Kids II

By Kids II

Pink Power Mom

2013 Pink Power Mom Stories

Vanderla Akaka

Kapolei, Hawaii
Children: Kalai; Puanani; Pakela

Vanderla, a Chief Warrant Officer in the Navy, was shocked when she, a young single mother, was given a breast cancer diagnosis. She says she was “raised to be tough and never cry,” but the prospect of fighting cancer, the idea of leaving her young son, changing her duty orders and relocating to Hawaii left her in tears. Vanderla found an incredible resource in her new patient advocate. Mary, her advocate, helped Vanderla navigate the unique difficulties that come with a cancer diagnosis while in the US Armed Forces, and encouraged her to join a Jazzercise group which helps support the American Cancer Society. This group support helped Vanderla find her higher purpose; to support and encourage other young breast cancer patients while in service to our country. She also dedicates her time to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Susan G. Komen. As a two time breast cancer survivor, her outreach is specifically focused to help women become proactive with their health. In conjunction to her breast cancer outreach Vanderla focuses on supporting young children through organizations, such as Special Olympics, The Read Out Loud Program and the Boys and Girls Club Hawaii. Vanderla is the first Armed Forces woman and Hawaii resident to receive this honor.

Amberly Wagner-Connolly

Omaha, Nebraska
Children: Addyson; Reagan and Ronan; Brecklynn
Foster niece: Asylnn

Amberly was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29, mere weeks after giving birth to twin babies and with a toddler at home. Amberly had found a lump but was assured by the doctors that it was tied to breast feeding. Her persistence was justified when it was determined that she had Stage II Invasive cancer. Amberly’s mission is to help families who struggle during cancer treatments while caring for young children through her own grassroots service project known as Survivors Raising Kids. She is dedicated to providing resources and walking hand-in-hand with families through their journey and gives them access to resource funds for respite care. The Nebraska Respite Network funded by the state department of health services has partnered with Survivors Raising Kids for the past three years to help Amberly’s initiatives to support local families. Amberly also plays an active role in an organization called Camp Kesem. The nationwide camp, led by college students, provides a retreat for children with parents suffering with cancer. Camp Kesem and Survivors Raising Kids have become her outlets for compassion reaching both cancer patients and young adults.

Jodi Inverso

Lawrencville, New Jersey
Children: Hunter

Jodi Inverso was working full time with a 2 year old at home when she was faced with breast cancer at the early age of 30. This unexpected path would give her the resolve to help other young women in similar circumstances. Jodi’s efforts have been remarkable as the premier fundraiser and social chair for many events in New Jersey, including the Young Survivor Coalition and the Breast Cancer Resource Center. Her local outreach also includes running a crucial support group for young women with breast cancer, and frequent speaking engagements nationwide. In 2013, she was honored as a State Leader for the Young Survival Coalition to represent the organization locally. Her charity selection for her award donation will go to the Princeton, New Jersey YWCA’s Breast Cancer Resource Center, where she has run a support group for young women since 2011.

Jenifer Lloyd

Hampden, Maine
Children: Elizabeth; Robert; Rebecca

Jeni’s daughter identifies her as a ‘Hero. Champion. Powerhouse. Advocate.’ From the moment she was diagnosed with Stage 2b grade 3 Her2+, she found herself offering support to those newly diagnosed and guiding them with tips on chemo care. Through her dedication and passion, Jeni was invited to be part of a panel to redesign a local cancer center, which led to a monthly radio segment on “The Voice of Maine” talking about topics important to the survivorship community. Jeni also focuses her outreach towards fundraising. When she realized that one of her fellow patients was struggling, Jeni created her first fundraiser in honor of her friend, and she raised $25,000! She has since partnered with Eastern Maine Medical Center's Champion the Cure Challenge to raise funds for research to support patient care. In 4 years she has helped the organization raise over $1.1 million and grown from 300 participants to 1,600 in less than three years! She now calls fundraising her profession; humble and focused, she is known as the face of advocacy in the State of Maine.

Molly MacDonald

Beverly Hills, Michigan
Children: Erin; Meghan; Brittany; Chase; Drake

Molly was diagnosed in 2005 and she found herself faced with a family and a dilemma very familiar to many breast cancer patients, financial devastation. Her journey prompted her to create a charity to help women with financial needs due to a cancer diagnosis. She created The Pink Fund not for entrepreneurship, but rather out of compassion fueled by a life experience. The Pink Fund provides breast cancer patients and their families up to 90 days of short-term financial assistance to cover non-medical expenses. Molly adapted her new personal philosophy of “Dress up, show up, speak up and leave a legacy of love.” Her efforts have led to a clean bill of health and the ability to help countless local families by providing them with monetary relief during their cancer treatment. Molly is also heavily involved in the community through other organizations which include her role as a spokesperson and advocate for the hungry for Gleaners Food Bank, a member of the Michigan Cancer Coalition and sits on the Advisory Board for the Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Prevention Program.

Lara McGregor

Louisville, Kentucky
Children: Wills; Bennett

Lara was a young mom of a toddler and 7 months pregnant when she learned about her cancer diagnosis. Her treatments and many surgeries made the loss of hair prolonged and difficult, but dressing in beautiful and soft scarves boosted her spirits. This simple, but perfect gift was the start of a new world for her. Lara founded Hope Scarves as a way to live beyond breast cancer and pass along the encouragement she received throughout her journey. Lara says she ‘chooses hope’ and created a non-profit that highlights that phrase. The mission of Hope Scarves is to partner with survivors to share scarves and stories of hope with women facing cancer. Lara also sends letters from other survivors along with the scarves, to further the compassion and outreach. Although Hope Scarves serves all types of cancer over 75 percent of the scarves go to women with breast cancer. To date they have sent scarves to newly diagnosed patients in more than thirty-five states across the country. Lara is also on the board of the Young Survivors Network, volunteers with Komen Louisville and serves as a mentor with Hope for Two. Every day, she tells her children to ‘make a difference and help others.'

Amy Matthews

Reidsville, North Carolina
Children: Ellis; Hannah; Grace

Young mom Amy had no family history of cancer, but was diagnosed after her very first mammogram. “Stage III triple negative” were words she never expected, and she relied completely on her faith as a guide through her walk with cancer. Stress, pressure, fear and tremendous anxiety are commonplace for cancer patients, and Amy knew exactly how to help alleviate those problems for her fellow patients. Once she completed her treatment, she connected with a friend in her breast cancer support group and became a part of Little Pink Houses of Hope. This organization gives cancer patients and their families a much needed vacation at no charge. Amy’s focus for “Little Pink” is in organizing retreats, helping with fundraisers and volunteering as IT director. This is an amazing charity available to cancer patients across the nation providing them and their families with a real vacation that would have otherwise been a dream.

Jennifer Smith

Champaign, Illinois
Children: Corbin
Forever remembered.

She was just 30 when diagnosed and a mother of a young son, but turned her frightening diagnosis into a source for motivation. Jen worked closely with Imerman Angels, a non-profit organization that matches survivors, family members and caregivers with mentors who have identical diagnosis. This allowed Jen to not only have an empathetic companion on her cancer journey, but also gave her a vehicle for her own compassionate outreach. Jen was a founding member and organizer of the local Champaign - Urbana Affiliate Chapter of the Young Survivor Coalition. Jen mentored young women with breast cancer through the Young Survivor Coalition and Imerman Angels. Every event Jen had been involved with was dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness in young women.

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