2016 Calendar Model ~ Meet Carrie Cook

By: Jamie McAllister         

Carrie Cook was diagnosed with breast cancer twice – the first time in July of 2010 and the second time in August of 2014. She is proud to represent Beyond Boobs! as a calendar model for A Calendar to Live By 2016 and looks forward to promoting the group’s message of love and inspiration.

Carrie lives in Norfolk with her husband of 22 years, Troy, and their three children: sons Ray, 22, and Christopher, 19, and daughter Anna, 24. Carrie works for Norfolk Public Schools as a school nutrition manager.

Prior to the big calendar reveal at the Pink Carpet Gala in September, Carrie talks about how she discovered Beyond Boobs!, why it is important to take care of yourself first, and how other women can learn from her experiences.

What led to your diagnosis?carrie cook

The first time I was diagnosed my husband found the lump. The second time I was diagnosed when my plastic surgeon found what he thought was a calcified stitch in my scar line during a revision to my reconstruction. 

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

I was given a bag of literature at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth when I was diagnosed and there was a card for Beyond Boobs! in the bag.

What is your favorite summer beach read?

Anything by Laurell Hamilton, Kim Harrison, or JD Robb.

What is the best advice you have received about living beyond breast cancer?

Take time for yourself. You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Who was your celebrity teenage heartthrob?

I don’t think I ever actually had one. I was more wrapped up in the real people of my life.

What hobbies do you enjoy doing?

I love to sew and make jewelry.

What does being selected as a calendar model mean to you?

Being a calendar girl means two important things to me. First, it’s a chance to give back to this wonderful organization some of the love and inspiration they have given me. It also gives me a way to help spread the message of self-advocacy through my story of misdiagnoses.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

It was awesome to have my husband there with me! He was deployed the first time I went through treatment, and he is now retired.

 

 

           

 

Did you like this? Share it:

2016 Calendar Model~ Meet Brittany Pronia

By: Jamie McAllister

When Brittany Pronia felt a lump in her right breast accompanied by sharp pain, her primary care physician ordered an ultrasound that was performed on her 29th birthday. The results came back as abnormal and in October 2014 she was diagnosed with Stage 1A, triple-negative, invasive ductal carcinoma with spots of ductal carcinoma in situ throughout her right breast.

After her diagnosis at Langley Air Force Base’s medical group, Brittany received a handout with a list of local breast cancer support. The handout described Beyond Boobs! as a meeting place for women who were diagnosed at a younger age. Two years later, Brittany is now an enthusiastic Boober! and will represent BB! as one of the models in A Calendar to Live By 2016.

Brittany and her husband of six years, Phillip Jr., live in Hampton with their children, daughters Piper, 5; Presley, 2; brittanyand Alexys, 13; and their son, Anthony, 10. Their pit bull, Hazmat, and their cat, Jax, add plenty of fur and love to the family. Brittany works as a reliability engineer at Caterpillar Marine Asset Intelligence.

Here Brittany shares her summer plans, the lengths she went to as a teenager for Backstreet Boys concert tickets, and how she feels about being selected as a Beyond Boobs! calendar model.

What is your favorite Beyond Boobs! event or activity?

So far, my favorite Beyond Boobs! event has been Breast Fest and Mr. Breast Fest is definitely the reason why! I’ve only been with Beyond Boobs! for about seven months, so I haven’t been around to attend everything, but I definitely enjoyed the guys strutting their stuff in custom-made bras, trying to raise some cash for this awesome group of ladies, myself included.

What are your summer plans?

Family, family, family! Living far away from everyone turns vacation time into time spent visiting family. I plan on spending the Fourth of July with my parents, brother, and niece back home in Alabama while visiting others, as well. I’m also taking my girls to a family reunion for my husband’s family in Arkansas that, unfortunately, he will miss since he is on deployment.

What is your favorite dessert indulgence?

I *bleeping* love ice cream!

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

My teenage celebrity crush was Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. I had a wallpaper of posters and magazine pages covering my bedroom walls and was even fortunate enough to get tickets to their Millennium tour for my 14th birthday by camping out overnight at a Blockbuster to be the first in line to purchase them. At the concert, I showed my love by writing (in Sharpie) “I LOVE YOU, NICK!” across my stomach and lifting my shirt up as he flew over me on some sort of surfboard thing on his way to the stage. I was able to snap a picture, and I’m pretty sure he was looking at me, LOL. 

What does being selected as a calendar model mean to you?

As a calendar model, I feel I represent those who should NOT get breast cancer, but, somehow, still do. I started my period at 13 (not too young); I had my first child at 24 (not too old); I breastfed two babies for a total of 18 months; I haven’t gone through menopause; I’m a healthy weight; and I have no family history of breast cancer. I feel that seeing my story will make other young women more aware of their bodies and help them to become better advocates for the health of their breasts. If, in the least, that leads to one more self-exam or, at the most, that helps save a life, then being a calendar model means everything to me.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

The most impactful moment of my photo shoot was filming the video. I was asked by the videographer what I would say to one of my daughters if they were diagnosed with breast cancer. Of course that thought had crossed my mind, and continues to do so, but I had never had to vocalize that to anyone else before. It led to an overwhelmingly emotional response that I was not expecting, especially since I had been so strong through everything else.

Did you like this? Share it:

From Kate’s View: Mother’s Memory, Family’s Support Guide Cancer Journey

Mother’s Memory, Family’s Support Guide Cancer Journey

By: Jamie McAllister

Kate Goddin was a sophomore in college in 1997 when she found out her mother, Christine Garvey, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Kate, a theater major, was backstage preparing to put on a production of the play Sunday in the Park with George when she heard the news.

“I remember standing backstage with my headset, while everything was going on around me,” Kate said. “I was sad and stunned.”

Shifting Priorities

After Chris’s cancer diagnosis Kate went home as often as possible and spent more weekends with her parents. She even chose to spend the summer of 1998 at home rather than stay on campus at the University of Mary Washington.

Although a lot of her mother’s cancer treatment is a blur for Kate, she does recall certain memories from that time. “I remember my mother went through many treatments at Portsmouth Naval Hospital,” she said. “I also remember visiting her in the hospital after chemotherapy.”

In early December Kate was home to celebrate her mother’s 47th birthday.

“She had a phenomenal birthday weekend,” Kate said. “She was able to do so many things she hadn’t been able to do before. We ate dinner together as a family and she actually enjoyed her meal without feeling sick. We acted silly and teased my dad, just like always.”

Kate was home with her family the next weekend, too. On Friday her dad, Pat, took her brother Kyle to soccer practice. Kate stayed home with her mom and her Uncle David. Chris was resting on the couch when she asked her daughter to bring her a blanket.

“She was struggling to breathe,” said Kate. “She looked me right in the eyes and took her last breath.”

The family had been working with hospice so Kate called them instead of 911. When the hospice workers arrived they comforted a shocked Kate, still wearing her pajamas and robe. “The hospice workers were so kind to me,” Kate said. “They even pulled my clothes from the dryer so I could get dressed.”

Seventeen years later, Kate is grateful she went home to visit that weekend and that she was able to be there with her mom when she passed.

Another Cancer Diagnosis

Kate was happy for her father when he met someone new and decided to marry again. “It was a bit disconcerting to see my dad with someone who wasn’t my mom,” Kate recalled. “But my dad was very young when my mom died and he didn’t need to spend the rest of his life alone.”

Kate’s stepmother, Jane, had also lost her first husband to cancer. Kate remembers what she thought when she learned Jane, too, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was worried for Jane,” Kate said. “I also wondered why this was happening to my dad again. It was totally unfair.”

Kate believed Jane was in good hands and kept repeating to herself “Jane’s cancer was caught early, she’ll be fine.” To help her dad and Jane, Kate delivered meals to their home. “It was the only thing I knew to do,” she said.

The Unlucky Side of Statistics

In October 2014 Kate went in for her first mammogram. A friend accompanied her for the testing. “I was concerned about getting a mammogram, but I wasn’t terrified,” Kate said. “I thought of it as just another test.”

The first mammogram showed microcalcifications in Kate’s breast. Microcalcifications are small calcium deposits that appear as white flecks on a mammogram. Usually they are benign, but because of Kate’s family history, the doctor decided to perform a biopsy.

During the biopsy Kate was positioned flat on her stomach with her breasts hanging through two holes in the exam table. Using a large needle, the doctor extracted a tissue sample from her breast. The biopsy results came back as non-invasive ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

“I was diagnosed with stage 0 DCIS,” Kate said. “The doctors said it was in my milk ducts and that it hadn’t spread.”  When Kate had an MRI performed on her breast, the doctors discovered the DCIS was larger than they thought and a small nodule was located near the DCIS. She had a second biopsy done, but this time she was able to lay on her back and watch the ultrasound screen along with the doctor. Her breast was numb so she couldn’t feel the large needle penetrate her skin, but she could watch as the doctor maneuvered it to obtain a sample.

For many, this might be uncomfortable or even unbearable. But Kate is a third-grade teacher, so not much rattles her. “I actually thought it was pretty cool to watch,” she said.

The results of the second biopsy showed that Kate had invasive ductal carcinoma. “It was a whole different ballgame after that,” she said.

Kate’s Journey Begins

Kate spoke with a guidance counselor at the school where she teaches about how she should tell her daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte and 10-year-old Beth, that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.“The guidance counselor told me that I should give my daughters the facts so they wouldn’t imagine even worse scenarios in their heads,” Kate said.

Kate wasn’t afraid to tell her father, Pat, about her diagnosis, but she knew this time would be even harder for him than the first two experiences because she was his child. “I knew my cancer diagnosis would be the most difficult of the three,” she said. “It would be like taking away a piece of himself.”

 

Pat knew immediately who his daughter should contact for help. A few years ago he partnered with Beyond Boobs! for the Christine Garvey Memorial Soccer Tournament. The tournament, now in its 16th edition, donates a portion of the funds it raises to the nonprofit. After working with cofounder Mary Beth Gibson, Pat knew Kate would find the support she needed with the Boobers!

“My dad has been so incredible and supportive,” Kate said. “The first thing he told me after I told him my diagnosis was that I should call Mary Beth.”

When she was first diagnosed Kate didn’t feel like it was a big deal. She didn’t think she really needed Beyond Boobs! “I was stage 0. I thought it would be quick, easy, and over,” she said.

When she was ultimately diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma she had so many thoughts swirling in her head. She decided to call Mary Beth back to speak with her about how she was feeling and what she was going through.

“We talked two or three times,” Kate said. “Mary Beth is a phenomenal listener. She gave me some great advice about moving forward. I am glad I finally listened to my dad.”

The Next Steps

Kate elected to have a bilateral mastectomy and on Christmas Eve 2014 had her first surgery. “The surgery went well, but afterward I was uncomfortable and in pain,” Kate said. “I had to wear a drain for two weeks. I wasn’t allowed to take a shower and it was strange to have medical equipment coming out of my body.”

After Kate’s first surgery, inflatable breast implants, called expanders, were inserted under the skin on her chest. “I am not completely flat, but I don’t have nipples anymore and I have huge scars,” she said. Reconstruction is not an easy process. The expanders in Kate’s chest will be filled gradually until her skin has stretched enough to accommodate implants. “I can’t wait to get rid of the expanders,” Kate said. “They are hard as a rock. It’s like wearing an iron bra all the time.”

It will be close to a year before her breast reconstruction will be finished. Kate wants the final version to look as natural as possible for her husband, Gus. When all of her surgeries are done Kate wants to take her family to Baltimore to celebrate and to get nipple tattoos from Vinnie Myers, who is skilled at crafting three-dimensional nipple tattoos.

In January Kate underwent her first dose of chemotherapy. “I felt fine, but it was nerve-wracking to think that I had poison coursing through my veins,” she said. “Even though I feel OK, I just don’t feel like myself. I’m hungry but I have no appetite. I know it won’t be an easy road to travel.”

Kate’s stepmother, Jane, went with her to her first chemo appointment. Jane knitted a sock while Kate watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother. While she was there she saw someone her own age also getting treatment and the three women struck up a conversation.

“Once I was there, it was easy,” Kate said. “Now that I know what to expect, I feel better. The anticipation was the worst part.”

Did you like this? Share it:

Can Having Breast Cancer Be Lucky?

Can Having Breast Cancer Be Lucky?

Now that St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, we wish for the the luck o’ the Irish. We look for lucky symbols, like four-leaf clovers or horseshoes. However, can anyone diagnosed with breast cancer really consider herself lucky? We recently posed that question to our Boobers! on Facebook and we would like to share with you some of the heartfelt responses we received.

four leaf cloverFor the Luck of Cancer

By: Melissa Powell

If you were to see the scars that rest on my now flattened chest, you might not consider me lucky. But you are not looking deep enough. If you were to watch me climb out of bed each morning, stiff from the medicine that continues to keep the stalker at bay, you would not consider me lucky. But you are still not looking deep enough. If you were to sit with me as I wait for the next scan that could determine whether or not I will see my children grow, you would not consider me lucky. But you have yet to see the miracle that has occurred.

Before cancer I raced through life, running toward an invisible finish line. I often neglected to stop and look at the change in scenery, the changes in my children’s faces, or the amazing beauty this life has to offer. Before cancer I would often put work before family, obligations before fun, and daily life before living. Before cancer I was in a dark room with only a flashlight to see the things that surrounded me.

Cancer has flooded my once dark room with light. I can now see all of the beauty that encompasses my life. I see my children snuggled close beside me, telling me of their dreams. I can see my beautiful partner, who I barely knew these last thirteen years. I can see that quiet meditation calms my once racing mind. I can finally see that life is now – not yesterday or tomorrow – but is unfolding as quickly as I type these words.

I was lost before cancer, floating through life like the last leaf falling from a barren tree. I found myself in cancer and found that luck is something that surrounds you every day – you just have to turn the lights on.

Luck as a Way of Life

By: Michele Yepez

Luck is more than a simple word for many women who find themselves subjected to the big C. For some, it becomes a way of life. The entire idea of finding out you have cancer is considered an incredible stroke of bad luck, and yet so many women feel the luck they have to get them through it far outweighs what got them there in the first place. The support systems we have – friends by our side, new women who enter our lives – seem part of our lives because of luck as much as anything else. Are we lucky because of who we had when we entered our journey, and those whom we meet along the way? Are we any less lucky for having to face this journey in the first place?

Luck is subjective. Some of us feel that luck, as it is most often discussed, does not really exist. One woman recently stated she believes “Everything happens for a reason.” It could be that this is a different way to define luck. Others refer to their luck as a blessing, or fate. When talking about luck in these terms, we zero in on the positive influence of the word. Even if you don’t believe luck exists, or that the word has any particular power, for the most part, and on some level, we believe in the concept as a whole. Whether we work for our luck or it is through some divine force, we all seem to agree it is there.

There is another side of luck when we are faced with a diagnosis that shatters our reality. The word can morph into a frustrating epithet instead of the uplifting validation it was meant to be. Once we face our “luck” – or whatever we call it at the time – phrases like “You’re so lucky to have found the tumor now!” or “How lucky to have so many people to help take care of you!” aren’t always regarded in the inspiring way they are intended. And then, a feeling of guilt. Before the diagnosis, this wasn’t something we struggled with. Outside positivity didn’t come with the grains of salt they seem loaded with now, and the bright side coming from someone across that invisible line never seemed anything but kind. Yet, we agree, and even tell others the same things as they go through their struggles. But one major thing is different. When a person has not gone through what we have, they can’t see how a little word like “luck” can take on a whole new significance.

While there is plenty to go back and forth over when it comes to this four-letter word, one thing everyone seems to agree on is this: If there is nothing else to feel lucky about during this journey, we are all incredibly lucky to have found each other because beyond the boobs, surgeries and treatments we endure, our sisters are a huge part of saving our lives. We are, truly, lucky to have each other.

Finding Luck

By: Charlene Smith Cattoi

Yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer! This is my story . . .

I am now 57 years old. Oops, I mean young! On Tuesday, October 9th, 2001, while I was at work, I received the phone call. The voice on the other end of the line told me “Charlene, I’m sorry. You have cancer.”

NO! I didn’t feel lucky then, however . . .

About five years after the diagnosis, I found Beyond Boobs! Through this breast health group I started to find my luck. I wish I could say I always felt lucky; however I have felt F.U.D. – FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, and DOUBT. That feeling of luck was hidden under the FUD. Through the support of Beyond Boobs! and the many faces of breast cancer that came into my life through this amazing group, I dug deep past FUD. I was shown strength and courage.

When I felt “Why me!” I thought . . . Then who? Why not me?!  I let my cancer show me humor, beauty, love, support, more humor, friends, family, life . . . Like I had never seen before!!!!!

I am LUCKY that I have been able to give back in some small way, I hope! Thank you, Beyond Boobs!, for helping me find my LUCK through great people who give from their hearts, minds, and souls! These are the Boobers! (survivors) and Boostiers! (supporters). Because of YOU I am truly LUCKY!!!! And I have a life list!

Yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and yes, I am lucky!

 

Did you like this? Share it:

Beyond Breast Cancer Awareness to Breast Health Action

Hello Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Wait! There’s something wrong here. We at Beyond Boobs! want you to focus on your breast health, not cancer, and not just this October, but every month. And though awareness is good, it won’t help with early detection if there is a problem UNLESS you DO what you need to “check them out” regularly.

So, get to really KNOW your breasts:

  • admire them (and you-we are ALL beautiful!) in the mirror as, say, you brush your teeth – look for any changesGHF
  • do a monthly self-exam where you feel them too
  • beginning at age 20, get regular clinical breast exam at least every 3 years
  • if 40 or over or at high risk (check with your doctor), get an annual mammogram (in your birthday month is an easy way to remember this and is a gift to yourself)

So find an “accountability friend” to help you make all this a priority (you’ll be helping her too) and go out to lunch or shopping (my favorite!) to reward yourselves for Taking Charge of your breast health!

With healthy wishes this and every month,

sig1

 

 

 

Did you like this? Share it: