was thanked and hugged on numerous occasions by friends and family members for giving Dana that special vacation. The biggest thanks came from her youngest son and favorite niece who accompanied Dana on the trip.  I wish that I could bottle the feeling that I felt while talking to her children! They recalled every moment of the trip with an amazing level of clarity and I know that our efforts permitted an everlasting memory to be created for them to cherish when navigating the grief that will come in the days, months, and years ahead.

In the 11 months that we have been in existence we have granted two wishes and touched numerous lives.  Social media and networking have been the primary source for the resources to continue granting wishes, some large and some small, to these deserving young women.   While our main fundraiser is an annual event, sadly, neither life nor death waits for us to get the money together to make another young woman’s dream come true.  The young lady who is to be honored at this year’s event may not live long enough to have her wish granted.  My primary goal is to take SSPW to the level where we can grant wishes year-round and not have to rush to outrace death or turn any deserving recipient away.  This will take increased visibility, investment, and commitment.  I remain personally committed and invested in this worthy cause and sincerely hope that the Stay Classy Foundation can assist us in our efforts to boost our visibility and the resource levels required to do this important work!

Our First Wish Recipient: Dana’s Story. Written by Dana G. Robinson

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I started this journey on February 13, 2002 when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 31. On this day, my life forever changed. I originally found the lump in my breast over a year earlier. An ultrasound confirmed that I did have a solid lump in my breast. However, because of my age, no family history and the fact that African-American women have high cases of Fibroadenomas (a benign breast lump) – the lump went misdiagnosed. At that time, I was in a failing marriage with two young boys ages 2 and 10.

My step-father, a prostate cancer survivor, tried to assure me that cancer is NOT a death sentence. I remember him telling me that “time heals a broken heart and trouble doesn’t last always.” I had to stand strong on my faith. The treatment regimen was tough, but I gained this inner strength that I never knew I had. My renewed faith gave me the will to keep going. With the support of my family and friends, I was able to work during treatment and try to keep my life as normal as possible. It was very important for me to show my boys how their mommy handled adversity and was able to overcome.

Over NINE years later, I reflect back on what my dad told me and I see it as the truth. It has not been an easy journey. I met some wonderful women along the way and unfortunately, lost several friends as well. I myself was diagnosed with cancer again in April 2004 – this time Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and I am currently in treatment again for Stage 4, advanced breast cancer. Yet another test of faith and I decided to STAND. We have to praise Him in the good times and the bad. I am reminded that it’s the time in the valley that makes us stronger and helps us appreciate the mountain tops.

I am thankful to have met Shay Sharpe during my journey. She is not only my sister in survivorship, she’s also my friend. She smiles with me, she cries with me. She’s one of my angels God placed in my life to help me in this journey. Shay and I have been working hard for years to promote Breast Cancer awareness. We wear pink as an opportunity to share our story, to encourage others to be advocates for themselves, to know that breast cancer is taking away too many of our loved ones and we are fighting for a CURE…. Surely knowledge is POWER.

I would like to thank Shay for remembering the women who are fighting each and every day by establishing Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes. This cancer has taken so many things from us, but it cannot shake our spirits. The road gets hard and knocks us down, but the important thing is not letting it keep us down. We have to brush ourselves off and stand up again.

With your generous donations you will be helping to make a deserving woman’s dream a reality. Creating a special memory that no one can every take away – a memory that will last a lifetime for both the recipient and her loved ones. So, again, on behalf of all of us fighting the good fight… I thank you!

Statistics may say that my days are numbered, but we know who’s in control. Someone has to beat all the odds while fighting this beast we call cancer – why not me? To my sisters in the fight, why not YOU? We know that miracles are small things that happen every day. I am still praying for my miracle, while continuing to Live well, Laugh Freely and Celebrate Much!!!

DanaBryson

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