I was getting ready for Get Hitched Give Hope, an amazing, annual charity event that pairs wedding planners and vendors with happy couples planning their nuptials, and the proceeds benefit two organizations that support people living with cancer: the Young Survival Coalition and the Dream Foundation. It was my biggest formal event of the season, and the driving Seattle rain had just gone horizontal.
I was so glad I arranged with Vera to have stylists come to my home to do my hair and makeup. I could get beautified at home in my pajamas, and not have to brave the weather until I left for the party.
My hair likes to frizz and be difficult, and on a rainy day like this, I needed help. Tanya Joseph came over to do my hair.
Since she was right there in my home, I could show her my dress and jewelry, so she was able to make suggestions that would balance the neckline, accessories, and my hairstyle.
I washed it right before she arrived so it was ready for her to get started with a blowout.
And then we had a lovely chat while she did my hair.
I’m telling you, even in this tiny apartment, I felt like royalty having someone come over to help me get prettied up.
After Tanya finished with my hair, Megan Yamamoto came over to do my makeup.
Megan showed up with a coolest tower of tools and sooooo many pretty colors. Her hands worked magic with a palette and a few palette knives, blending colors and shades and consistency to find just the right mix for my skin.
She listened to my fears about too much color on my face, or the way my eyes get lost in shadows with too much smokey eye shadow. She found a good balance, and while I was a little nervous at first, I loved the look when she was done.
By the time they were both done getting me all prettied up, the sun broke through the clouds and we were treated to a stunning rainbow.
I kept thinking how much easier it would have been to have stylists come to us for my own wedding.
The rain held off for the rest of the night, and I had a lovely time at the event with some of my favorite people.
My hair stayed beautiful all night long, with nary a frizz, my makeup stayed put and looked fabulous, and Get Hitched Give Hope raised a lot of money to help people living with cancer while helping a lot of love birds plan their weddings.
Rather successful day all the way around, I’d say.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Vera and the stylists for providing these services to me for this special event at no charge.
A couple months ago, after a Tour de Pink training ride, my friend and fellow cancer survivor, Karen Lawson, posted a selfie on Facebook, and wrote, “Love these legs and the 57 HILLY miles they just carried me up.”
I was surprised when my eyes welled up at reading her post.
In the nearly 5 years since my breast cancer diagnosis, one of the things I’m still working on is forgiving my body, and learning to develop compassion and even appreciation for my body – mutant genes and all. Cancer felt like a betrayal; my own body turned against me. I’ve learned that I am not alone in feeling this way. Many other cancer survivors are also working on developing healthier and more compassionate relationships with their own bodies.
This is one of the many ways in which connecting with a network of young breast cancer survivors through the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) has helped me in recovering from the physical and emotional toll of cancer and treatment.
The big fundraiser for YSC each year is the Tour de Pink, a challenging, yet scenic 200+ mile bike ride, one on each coast.
It’s not a coincidence that YSC raises money with a bike ride – a physical activity that takes dedication, months of training, and builds strength and confidence in the participants. That’s right in line with what YSC is, and who they serve.
These photos and quotes are from dear friends of mine who participated in this year’s Tour de Pink.
People often ask why I would ride my bike 200 miles. My response is simple: “because I can.” I’m only 34. I’ve been through so much and lost so many friends because of breast cancer. I can’t cure cancer. I can’t bring the 40,000 that will die from this dreaded disease this year, but I can push myself for 200 miles and raise funds for YSC.
Yes, I ride because I can; and because I know that if ever I’m unable, my sisters will ride for me.
– Erin Johnson
Last year was my first TDP ride, and to be honest, I did it for myself. I wanted to challenge myself to ride 200 miles after taking up road bike riding just a few months before. I was really proud of myself when I finished the 2013 ride and couldn’t wait to ride again this year.
My reaction when I finished this year’s ride was quite different from the self-satisfaction I experienced last year, and it surprised me. While I was happy I had successfully completed the three-day ride, I felt another wave of emotion as I was sitting on the beach at Point Mugu. All the riders had crossed the finish line, had lunch, and were preparing to board the bus back to Thousand Oakes. I took a moment to sit quietly with myself, on a bench a bit removed from the heart of the activity, and just took it all in.
I looked at all the riders — survivors, supporters, friends and family — and realized that every one of them had some burden they were carrying, whether it was the angst associated with their own diagnosis, doctor’s bills, sore muscles, whatever. But at this moment, they were all lost in the revelry of having completed a really tough ride together.
Everyone was happy and celebrating, and forgetting — maybe just for this brief moment — all their other worries. It moved me to tears, and it was then that I realized that I do this ride not only for myself, but for everyone else participating as well.
It sounds cliche, but the collective burden carried by everyone else riding is so much heavier than my own. I HAVE to ride, even if it takes up my weekends to train, I need to juggle child care, and I have to ask my friends and family for donations (again).
I’m riding again next year.
– Sheila Cain
It’s #GivingTuesday. I love this new tradition. We are nearing the end of the year, so it’s time to think about giving, especially after a month of focusing on gratitude. I give my time and energy to the Young Survival Coalition, mostly because they helped me keep it together during and after cancer treatment.
You don’t have to ride a bike 200+ miles to help address the unique needs of young women with breast cancer. You can donate to YSC directly today. These funds are used to provide an online meeting place where young women can connect with others in similar situations to safely and discreetly discuss issues like the impact of cancer on body image, sexual dysfunction, raising children while going through treatment, pregnancy and cancer, fertility and many other issues. YSC also sponsors local groups were young women can meet up face to face, provides funding for educational programs, and treatment guides for young women who are recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
I just returned from a quick, four-day trip to Washington D.C. for ProjectLEAD with the National Breast Cancer Coalition.
Coincidentally, my daughter’s kindergarten class has been learning about Washington D.C. in their social studies segments. She wanted me to be sure I got my picture taken with the President.
I got this close.
The White House is beautiful at night.
Our schedule for this trip was very tight: 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, so I did not actually see daylight, with the exception of one quick run to Starbucks, and then the cab ride back to the airport on the last day. But I wasn’t there for sight-seeing or picture taking, we had much more important things in mind.
I’ll be posting much more on this project in the near future.
I love this annual wedding planning gala. Get Hitched Give Hope helps to raise funds for the Young Survival Coalition which helps young women living with breast cancer, and the Dream Foundation which helps to grant dreams to people who are at the end of their life journey because of cancer. I love that we get a chance to participate in making a huge difference in the lives of people living with cancer, and I have to admit, I also love the chance to get dressed up and spend the evening with 3 of my favorite women.
My Cancer Story is a collection of my blog posts and articles about my cancer experience over the years. I decided to pull them all together into one place to make them easy to find.
This turned out to be a much bigger projected than I expected. I’ve cataloged more than thirty here so far, and there are many more to add.
This is a work in progress. I will continue adding the posts already completed as well as the new posts to come, so check back from time to time. Tags are coming soon to allow for searching by topic.
It has been an eye opening exercise to go back through these posts and see how my attitude, perspective, writing style, and my life in general have all evolved over time.
My hope is that these pieces will provide someone with cancer some measure of hope, comfort, and useful information to help them along this difficult road. Even if you don’t have cancer, you just might find this story interesting.
We hold on to each other, we revel in memories, and we pop a bottle of champagne to toast your memory while flipping cancer the bird. We embrace those who are still with us, and carry forward the memories of those who have gone before us.
I think sometimes fierce gets a glamorous image. It’s easy to think of finish lines, mountain tops, and triumphs when we think of the word fierce – but fierce isn’t the finish, it’s how you got there. Fierce is the long, lonely runs in the rain, months, even years before the starting line.
Fierce is giving it your all, knowing there is no finish line. Do or die. For real.
Fierce is defiantly holding your baby after the mastectomy, against doctors orders.
Fierce is getting up in the middle of the night to change your infant’s diaper as your body reels from the chemo induced nausea and fatigue.
Fierce is getting up the next morning to go back for another excruciating treatment. Day after day after day.
Fierce is not passive; fierce doesn’t have time for pity parties.
Fierce fights back.
Fierce isn’t pretty, but it’s beautiful.
Fierce is making difficult choices.
Fierce is finding the courage to have a difficult conversation.
Fierce is embracing your integrity, even when it makes you feel unloved.
Fierce is knowing who you are, and being that person the best you can.
Fierce keeps learning.
Fierce understands that sometimes learning means un-learning what is no longer true, or even more painful, what you finally understand was never true.
Fierce is understanding that cancer is not a shortcut to courage, or wisdom, or strength. You still have to do the work to gain and keep those qualities.
You don’t have to have cancer to be fierce.
You don’t have to have cancer to practice courage, or wisdom, or strength.
You have a choice.
You can be fierce.
How are you fierce?
This piece was written as part of the Clever Girls’ Collective Traveling Blue Wig Project. This project supports the Fierce Fund which will donate $20,000 this year to organizations that help girls and women. Check out their site and help select the Fierce Fund grant winner.
Judy Schwartz Haley is a mother, wife, student, writer, photographer, and breast cancer survivor. If you really want to see her get fierce, try to take her chocolate.