Tricia Dempsey

This year I wanted to write my story from a different perspective…the source of my strength. 

“It takes a village.” 

Everyone has heard that quote but when you face breast cancer at the age of 32, you come to really understand what this means.  After two false negative mammograms and ultrasounds, I was sure that my visit would re-confirm the first two results.  Unfortunately, they did not.  After I received my biopsy results it was confirmed, I had breast cancer.

During the next 18 months that followed, there were a few key sources of strength that helped me personally overcome cancer:

1.        My friends – I had just moved into Chestatee and built my dream house when I was diagnosed.  As a matter of fact, I learned I had cancer the night before closing.  Being new to the neighborhood, I had not formed any close bonds yet, but to my surprise, friends emerged with kind words, offers to babysit, meals, helping decorate my Christmas tree, and many other small acts of kindness.  These people were not family…they had no obligation…but they were my village.  Thank you…Tracey and Lance Eagle, Cindy and Todd Tomlin and Randy and Sue Wells. 

2.       My family – From the minute I was diagnosed, my parent sprung into action.  The plan was to stay in our guest room from Thursday through Sunday on the weeks of chemo.  My mom would wash clothes, make meals, bath Catherine.  My dad would run errands, stock the fridge and keep my husband company.  My sisters and brothers would rotate chemo visits with me.  My grandmother would send a card each week with an encouraging message that she was thinking of me.  Considering she was 1000 miles away, but to know she was thinking of me and praying for me everyday really touched my heart.  

3.       My faith – I knew from the day I was diagnosed that God had a plan and more importantly, I knew I would not die of breast cancer.  After the initial shock of my diagnosis, I never let my mind dwell in that possibility.  So much of my personal testimony in life has to do with being diagnosed with breast cancer.  It strengthened my faith, helped me to put my trust in Him and ultimately, changed my life path to where I am today. 

I would encourage anyone who knows of someone battling disease or sickness who says to themselves, “I just don’t know what to say or do,” DO SOMETHING.  Send an email, write a handwritten note, add them to a prayer chain at your church, wash their clothes, babysit their kids, give them a date night with their spouse, make a meal.  All of these little acts of kindness are cumulatively someone’s source of strength.  Remember…it takes a village!  

Jennifer Williams

Since I learned I had breast cancer, I have read many stories about how other women found out about their diagnosis.  Every one of them described varying degrees of shock, devastation, confusion.  Butevery one also found new purpose.   I was much the same.  This was brand new turf.  There was no breast cancer in my family.  I had no friends or fellow workers that had it.  It was not in my life, and now it was in my breast.  I haven’t had even so much as my tonsils out, and the only time I spent in a hospital was to give birth.  How was I going to do this?  I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it – I went from ‘when there are multiple tumors, it’s usually benign’, to mastectomy in about five minutes.  “Now that I’ve seen the results of your MRI, I’m even more concerned”, were the words I heard that started my ride on the cancer train.  And before I knew it, my husband and I were in my new surgeon’s office, followed immediately with a trip to my new best friend, my plastic surgeon.  Then I had a surgery date and the countdown began.  I didn’t have a minute to process in that flurry of activity, but luckliy there was a lull in the few weeks before the surgery.  Time to contemplate, and once I realized I wasn’t going to die, I had to decide how I was going to live.

How did this happen to me?  I ate all the right foods, exercised daily, slept like a log.  No one can tell me how I got cancer, but there is unlimited information on what to do once you have been diagnosed.  I realized the one thing I hadn’t been doing despite all my attempts at a healthy life was sitting still and listening to me.  I have been a wife, mother, employee, competitor – many things, but never my own self advocate.  I took care of everyone’s needs first.  It was impossible for me to let things slide – not cook dinner, not get the dishes done, laundry cleaned, groceries bought, no matter how tired or otherwise occupied.  And ask for help?  Never.  No one could do it like I could.  And so I had created this incredibly busy life for myself.  Sit?  Wouldn’t happen.  Nap?  Not since I was five.  But guess what?  Life had decided it was time for me to let go, sit still and, yes, even ask for help.  And once life decides something, that’s pretty much it.

I have read multiple books on healing yourself, loving yourself and advocating foryourself,  but had failed to put any of it into daily practice.  I have been in counseling and have become addicted to yoga.  I know all the things to do to take care of myself and be peaceful within, but I never did any of it with any regularity.  Self doubt, guilt and strife are so easy.  But suddenly, peace became my focus.  I remember promising my body before I went into surgery that I would do everything possible to protect it and take care of it so there would be no more surgery.  After a decade of incredibly stressful events – divorce, moving, unemployment – I decided I would be peaceful.  No matter what was going on around me, I would be peaceful.  Now, we all know you can’t just flip that switch.  But I tried peaceful on for size and started walking around in it.  I soon found that I didn’t want to engage in negative conversations with myself or anyone else.  I only wanted positive messages coming into my world.  I stopped trying to just get through, and worked on enjoying every moment.  No more head phones on when I walk – I listen to the birds.  I stopped blaming and started accepting.  And I have found some amazingly wonderful people have appeared. All this has happened in just a few months.  So, crazy as it seems, cancer has brought me peace.  I don’t love anything about cancer or the cure, but I am so grateful I learned this lesson.  I don’t know what else could have slapped me so hard and make me start changing my life.  I know I have to work on it every day, but it’s good work.  And, yes, I have even learned how to ask for help.  And you know what?  I get it.

Andy Piazza

My name is Andy Piazza. I'm a Board Member for Komen Atlanta and I'm honored to be a part of Agile on the Green. As you read this, I want you to remember that almost all of us have a story of strength to tell. We may not know it yet, or maybe we don't know how to express it, but we have one.

In 2004, my sister, Cathy, was diagnosed with Stage 4 metasomatic breast cancer at the age of 38. She had the opportunity to get a small lump in her breast checked about 5 weeks before her annual physical. She consulted her doctor by phone and they decided that they could check it out in a few weeks. When diagnosed, she had a tumor the size of a golf ball, and her cancer had begun to spread. My sister was healthy, happy, married, and thinking about starting a family. She was successful, educated, spiritual, friendly, competitive, inspiring and funny. She was an extremely important person to me, my family, her husband and her friends. The same can be said about almost every person that has cancer.

So, how helpless do you think that her husband, my family and I felt when she went through all of this? We prayed. We sought clinical trials.  We scoured the internet for any possible signs of hope. Cathy remained optimistic, determined to beat cancer, and lived her life as she had done before her diagnosis. In 2011, after a 7-year battle, she died. I still felt helpless.

Not long after Cathy's death, my long-time friend, Cati Stone, joined the Komen Atlanta staff as the Executive Director.  Cati is a survivor. We need more outcomes like Cati's, and fewer like Cathy's. It was time to realize that I no longer had to feel helpless.

Cati encouraged me to take action, and I decided to volunteer for the Atlanta Race for the Cure committee. I have been the Race Chair for the past two years in which our race has generated over $1,000,000 each year for Komen Atlanta, which is then distributed amongst our grantees in the community.

Komen has just launched a new campaign called "More than Pink". The pink ribbon has always reminded me that we should mourn those that we've lost, and to celebrate those that have survived breast cancer. Now, let it also inspire us to take action. We all want to remember and honor our loved ones, but what else can we do? Please consider contributing your time, your talent or your resources so that together we can end this disease.  We'd love to have you as part of our team.

Thank you.

Tori Davis

So, I was asked to tell my story as a survivor, I thought to myself, isn’t everyone? Let’s define “Survivor”, someone who manages to continue a successful life despite very bad experiences and hardships. According to this I’m indeed a survivor. This is where my story begins……..

I’m the youngest of five children, the one who gets away with everything. Life was sweet until my father’s alcoholism took over.  Near the end of his life, my dad basically lived in a mental institution.  I was nine when my dad died, he was only 36. Traumatic, I would say that’s an understatement. My mother was burdened from that point on and became unavailable, so I was on my own.  Since coping was not taught,  I too found alcohol to soothe the pain at age 13. When I was 19 I married to only divorced at age 23.  At age 21, I found out I could not have children I too became an alcoholic, now sober 29 years.

I’ve had a very successful career in dentistry for over 41 years and was graced to be a dental assistant for the royal family in Saudi Arabia. I’ve married the love of my life 26 years ago and we love life. In 2007 my story continues with the death of my brother and cancer. I was devastated! Dec 4th,2014 I have Breast Cancer! Eight treatments of chemotherapy, hair loss, bilateral mastectomy has yet to take away who I really am, none of my life’s hardships have.   Today I am cancer free andwas told it's about my positive attitude.  You see, I grew up with a deep faith, so with my trials and tribulations I was never alone. I had to do my part to persevere even when I thought I'd never get through. I did, I am a Survivor!  

Kim Saunders

Kim Sanders.jpg

After years of infertility and treatments, I finally had a 3-year-old daughter and was so grateful to have the experience of being a mom.  So going in for a routine mammogram, and learning I had Stage 2 breast cancer through me into shock.  I cried to my doctor saying, “I can’t die!  I have a 3-year old daughter!”  In her compassion she replied, “Kim, you will live to see her walk down the aisle.”

The surgeons performed my mastectomy using my latissimus back muscle for reconstruction and it took not only physical therapy but it rocked my world emotionally.  I’d always been very healthy and active and it made me wonder how this could happen.  I learned that only 10% of cancer is genetic and the rest of us get cancer due to a combination of factors, many times unknown.  I learned a valuable life lesson about really living for today, learning to be present and letting go of what we can’t control.  It has been 10 years now and since then, I’ve opened a thriving yoga studio and counseling practice in Alpharetta and my mission is to help others to find their strength and their serenity, no matter what life presents.

Kim Boberg

I’ve never thought of myself as a victim – even when my world was shaken with the 14 words, “I’m sorry to tell you the results of your test were positive for cancer.” With those words – a single sentence – my world was turned upside down.  

My breast cancer was diagnosed as part of a routine mammogram in October of 2014. A close work friend of mine and I had agreed that we were WAY overdue for our annual mammogram, and we’d scheduled “dueling boobie presses” as part of what we called “The Mammogram Tour of 2014.” But where she came out of her test with instructions to come back the following year, I was kept behind to have them look more closely at an area in my left breast. I wasn’t concerned as I’d had this type of thing happen before, but when the regular mammogram turned into an ultrasound turned into an ultrasound guided biopsy, my world started its precarious tilt. Ultimately, I received a call confirming my worst fears on October 17, 2014.

What followed were visits with a breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon, and an oncologist. Too many faces to count – each with his or her own instructions and questions. Overwhelming doesn’t even BEGIN to describe what was going on. To tell the truth, I moped around for much of the month between diagnosis and surgery. I didn’t know what this would mean for my future, and too many questions were swirling around in a head already busy with being a mom, a wife, and a full-time account manager.

I don’t know precisely when my attitude shifted, whether it was before my surgery or after surgery during recovery. Regardless, I remember looking into the sweet face of my 10 year old daughter – who I’d told hundreds of times that “God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers” – and I knew there was NO WAY I was going to let breast cancer show me to be a sham and a phony to someone who was looking to me for inspiration. From that moment, I was determined to put on my toughest face and look for the good in everything that was happening.

My birthday and Thanksgiving always fall very close together. That year, they followed my double mastectomy surgery by only a week. A dear friend of mine in the neighborhood invited my family and me to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. This meant we could enjoy the holiday without worrying how we’d get the cooking done. As I sat there with my drainage tubes and my bandaged breasts, I gave thanks for my family’s “drop everything” actions to care for me, the exceptional medical coverage at my work, for the first-rate surgeons and medical care in Atlanta, and for my friends who were rallying around me in stupefying numbers.

My next six months were filled with chemotherapy and butt-kicking. I was fortunate that my mom and dad took turns driving hundreds of miles to be with me following my infusions. This made my husband feel better about continuing to work hard, and it gave me continued reasons to stay positive. I firmly believe my recovery was hastened by my efforts to keep moving. Whether that was a daily walk with mom or dad, playing with my daughter, or continuing to go to Zumba class as I had the energy, I wasn’t going to stop moving unless I was forced.

I “graduated” from chemo on June 1, 2015. Really…I had a crown and a sash and even a scepter. To me, this was my rebirth – a sign that I was meant to take my story to my part of the world and be part of the change. Since that time, I’ve been able to help guide multiple friends and friends of friends in their breast cancer journey. I’ve worked within my company to raise awareness of the importance of mammograms and self-checks, and I’ve had the honor of being named to the Komen Atlanta Pink Honor Roll for fundraising as well as serving as a Race Ambassador for the 2016 Atlanta Race for the Cure. My daughter is very aware of breast cancer, and she raises money beside me to help find a cure. My husband, a golf instructor at an Atlanta club, will be part of the “Kim’s Breast Friends” fundraising this year with his first “Tips for Tatas” event.

My breast cancer story may have begun with a single sentence of 14 words, but my family, friends, and my positivity never let breast cancer BECOME a sentence for me. Today I can look back and know that, while breast cancer once whispered in my ear, “You’re not strong enough to withstand my storm,” my will to fight and win emboldened me to whisper back, “You’re wrong. I AM the storm.” 

Cati Stone

My name is Cati Diamond Stone, and I’m a recovering lawyer.  I am also the Executive Director of Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta.  Believe it or not, these two things are related.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.  I was 35, in good shape, and I had no history of breast cancer in my family.  My treatment included 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a mastectomy, 6 weeks of radiation and numerous reconstruction surgeries.  I was able to work essentially full-time as a litigation attorney during my treatment, and I learned quickly that a bald girl can be very effective in settling cases.  But when I realized I was going to survive my battle with breast cancer, I also realized that I wanted to do more with my life – both personally and professionally. 

When I finished my treatment, I left my job to pursue a career helping others battling cancer.  But I did not want just any job.  I wanted to work for Susan G. Komen because Komen and its amazing supporters saved my life.  While that might seem like quite an extraordinary statement, it is true.   

I had a very aggressive type of breast cancer known as Her2.  Not very long ago, women with my diagnosis did not survive.  But thanks to a drug called Herceptin that was made possible through funding from Komen, I survived. 

At Komen Atlanta, I now work to enable other women to detect and survive this disease.  And thanks to support from great companies like Agile and great supporters like Tricia Dempsey, I know we will ultimately find a cure.