2009 Pink Power Mom Stories
The first time Gina Andrews felt a lump in her breast, she was 28 years old—it was a benign growth. Unfortunately, the news she received three years later after the birth of her son was not so pleasant. This time she noticed a growing lump during her pregnancy and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fighting for her life and crushed by the side effects of chemotherapy that prevented her from caring for her son, Gina chose to have a mastectomy. She is the founder of Sacramento Breast Cancer Resource Center which offers essential support for young breast cancer survivors and a variety of educational programs and resources to spread the message of prevention and treatment awareness. Recently, she facilitated a merge with another local breast organization to provide more services to the community. Today, she has shifted her focus to helping other small breast cancer charities for the advancement of the services they provide. With the realization that life can be short, Gina now dedicates her time to touching lives and making a difference in the world—a legacy and a lesson she hopes her son Ayden will always cherish.
Children: two sons ages 6 and 18 months
One month before her 31st birthday, Suzanne Chamberlain was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Her son Brady was only 18 months old at the time. While other thirty-somethings were leading normal lives, she was suddenly faced with the grim reality of her mortality all while trying to camouflage her hair loss, cope with hot flashes and care for an active toddler. Now nearly three years since her diagnosis, Suzanne is focused on living her life while raising breast cancer awareness, especially in young women. She recently organized a two-day Rally for the Cure golf event to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and she frequently participates in races sponsored by cancer organizations. In spite of everything, Suzanne says the breast cancer diagnosis has brought some positive changes in her life and helped her realize just how loved she is by family and friends. As a matter of fact, her sister served as a surrogate so Suzanne and her husband could welcome their second son in October 2009.
Children: Brandy, Addie Grandchildren: Nathan
Her annual mammogram came back negative, but Lydia was listening to her body and knew something wasn’t right. She requested to have the cystic lumps in her breast checked and two days later she got the devastating news that she had breast cancer. The aggressive invasive lobular cancer doesn’t show up well on mammograms, but within a week she had a bilateral mastectomy and 22 nodes removed. During her chemotherapy treatments she came down with infections and serious side-effects that resulted in several hospital admissions. Following treatment, Lydia was on oral therapy for six and a half years, and had subsequent reconstruction surgeries. While coping with the most difficult times, she wanted her potentially life-robbing disease to have a positive outcome for other women diagnosed with the disease and she founded “Hope Lives.” She knew that while insurance covered treatments if you were lucky, it absolutely did not cover the secondary support services so crucial to physical and emotional recovery. Hope Lives provides free support services, such as nutritional and psychological counseling, massage, child care, house cleaning, and wigs. Lydia also began a small magazine in Northern Colorado called Lydia’s Style that features 20 breast cancer survivors and their stories annually. By giving back, Lydia is sharing with her daughters how uplifting others can bring meaning to your own life.
Children: Alexandra, Catherine, Isabella, Noah
Heidi Floyd has a history of breast cancer in her family, losing her mother to the disease in college. After being diagnosed and treated during her 4th pregnancy, Heidi strengthened her commitment to raising awareness and generating funds to support research efforts. In her current role as our own Executive Director of the Pink Power Mom Network, she demonstrates this commitment through activities and programs that aide our pink power moms. In spite of her struggles, Heidi lives her life as an example of faith, quiet strength and kindness her children can emulate. For her, small things like a bald head do not matter as much as how she carries herself without hair. It’s a lesson that women like her across the country are teaching every day.
Like so many other 27 year-olds, Jamie Ledezma had plans for her life. Breast cancer changed those plans overnight. Fourteen weeks into her pregnancy, she discovered a lump in her breast and immediately scheduled an appointment with her doctor. One week later, she began six months of chemotherapy as her son Blake flourished in the womb. When he was just three months old, Jamie had a bilateral mastectomy and a series of reconstructive procedures followed. Today, she seizes every opportunity to tell her story to anyone who will listen hoping they will practice early detection, understand treatment options or get involved with causes that support awareness, education and research. Additionally, Jamie has testified before the California State Senate Health Committee and speaks publicly at numerous events. She is currently on the Board of Directors as the Chair of Public Policy for the Central Valley Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and a member of the California Collaborative for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This sudden change of life plans not only made a difference for Jamie—it has made a difference in the lives of countless other local women who are affected by the disease.
Children: Trey, Grace, Hope, Jack
Tracie Metzger is a mother of four who noticed a lump during a self breast exam. With no family history of the disease, the discovery came as quite a surprise to her. At the tender age of 30, she was suddenly forced to think positively and draw inner strength in a way she never had before. Thankfully, she was assertive about seeking treatment and garnering support from her family, church and community to endure the battle. In 2001, she founded Pink Ribbon Girls to fill the need for a specific group dedicated to supporting young women with breast cancer. Ten years later, the group has more than 1,000 members in 41 states. For Tracie, helping these young survivors has been a source of inspiration and hope that makes her happy..
Children: Chase, Judson
One week Melody Oliver was ecstatic to learn she was pregnant. The next week, she was devastated to hear she had breast cancer. From the first day of her diagnosis, she knew she would be a survivor because she was not only fighting for her own life; she was fighting for the new life growing inside her. Having lost a child in a tragic ATV accident in 2006, Melody knew firsthand the true value of life and death. Her experience has translated to involvement with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life program for the first time. Melody finds strength in her faith and believes she can get through any of life’s difficulties.
Children: Tanya, Joshua, Elizabeth, Elijah, Micah
Grandchildren: Jenna, Mikael, Joanie
Becky Olson was 43 years old, working in sales and had recently returned to college when her world was turned upside down. The busy mother of five was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer and told she had a 60% chance to survive five years. After a lumpectomy, nine months of chemo and six weeks of radiation she returned to school and earned her degree. Then, eight years later she was diagnosed with stage three cancer in the other breast which led to a double mastectomy and more chemotherapy. Again in March 2009, doctors discovered a lymph node filled with cancer behind her breast bone. In the face of her ongoing battle with cancer, Becky partnered with a friend to co-found Breast Friends, an organization that helps patients by teaching friends and family members how to offer effective help to loved ones living with breast cancer. Created in 2000, Breast Friends has become one of the premier cancer support organizations in Oregon and provides a variety of services like supporting moms with young children, distributing an educational DVD, and collaborating with medical providers throughout the community. As an author and speaker Becky travels the country sharing her story at cancer survivor events.