A Buddie For You program: “(She) was another Angel that I was blessed with for she was the image of my future. I would be like her, victorious in my survival!”

Care Coach Linda Burrowes and Nadine Rosario

During our lifetime, the unexpectedness of life circumstances does not prepare us for a ride of roller coaster proportions as the phrase, “YOU HAVE CANCER!”  I was given my diagnosis of having Stage II Invasive Triple Negative Breast Cancer on August of 2011. Like so many others, I thought that there was only one type of breast cancer. I was ignorant to the vastness of types, stages and methods of trying to get rid of it. My grandmother Catalina was the only other person in my family to have had breast cancer. She had been diagnosed in her middle 70’s and had a mastectomy of her right breast. She lived many years before passing away. Would the outcome of passing away run in the family? Automatically my mind went to death; failing to comprehend within that moment of thought that she had lived many years after. That thought led me to think of the great distance between my family and I. Here I was at the age of 42, a single Mom with a looming death sentence of grave proportions within my minds eyes. I now know that things are much different and each and every case may be similar but each holds its own unique experience and outcome.  My beautiful daughter Jaylene always at the forefront of my mind filled me with great determination. I had to live! I was going to do so! Looking at my daughter, I was overcome with emotions of how our lives would never be the same again.

For the first time in my life I felt blessed to have always had a rebellious attitude! When I was told, for example, that I could not or would not be able to do something, my first thought would be, watch me! It is with that frame of mind that I began my journey. Filled with countless appointments, scans, and tests, there were a whirlwind of many activities that were filling my life, thoughts and every waking moment with an overload of abundance of information.  At times, I felt as if I had become permanently numb and dumb. For things stopped making sense to me at one point. I was unable to comprehend where my cancer came from. I still don’t, but what is most important is what I do from this moment on. How I think and carry myself as an individual is more important in allowing me to help be victorious in my battle. I am a firm believer in having a positive mind. There will be days when you will crash with emotions, yet, it is those emotional crashes that make you stronger.

As family and friends began learning of my cancer, their concern, love and faith was a blessing that gave me comfort. I was not alone in my battle, yet in essence I was. Unless someone has actually walked in the same shoes as you, no amount of explanation can fully make comprehensible what your body, mind and spirit go through. Family and friends can be well-meaning with intentions but they truly do not understand what is happening. This is why having a care coach, a Buddie and support groups are one of the most important aspects on your journey! I met my amazing care coach Linda G. Burrowes from Baptist Health Breast Center  the same day I was told I was Triple Negative. I did not know what a care coach was at the time but I am eternally grateful. Linda to me has been a tremendous blessing, a disguised Angel whom from the very beginning showed genuine care, compassion, empathy, generosity, kindness and love. She held my hand when I was given the news of my diagnosis; she has given me a shoulder to cry on during the times I broke down with non-stop crying jags from personal and medical challenges throughout my journey. She visited me during some chemotherapy sessions, and brought a wealth of knowledge regarding the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the great things they do for us who are battling breast cancer. Linda also paired me with my dear Bosom Buddy Marilyn Van Houten who was a survivor of the Triple Negative Cancer years ago. Marilyn to me was another Angel that I was blessed with for she was the image of my future. I would be like her, victorious in my survival! The uniqueness of our cancer bonded Marilyn and I. She spoke of her experience with me and gave me hope. Without an example, it is pretty hard to imagine a bright future when all around you there is darkness of physical information when you do not know anyone who has had the type of cancer developed. Marilyn to me was a beautiful example that I needed to see, to hold truth to the words, “You can make it, and you will survive!” Our talks brought me comfort, and laughter. Sometimes, the things that happen to your body are quite funny and it was with gratitude that I would listen to my Bosom Buddie Marilyn and give thanks for her knowing exactly how I felt.

“A Buddie For You,” what powerful meaning and what an impact it makes as a program. In the beginning you feel so alone, only to discover there are others who understand you and have had the same or similar experience. That is why I feel it is an essential part of getting well. We have unity, strength and laughter through the tears. Apart from Marilyn, I have met some pretty incredible women full of great courage and hope.

Uniting at events is so empowering. An example is the yearly Gala Celebration of Your Bosom Buddies supported by Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Baptist Health South Florida. What a wondrous treat of pink surprise! My first attendance was in October of 2011. Wow! It was incredible to be among so many united, caring individuals and a plethora of information given.

Being honored at events such as the University of Miami Women’s Basketball game and the Florida International University Men’s Basketball game leaves a surreal feeling. It is such a great experience to see people support you in your victory of survival within your community.  What an honor it is to have such support. As my journey comes to an end I am looking forward to being a Buddie! I am forever grateful for the support given, the friendships made, the passing of information to others who are just beginning and for the fun times among some of my most horrible moments in my life while dealing with the cancer.

– Nadine Rosario, diagnosed at age 42

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Three years ago on May 5, my life changed forever.  I had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with Stage 2 Ductal Carcinoma.  Soon after returning home, I began to look for a support group.   Through the group, Your Bosom Buddies, I met women who had not only survived breast cancer, but were helping others on the same journey.  The first night, I met a woman who encouraged me and let me know that I was not alone.  When I signed up for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure A Buddie For You program, I was connected to this same woman as my Buddie.  Her name is Cathy Peters.  She is not only my Buddie, but now one of my closest friends.  She went through my reconstruction surgery with me and even stayed at my house to make sure I was not alone.  I am so thankful for the Buddie for You program and what Cathy means in my life.  Even though it has been three years, I still need help along the way. Our relationship has changed, but it is still a beautiful part of my life.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has also been instrumental in my healing by providing psychological counseling while I was dealing with the changes from having breast cancer.  I was connected to Dr. Maxine Weinstein, who receives a grant from Komen to help people such as myself.  Later, I became involved with a retreat for breast cancer survivors that Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Dr. Weinstein give each year.  I have been able to give back to other women through a music therapy group at the retreat.  At times, we need to receive.  At other times, we can give.  Susan G. Komen for Cure has given us this opportunity in so many ways.

– Revis Ann Massey

For more information or to sign up for A Buddie for You program, please call 305 383 7116.

Turning a tragedy into an opportunity to make a difference

Alison at the 2010 Komen Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Race for the Cure

Back in 1985, I lost my mom to breast cancer. I was only 17 yrs old and she was 44. Then at the age of 32, I was also diagnosed with breast cancer. I am now a proud survivor of 11 years. For the past 15 years, I have participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure not realizing that I would one day walk as a Survivor. Last year, I decided to do more and joined the committee for the Komen Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Race for the Cure. In addition to helping out with the race, I also helped answer phone calls in the office, assisted with a phone bank on CBS4 and organized survivor events.  I was astonished as to how many people reached out to Komen looking for support including free mammograms, education and counseling.  It was extremely fulfilling to help so many and realize how important Komen is in our community.  In addition to helping others, I also benefited from this experience by establishing everlasting relationships with other amazing survivors. Although I can’t bring my mom back, I can keep her memory alive by continuing to assist others through the Komen network.

Thank you, Komen, for allowing me to turn a tragedy into an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.  I am confident that with Komen’s efforts along with everyone’s continued support, we WILL find a cure to breast cancer.

– Alison Pages

The Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Changed My Life

Kim at the 2012 Bahamas Race for the Cure

Surviving breast cancer has enlightened me in so many areas of my life. I’ve become more positively focused on the future and all the opportunities and “Promises” that lie ahead. I knew immediately that my life had to be more purpose driven. My innermost instincts were telling me that I needed to share my journey with everyone I knew. I remember thinking: I have to share my story to help others. For the last fifteen years Susan G. Komen for the Cure has afforded me the opportunity to fulfill my passion which is breast health education, advocacy, and the fight to eradicate breast cancer forever.

It was July 3, 1995. I was carrying a suitcase to the elevator at the hotel, filled with excitement anticipating all the wonderful fun I’d have at my family reunion. I felt this excruciating pain under my arm. To my amazement I felt a hard lump. I thought it was from shaving or deodorant. Well, it hurt more each day of my vacation and I decided to see my doctor as soon as I returned home.

I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer with lymph node involvement. Having no family history and considered too young for a mammogram, I was forced to plead with doctors to get a mammogram. Being diagnosed early was a blessing and I’m living proof that “Early Detection Helps Save Lives”.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure saved my life. I had just resigned from my job and opened my hair salon so, I was uninsured. My chemotherapy and radiation were clinical trials funded by grants from Komen during 1995 through 1997. Komen has accomplished so much globally and in our Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Affiliate. Seventy five percent of the Affiliate’s net income raised here stay in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. The other twenty five percent of the dollars raised here go to fund national research.

In 2011, the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Affiliate raised over $2 million, with $1.8 million just from the Race for the Cure. We sent $398,733 to fund national research projects, and $1,098,917 went to 33 local hospitals and community organizations that provide breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment programs for medically underserved as well as extensive educational outreach programs in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe Counties. One local grant alone helped 3,000 women all the way from detection to treatment. No other organization currently does what we do.

I had the privilege of participating in another study funded by grants from Komen for women of Bahamian descent. My oncologist is the Principal Investigator for this particular study and recognized the high prevalence of BRCA1 mutations among breast cancer patients from the Bahamas. Stay tuned for the results. The fight continues…..

I have so much to be thankful for. I have walked this journey with so many women in my role as a breast cancer support group facilitator which Komen grants funded as well. I met the Executive Director of Komen Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Bobbi Meyers, twelve years ago and forged a friendship sharing a passion for eradicating breast cancer as well as helping women in underserved communities have access to mammograms and breast health awareness. I am a member of Komen Advocacy Alliance, an Ambassador for Komen’s Circle of Promise, a Komen Speaker/Educator, and facilitate Komen’s Women of Color Outreach (Sistah Talk).

It’s hard to convey my sentiments for Susan G. Komen for the Cure without tears. Just know that these are tears of JOY! There have been many bends in the road living as a breast cancer survivor but, I’m thankful for every moment! My commitment to Susan G. Komen for the Cure stands firm and solid.

Together we can all see our goal to eradicate breast cancer through research and direct help to low-income, uninsured, and underserved women become a reality.

Pink Hugs,

Kim Heard