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APRIL SPOTLIGHT on the THREE BENEFICIARIES of the
6th ANNUAL RAINBOW INT’L. CHARITY GOLF CLASSIC and AUCTION





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MARCH SPOTLIGHT on BETTY LEWIS

NOTE: This Spotlight is a little longer than usual because we are not only spotlighting Betty and her journey, but we are also bringing much-needed attention to ovarian cancer. Please take a few minutes to read and then share this Spotlight. It may save a life!!!

I “met” Betty through a private message on this page, which read in part, “Hello! I’m a 4.5+ year ovarian cancer survivor. Retired, 65. I’m in remission after 2 recurrences and have good energy. I’m working on 2 teal colored quilts that I could donate for auction or some other form of fundraising for your project.”

In that short message, one can only imagine the battles waged by Betty in her multiple fights against ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is a more difficult cancer to diagnose and treat because its symptoms can mimic other medical conditions. KNOWLEDGE OF SYMPTOMS IS THE FIRST WEAPON ON THIS BATTLE-FRONT. (The symptoms are posted at the end of Betty’s story.)

One can also see Betty’s heart for helping others, not only by imparting information about ovarian cancer but also by generously and lovingly donating quilts for auction in order to raise money for Sparkle Caps. In order to reach a greater audience, Sparkle Caps and Betty are donating these quilts (or a lap quilt) to the 6th Annual Rainbow Charity Golf Classic and Auction.

Betty’s journey with cancer began in 2011. She had moved from Columbia, SC to Savannah, GA to be closer to her daughter Melanie and her family. “I left my psychiatric hospital job and accepted a clinical social work position at the Army base. Working with soldiers was very rewarding, and soon after I decided to open a private psychotherapy practice.”

“An early clue that something was medically wrong began with Melanie’s observation that I was using the bathroom more frequently. She is an observant RN. I dismissed the idea of a urinary track infection. Meanwhile, a cramping pain in the right pelvic and lower back area was very gradually gaining my attention. This symptom was also discounted—attributed to increased exercise. A partial hysterectomy over 35 years ago gave me a false sense of security that ‘female trouble’ wasn’t an issue.”

The persistent and unusual pain finally sent Betty to her primary care practitioner; then to a gastroenterologist, followed by a CT scan several weeks later, which showed a 13cm x 5cm pelvic mass. Betty was then off to see a gynecologic oncologist to get the mass removed and diagnosed.
After a 5-hour surgery, Betty was told that she had Stage IIC Ovarian cancer involving both ovaries. Her subsequent treatment included three rounds of chemo, and she completed treatment in December 2011.

Betty thought she had dodged a bullet, even though she had been told there was a 25% chance of recurrence.

Then the days, months and another year passed until November 2013. A pet scan revealed four small lesions scattered around her abdomen and pelvis. The treatment included 6 rounds of chemo, which she completed in March 2014. “Again, the treatment was successful; the tumors were absent from the follow-up CT scan.”

“In early June 2014, my cancer markers were climbing yet again. It appeared that another recurrence was around the corner.” At that time, Betty closed her practice in Savannah and returned to Columbia, the center of her support system. “My son Andrew and daughter would be close by, and old friends would bolster my much-needed safety net.”

One week after returning to Columbia in July, Betty had surgery to remove two small lesions. “The doctor said chemo at this time would be like ‘killing a fly with a sledgehammer,’ so no chemo.” At this time, her estrogen was stopped and she was started on an estrogen blocker. “IT WAS LIKE MY BODY HIT THE BRAKES AND SHIFTED INTO REVERSE!”

Betty stated, “I have discovered strength and resilience in myself and am enjoying retirement and family, although much earlier than planned.”

Please see Betty’s pictures with descriptions to learn more about her personal life and journey.

As I suspect with most cancer patients, there lingers many questions about treatment, recurrence, metastases and survivability. There is so much more to their stories, which cannot be told in our Spotlights. I wish I could share more of the roller coaster ride of emotions that cancer patients go through, but I hope Betty’s story will give the reader some insight into ovarian cancer and its symptoms.

SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CANCER:

B loating that is persistent
E ating less and feeling fuller
A bdominal pain
T rouble with your bladder

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation, and menstrual irregularities, although these symptoms are found equally in women without the disease. Courtesy of teal toes – raising ovarian cancer awareness – www.tealtoes.org



1) And this is Betty, a three-time ovarian cancer survivor!  2) Now that's celebrating life!  3) These adorable cuties are granddaughters Jordan 10, Chloe 6, and Essie 3 1/2.  4) Son Andrew's wedding day, pre-diagnosis for Betty.  5) Best friend Nancy from Atlanta in 2015--friends for almost 45 years.



6) Picking strawberries with Essie in 2014, just a few months after moving back to SC.  7) "My hair is growing back."  8) “'I’m an animal lover; have a quaker parrot Cricket, a foundling cat named Fiona. . ." and  9) . . . a rescue dog named Frankie."  10)  Picture accompanied an article that contained some of Betty's story - Nov. 2015.



FEBRUARY SPOTLIGHT ON A SIX-YEAR BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR:

Our FEBRUARY SPOTLIGHT is focused on a person who is very dear and near to me. When I wake up each morning, she greets me first thing. She’s with me all day and all night. When I look in the mirror, she’s looking back at me. And you know what? I LIKE HER!

It took her breast cancer journey to help her draw closer to God; to follow a life-time dream of helping others on a larger scale; to follow the path God had laid out for her. Yes, I am glad she, Susan “Victorious,” is my reflection in the mirror! – Victorious over cancer! Victorious in God!

As I faced the fear of cancer, I grew stronger in my faith. With my hubby Gary by my side, we faced cancer head on. Walk with me for a minute through the stages of my breast cancer journey and then celebrate with me the highlights of this journey and what today holds.

STATISTICS: Stage 1 breast cancer. I will not bore you with all those statistics. (Sigh of relief.)

My hair is now thinning out rapidly and my weight is up 20 lbs. because of the anti-estrogen pill I have to take to prevent a reoccurrence of breast cancer. My joints and legs get stiff. BUT GUESS WHAT!!! Those are nothing in comparison to my waking up each morning to a new day of life; a new day of adventures; a new day of blessings; a new day to help someone else, if even with just a smile, or better yet, with a Sparkle Caps gift bag of blessings.

This February, Gary and I CELEBRATE (1) my birthday, when I was blessed to add another year to this adventure called “life”; (2) our recommitment ceremony 16 years ago, which was on (3) Valentines Day; (4) and this MY 6TH YEAR AS A BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR, which is a big number for this type of cancer. My biggest lesson has been to live each day for the PRESENT that God has given me.

My negative became a positive, and I have been making champagne out of lemons for over five years through The Sparkle Caps Project. To date, we have given out almost 1,600 gift bags to women (and 8 men) in treatment for cancer.

Let me leave you with some affirmations for every-day life!:

“Why waste the joy of today on the worry about tomorrow!!!!!!”

“All along this path, God has been my strength and my peace. He has lead me, held my hand and walked beside me; He has walked behind me and given me pushes when needed; and when I have been too tired to take another step, He has carried me. He is there for you, too. Leave your fear, your burdens with God. He wants them; He wants us to ask Him for help.”

“Prayer is the key to the morning and the bolt on the door at night.”

I end the foundational letter of each Sparkle Caps gift bag with these words: “Walk safely and in God’s Protection. God bless you! Remember, you are a Survivor. Claim it now.”

I AM A SIX-YEAR BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR! I live for today, and I love each day.

Love, Susan “Victorious”



1) This is Feb. 2010. Gary and I took a wonderful long weekend trip to the NC mountains to celebrate my birthday. I had my mammogram the day before we left.  I call this "The Picture of Innocence," because when I returned to work Mon., I had the phone call to repeat my mammogram, which I did on my lunch hour (turned out to be about 3 hrs.) that day.
2) This sparkle cap was a gift from a high school friend who had breast cancer 19 years earlier. Melinda was my mentor throughout my ordeal.  3) Taken awhile ago. I thought my hair was thin then.  Now it looks great to me, since the thinning has continued.  4) "Hi, Honey." My wonderful husband and supporter! Love him more now than I did 21 years ago.


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SEPTEMBER SPOTLIGHT on TAMMY HICKS – CLEARING EVERY HURDLE!

Before I start Tammy’s story, I want you to know that last month she sponsored a gift bag for a friend (Lynn) in WV.  In Tammy’s words, “The area where Lynn lives and I grew up has so many people fighting the fight.  This is a small rural area, and I wish I could do more by sending each of them a Sparkle Cap.”  Those words were the impetus for the West Virginia Project, which I started with Tammy and Lynn’s help.  (See NEWS post of August 22nd.)  

Statistics:  August 2015 ~ mammogram, biopsy and THE call, “You have breast cancer.” Lumpectomy, lymph nodes clear; chemo, radiation, HER2+ and 1 year of Herceptin infusion.  

HERE is the STORY BEHIND the STORY:  Tammy stated, “2014 started out as a rough year for our family.”  HURDLE:  Her husband Dave had carcinoma on his nose, requiring four surgeries and removal of one-half of his right nostril, plus six weeks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which undid all of the reconstructive surgery.

During this time, Tammy’s annual mammogram was due; and in spite of her son Jeremy’s (32) continual questioning her about making the appointment, she continued to delay, wanting to get through her husband’s cancer treatment.  Her son continued to ask.  She said, “I knew the only way I was going to get him to drop the subject was to schedule that appointment.”

Before Tammy could let her family know about that dreaded phone call, her parents decided to move from WV to live with Tammy and family in FL, and cancer became a larger family affair.  

HURDLE:  On November 11, 2014, Tammy received her port, and her 1st chemo was November 15th.  “I was so scared but having my husband beside me and all our family and friends thinking about me, I felt. . .alright.  I knew that I wasn’t going to let cancer win.”

HURDLE:  November 23rd--Tammy was sick all day.  Her temperature went to 101.  Her oncologist told her to go to the ER.  She had a major blood infection, and the port had to be removed.  Surgery and the beginning of her hair loss followed the next day, just 13 days after her 1st chemo.  Instead of spending Thanksgiving with her youngest son William (31), his wife and her granddaughter in IL, she spent the week in the hospital in FL and was off work the entire month of December.

Tammy lost the rest of her hair that December and had her head shaved once she got home because her hair hurt.  Yes, take it from a former cancer patient, your hair does hurt!    

January 11, 2015, Tammy got a new port and went back on chemo on the 15th.  

MY GOSH, MORE HURDLES and SADNESS:  The next day, as Tammy was heading out the door to work, she heard her mom yelling, “Tammy I need your help with your dad.”  An ambulance was called, and he was admitted to the hospital.  While Tammy was getting chemo and recovering from same, her husband was taking her mother to the hospital to visit her dad, during which time her mom became sick.  On January 21st, her dad was discharged to the rehab center, which was the same day her mother was admitted to the same hospital.  She had surgery on January 22nd and passed away on February 5th, after 20 years as a colon cancer survivor.  

Tammy finished chemo in April this year, radiation in June, and October 15th will be her last Herceptin infusion.  

In Tammy’s words, “I have remained strong and positive even with what I have been through.”  “I’m a cancer survivor.  My family [and] friends have been by my side; and without them, I would never have made it.”  “MY LIFE IS FOREVER CHANGED!”  [emphasis added]

I asked Tammy’s friend Lynn to send me a note for this Spotlight:  “Tammy is a wonderful inspiration to me.  Tammy makes me smile when we talk because she is spunky and uplifts my spirits when I'm a little down!  When she had the Sparkle Cap [gift bag] sent to me, it was a surprise I really needed!  It made me smile so much!  She is always thinking of other people even though she is going through things herself!  Tammy is an amazing spirited person who brings sunshine everyday!  I'm so glad we are friends!”

In conclusion, in the words of Tammy’s son, “HAVE YOU SCHEDULED YOUR ANNUAL MAMMOGRAM APPOINTMENT?”

Susan “Victorious”




1)  Tammy and her dark pink Sparkle Cap – December 6, 2014; 2)  August 2015; 
3)  My husband Dave and me in July 2014, in between our cancer journeys.  Who would have thought!; 
4)  Christmas 2014 –With my Mom and Dad.  I didn't know it would be the last with my Mother;
 



5)  Granddaughter Nora - first time she had seen me without hair.  She got on my lap and said,
“It's ok, Grandma.  Your hair will grow back.”
  Nora did a video, and I played it at every chemo treatment.
She said, “You can do it, you got it Grandma.”; 6)  Grandma and Nora;
7)  My Dad checking out the growth of my hair.  So glad to have him home with us;





8)  My strength - my cousin Denny, a 2-time leukemia survivor;  9)  Tat in my honor with my BFF Julia Hughes;
10)  My Mom - I miss her so much.




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AUGUST SPOTLIGHT: A CANCER JOURNEY: From BREAST to HEART to HEAD – Paying it Forward ~ KATHY PRIDE

STATISTICS:  Kathy was a successful hairstylist for 40 years, until March 2013.  “Being on my feet for many years, I’m no stranger to back discomfort; but on a snowy day in March, I could no longer take the back pain and went to the doctor. . .”  Kathy was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, which had metastasized to her bones, and was given only 2 months to live.  Her initial treatment consisted of 9 months of chemotherapy, once a week, 3 biopsies and 3 rounds of radiation.  She fought and continued to win the battle, which was a miracle to many, including her medical team.  

Kathy lives an active lifestyle, as she is involved with various national and local cancer associations, goes to the gym five days a week, and operates her own business, called Wigs and Beyond.

PAYING IT FORWARD:  With the heart to help others, Kathy owns and operates Wigs and Beyond.  In Kathy’s words:  “Due to all the treatments I’ve received, and am still receiving, I feel I can offer encouragement, inspiration, and even hope to other women and younger gals who have cancer.  Besides finding the right headwear to boost a woman’s confidence, I have a full understanding of the trauma of hair loss and the effects of chemotherapy and different medications.”  She enjoys creating a “fun, relaxing and caring atmosphere and putting a smile” on her customers’ faces.  “God said that a merry heart does you good like medicine.” She also provides in-home services for those who are unable to venture out.  

For most women facing cancer and chemotherapy, the greatest fear I believe is that of losing their hair.  As women, we feel that our femininity is tied to our hair.  With care, compassion and experience, Kathy is helping women gain control of their self-esteem by providing consulting services and a beautiful shop of wigs, scarves and other headgear.  

Kathy recently had a PET scan, which determined that her chemo shots were not working.  She is now on an oral chemo treatment.  She said, “I don’t know how I can feel so good but be so sick.”  In my opinion, I think Kathy’s last statement is true because she puts so much into helping others, has a loving and supportive family, and a love of God, who is in control.  She hasn’t got one minute to waste on a negative attitude—she is full of the joy and blessings of life, day to day.  

In Kathy’s Sparkle Caps gift bag was a copy of “No Regrets,” a book my friend Angela Mayson co-authored.  Both have metastasized breast cancer and have been fighting the cancer battle for many years.  Kathy’s message to Angela when I told her that Angela was having another scan, “. . .cancer is just a name and every name has to bow to the Name of Jesus.”   Amen
In closing, I want to share this one additional comment that Kathy made: “I'm particularly thankful for the funding of mammograms and cancer research.  I, for one, am dependent on new treatments.




1) Wigs and Beyond, 10143 W. Chatfield Ave., Ste. 13, Littleton, CO 80127; (303) 995-3314; 2) With my daughter Kristie
and grandson Jacob just before I knew I had cancer; 3) Kathy at the Jefferson Davis House (2015). Kathy has 3 children – Kristie,
Renaand Dillon; 2 sons-in-law – Chad and Daniel; and 5 grandsons – Alan, Joel, Jacob, Tyson and Kody.  Now that’s a lot of
family love!!! 4) Husband Garrett
.




5) Kathy and daughter Rena recently visiting a Florida beach; 6) Enjoying a week’s reprieve from chemo (but not the symptoms
of treatment) with a visit to her grandson Tyson in Gulfport, MS and New Orleans; 7) Kathy’s first Race for the Cure - in a wheelchair
due to pain and extreme weakness but out there supporting this fundraising event.


Joyce.jpg

JULY SPOTLIGHT: JOYCE–ONE OF GOD’S EARTHLY ANGELS

(NOTE:  My intended subject of the July Spotlight is on vacation, so she will be spotlighted in August.  In the meantime, I want to take you on a little detour and tell you about a very brief encounter I had in September 2010.  Sit with me for a minute, in the quiet, as I tell you about a most remarkable woman—warning, you may need a tissue.)

This morning was one of infusion for me—infusion of Herceptin (the remaining one of my chemotherapy drugs)—and an infusion of God’s grace and blessings as he sent a wonderful woman named Joyce to visit with me.  

Joyce made a comment to me in passing (as she visited with others in treatment) and there started a conversation with an incredible, blessed cancer Survivor.

We talked about the blessings of cancer—we were glad we were on the paths chosen for us by God.  We talked about the peace and strength with which God was blessing us.  We talked about our spiritual growth.

It was not until I asked, “Did I hear you say you were a two-time cancer Survivor,” did I understand the full extent of our “coincidental” encounter.

For you see, Joyce is a cancer Survivor who has been in Survivorship for over five years.  She exhibits a sense of humor, a great love of God, courage and stamina; and she answered my question, “My cancer is terminal but I am still a Survivor.”

Knowing that death is not the end (but the beginning), knowing that the price has been paid for our entry into a much better place, Joyce is living her life without fear, unselfishly sharing God’s love and comfort with others.

You know me—I shed tears of joy as we talked and God blessed us.  And when she walked away to visit with others, my life was so much enriched by our brief visit.  And she said I was a blessing to her.  

I am on a journey not of my choosing but a journey I would not give up for a million dollars.  How else would l have met Joyce!!!

Follow Up:  I have not seen Joyce since that time almost five years ago.  Shortly after writing a longer version of this story for Joyce (leaving it with her chemo nurse), I was told she was so happy to receive it, and she went around sharing it with others in the chemo area.  I have not asked about her since then because I want to remember her as she was during our brief encounter; I want to remember the blessings of that day as I talked with one of God’s earthly angels.


Vicki - June Status.jpg

JUNE SPOTLIGHT IN MEMORY of MY FRIEND and SPARKLE CAPS SUPPORTER – VICKI EVERHART

I so clearly remember when Vicki entered my life in March 2012.  Breast cancer brought us together after she sent me a beautiful thank you note for her Sparkle Caps gift bag.  I answered her note, and our friendship blossomed.

E-mails were our main form of communication.  We were always ready to share some of our chemo-brain moments, exchanges that only others in similar circumstances could understand.  We laughed, empathized and imparted words of wisdom, like “Oh, no, you didn’t do that!”  If one of us was having a difficult day, our e-mails would always lift the other up.  We confided in each other, as only close and trusted friends can do.

Vicki and her hubby Ray, my hubby Gary and I would plan early lunches at the Waffle House after our visits to SC Oncology—she was seeing the doctor and I was dropping off Sparkle Caps gift bags.  She and I would sit at one table for our private girl talks, while the guys would sit a couple tables away from us, exchanging Fox news stories and such.  It was always so good to see each other in person.

Vicki was a strong supporter of Sparkle Caps and me, offering suggestions and advice; scouting out products for the mini goody bags; donating books and other finds; and offering financial support through gift bag sponsorships.  She was sorely missed at this year’s Rainbow Charity Golf Classic, as she and Ray helped us out the last two years.  Included in our gift bags are two testimonials written by Vicki—she will continue to offer support and empowerment to other women facing cancer through her essays.

We make plans for our lives.  I think sometimes that our plans are the foundation for God’s laughter.  Vicki and I learned more intensely how precious each day was—cancer did that for us.  We appreciated life even more.  It was one day at a time, which was difficult at times for multi-tasking Vicki and too-much-to-do me, but we continually honed our patience through these experiences and our mutual support of each other.  We shared a mutual faith and belief—God is in control!  

Vicki believed in Angels. She listened. Her grandmother called them “Angel Whispers,” as have I for the last several years.  Vicki went Home on May 8th. I feel adrift without my good friend.  Knowing her for three years (much too short a time) has been such a blessing, and she will always be my dear friend.

Vicki, I am listening for Angel Whispers!  With love and hugs, Susan “Victorious”

To learn more about Vicki, page down to June 2013.

Loquist Family.jpg

APRIL and MAY SPOTLIGHTS ON BENEFICIARIES OF RAINBOW’s 5th ANNUAL CHARITY GOLF CLASSIC and AUCTION

The Loquist Family

Joanie and Brian have been married for 19 years.  They have 3 handsome young boys, Noah (15), Sam (12), and Griff (6).  They enjoy being at the ballpark and watching the boys play baseball and always revel in cheering on the Gamecocks.  Joanie likes the sand and enjoys building castles with the boys at the beach in Edisto when they can get there and her energy holds up.  They are stront in their faith and feel blessed with family and so many friends that have supported them through this journey.

Joanie was originally diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2009.  Her youngest child had just been born.  After a mastectomy and chemotherapy, everything was going well.  In August 2011, her oncologist discovered the cancer had returned.  It was in the sub-mammary nodes and the surgeon was unable to remove it.  She was treated with intense radiation and more chemotherapy.  Noah was in 7th grade and placed in a position where she leaned on him a great deal for help with the 3-year old.  She relied tremendously on the support of her family and friends and again was able to beat this monster.  Last June, after experiencing months of sporadic pain in her hip, her oncologist determined that the cancer had metastasized into her bone.  She received more radiation, had a hysterectomy and is receiving monthly treatments to strengthen her bones.  She states that “I have a strong God and I am weak enough to hand this over to Him.”

hallman family.jpg The Hallman Family

Kelly and Morgan have been married for 10 years.  They have two precious and very active sons, Zackery (7) and jWAylon (4).  Kelly enjoys spending time with God, her family and friends.  Whenever possible, they like to be at the beach.  

Kelly discovered a lump in her breast shen she was 36 years old.  A mammogram and then MRI led to the discovery of two additional areas of concern, and she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in November 2012.  She immediately had a mastectomy, followed by reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Last September, her oncologist determined the cancer had returned and it had metastasized to her bones.  She was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  She travels to SCOA and Duke Cancer Center in NC for radiation treatments and chemotherapy and is receiving injections to help with bone mass.  Kelly says, “I know God is always ahead of me with a plan as I learn to obey Him more and be a witness to others.”

MARCH SPOTLIGHT on the PUGH FAMILY

 

After this brief introduction, I am going to let Alicia update you via her post on Brave for Dave & Alicia, which is below.  The family received Sparkle Caps gift bags in February 2014, after a new friend, Tonya Morris, called them to my attention.
 
In Nov., 2009, Dave was diagnosed with stage IV thymic carcinoma, which is a rare and aggressive form of thymic cancer, is incurable and has a 5-year survival rate.  It metastasized to his brain and lungs.

Alicia was diagnosed with breast cancer in Oct., 2013 and has completed reconstruction surgery and now returned to school for her advanced degree.

Their son Drake, who I believe is 10 now, has spent most of his life surrounded by cancer.  He has had counseling for a period of time.

Dave passed away Sept. 9, 2014.

“I cannot believe Monday will be six months since our sweet Dave has passed. I'm working hard and trying to gather my thoughts and emotions about this moment in time. I have no idea if I will wake up and be ok or freak out. Grief is a roller coaster of emotions and has taken me on some crazy rides lately! I guess I am trying to actually wrap my mind around the fact that he is gone. That I will never see him walk in a room again or talk to him on the phone about our day, etc."

“I will be turning 37 in a few weeks and Dave and I were together since I was 20. Every single milestone of my adult life involved him. So to start graduate school again, to go to my oncologist alone, to plan to see his nephews graduate, to watch Drake grow without Dave right next to me is heartbreaking.”

“I am healing and Drake is healing but it takes time. I want to thank the ones who have not left my side and for the men who are being male role models for Drake. I have worked hard to keep Dave's memory alive and I want people to talk about him and to share with Drake how awesome of a person his dad was and how much they act alike.”  

“No matter where life takes me or who may walk into my life he will always hold a piece of my heart. I just want them to find a damn cure to cancer so other families do not have to experience this horrific pain. Here is a perfect quote, in my opinion, for how it feels to lose your other half. ‘You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.’”



1. Drake and Dave - December 2009; 2. “My Love" - Met in 1998; 3. Thumbs up to removing the cancer!




4. Drake and Dave - December 2011; 5. The New Alicia and Drake - November 2014



Susan.jpg

FEBRUARY SPOTLIGHT ON A FIVE-YEAR BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR:

Our FEBRUARY SPOTLIGHT is focused on a person who is very dear and near to me.  When I wake up each morning, she greets me first thing.  She’s with me all day and all night.  When I look in the mirror, she’s looking back at me.  And you know what?  I LIKE HER!  

It took her breast cancer journey to help her draw closer to God; to follow a life-time dream of helping others on a larger scale; to follow the path God had laid out for her.  

Yes, I am glad she, Susan “Victorious,” is my reflection in the mirror! – Victorious over cancer!  Victorious in God!  As I faced the fear of cancer, I grew stronger in my faith.  With my hubby Gary by my side, we faced cancer head on.

Walk with me for a minute through the stages of my breast cancer journey and then celebrate with me the highlights of this journey and what today holds.

STATISTICS:  Stage 1 breast cancer.  I will not bore you with all those statistics.  (Sigh of relief.)

My hair is now thinning out rapidly and my weight is up 20 lbs. because of the anti-estrogen pill I have to take to prevent a reoccurrence of breast cancer.  My joints and legs get stiff.  BUT GUESS WHAT!!!  Those are nothing in comparison to my waking up each morning to a new day of life; a new day of adventures; a new day of blessings; a new day to help someone else, if even with just a smile, or better yet, with a Sparkle Caps gift bag of blessings.

This February, Gary and I CELEBRATE (1) my birthday, when I was blessed to enter a new decade of life; (2) our recommitment ceremony 15 years ago, which was (3) Valentines Day; (4) and this MY 5TH YEAR AS A BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR, which is a big number for this type of cancer.

My negative became a positive and I have been making champagne out of lemons for over four years through The Sparkle Caps Project.  To date, we have given out over 1,150 gift bags to women (and 5 men) in treatment for cancer.  

Let me leave you with some affirmations for every-day life!

Why waste the joy of today on the worry about tomorrow!!!!!!  Susan “Victorious”

All along this path, God has been my strength and my peace.  He has lead me, held my hand and walked beside me; He has walked behind me and given me pushes when needed; and when I have been too tired to take another step, He has carried me.  He is there for you, too.  Leave your fear, your burdens with God. He wants them; He wants us to ask Him for help.  

Prayer is the key to the morning and the bolt on the door at night.  (Author unknown)

I end the foundational letter of each Sparkle Caps gift bag with these words:  “Walk safely and in God’s Protection.  God bless you!  Remember, you are a Survivor.  Claim it now.”

I AM A FIVE-YEAR BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR!  I live for today, and I love each day.

What can I do to help you through The Sparkle Caps Project?  We have a BIG announcement to make the week of February 9th.  Stay tuned!

In Conclusion, my mammogram was nine months overdue, and I only scheduled it after hearing an Angel Whisper twice in one day to schedule my appointment.  Please make and keep your mammogram appointments in a timely fashion.  I did not do breast self-exams, and I wonder if I would have felt the lump sooner.  You have to be your own best advocate.

Love, Susan “Victorious”



1) The weekend after my initial 2010 mammogram - a weekend away to NC to celebrate my birthday. I am all innocence
 in this picture.  2) This was taken less than 3 weeks after my first chemo - surviving and thriving.
3) January 2015 - a lot less hair, a lot more weight, and much more joy in every day! 4) A "HEAD" shot of my Gary.





5) I love Christmas! In addition to celebrating the birth of Jesus, I love Christmas decorating and have villages all over.
This is Gary's country western tree with a full fledged farm beneath.  6) This is just one area of the table top village.
I get lost in these scenes.  7) Another favorite is gardening. Gary took over so much of it during my 13 months
of treatment, when I just could not keep up.





8) Gary and I both veggie garden, not too successfully yet but we do enjoy it.  9) Witchy Poo made her first appearance at the
Women of Weddings ("WOW") Oct. get-together at my Sister Barbie's house in 2013. WOW had been supporting
Sparkle Caps for two years with their yearly White Envelope Award and $500. I spoke as Witchey Poo and Susan "Victorious"
at the Oct. Bosom Buddies meeting (support group for breast cancer patients / survivors).  10) Another favorite - my three-wheeler,
which takes care of my issue of some vertigo and not being able to get my leg over the bike bar. I actually got stuck
at Walmart when I tried to get on a pretty pink bike. The sales guy helped me off.



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OCTOBER SPOTLIGHT on GARY HEMBIGNER – “From a Caregiver’s Perspective” – A Salute to All Caregivers

I met my wife Susan 52 years ago, when we were teenagers.  She was working for the summer in the parts department at a car dealership, and I was in need of a part for my car.  The next day, I told my friend about this cute gal I met, telling him that I was going to ask her out.  He asked me to describe her; and when I did, he said, “That’s nice.  That ‘s MY girlfriend.”  Susan married my friend three years later, and I was best man at their wedding (and Susan says ‘literally and figuratively”).  Thirty-two years later, Susan and I were married, and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary.

The marriage vows say “for better or worse,” and cancer certainly does test that “for worse” part. 

Our cancer partnership started in February 2010 with her diagnosis of breast cancer.  We were both shocked at the diagnosis.  There was not much time to think about it as Susan was fast-tracked from a repeat mammogram, to the oncology surgeon, the oncologist, and then surgery, all within two weeks. 

For the most part, the doctors explained the process and procedures well.  Still, there are questions, and you have to press the doctors for those answers.  There are no dumb questions when it comes to cancer.  In my opinion, the more information you have, the better you can deal with all of it as a caregiver.  You have to be the ears, because at some point, the patient is going to check out mentally.  (Note from Susan:  Gary absorbed everything; read and asked questions when I couldn’t digest more than what was happening at that particular stage of treatment.)

I’m not a spiritual person who wears his faith on his sleeve; but this type of life event does get you more into your faith.  You look at life differently. 

My wife asked me - (1) What was the worst part about being a caregiver?  It was difficult watching my wife go through the treatments.  (2) Was it a strain on the marriage?  No!  (3) Did it make the marriage stronger?  Yes!  (4) Could you find humor in these circumstances?  Yes.  On the day we were driving down the road to the oncology surgeon’s office for the first time, Susan said out of no where, “Well, these two are old.  I might just get two new and perky ones.”  Not exactly what I was thinking at the time.  As we sat nervously waiting for the surgeon in a small room holding other family members, Dr. Metropol walked in, looked at the chart; and after a minute or so, he asked Susan how to pronounce her name.  Susan said, “As it is spelled.”  Another few seconds passed, and then Dr. M said, “Oh, Susan.”  (Go back to the top of this post to see what our last name is.)  The family immediately knew he was the right surgeon for us.

Another of the worst things for me at that time was hearing about the way people treated Susan at work, as if she were contagious.  Susan would not let me assault her boss, but I sure did want to.  (LOL)  I had to bite my tongue, and I had to leave God in charge of that situation.
What helped me get through that time?  Our needs are different.  For me, I stayed busy working in the yard and doing my usual stuff, taking over chores and errands for Susan, and taking care of her as needed.  (Susan:  It is important to take care of yourself as a caregiver so that you can take care of your charge.)

There is information out there for caregivers.  With knowledge and God’s help, you can be the caregiver that your mate needs.

Now I support my wife through the charity she founded to help other women during cancer treatments –The Sparkle Caps Project.  Yes, my Sweetie Pie is Susan “Victorious.”  Cancer could not defeat us!




1) Gary - Father's Day - June 2014; 2) Wallpapering our living room and hallway. I was going to help Gary, even in my tired chemo state, as he had never wallpapered. To save our marriage, he did the wallpapering. He did not need my instructions; 3) As part of the living room redo, he stained a cabinet that I use for my photo albums and supplies. I didn't do that cabinet either; 4) Two days after my first chemo, Gary walked the Survivor's Lap with me at Relay for Life in Sumter;



 
5) Rehanging curtains; 6) He even made the bed after sheets washed. He's a Sweetheart!; 7) The day of the dreaded head shave - I was gardening and Gary was on the other side of this fence. I pointed to this iris and asked him if he'd ever seen anything so beautiful. He said, "You." Moments before that head shave, I had never felt more beautiful; 8) March 2013 - my last Herceptin infusion. Gary was with me at every chemo session;



 
9) He did all the vacuuming for at least a year, plus grocery shopping (which he does not like doing) and errand running for me; 10) Gary's Sweetie Pie; 11) I was too tired to do my beloved gardening, so Gary took that over for me, too. He was glad to give it back when I started feeling better a year later.


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SEPTEMBER SPOTLIGHT on Funny-Girl MARY BRANDES

NOTE:  In Mary’s words (with editorial liberty taken), here is her story, told with frankness and humor.  She is one I am pleased to call “friend.”

In April 2010, I knew I was ill. I had lost too much weight. (I know, what woman complains about that, right?!) I couldn’t eat and felt rundown. I saw a few doctors, but there were no answers. I had been praying but thought perhaps I wasn’t being specific enough. I asked God to send me a sign, one that would be obvious to me, knowing I could be stubborn and hardheaded. “God, I know something is wrong but I don’t know what, and no one else seems to know either. Please send me a sign, a BOLD sign.”
 
I continued to lose weight, which caused the tumor to drop. On December 18, I felt the tumor as I was showering. The world stopped for a brief nano second; the shower water was hanging in midair; and I think I stopped breathing—time had stopped as I was hit with every emotion out there. 
  
I was going to wait until after Christmas to see a doctor, but the lump was painful. I saw the doctor and had the necessary tests. After Christmas, I received my diagnosis: triple negative invasive breast cancer.

I had 16 chemos (little me got as big as the Pillsbury dough boy). I had a lumpectomy. I napped a lot and was barely able to get from point A to point B. Next was radiation. I thought the doctor said I would have 6 radiation treatments. Boy, did I hear that wrong—he said 6 WEEKS, which meant 33 radiation treatments.  
After the first chemo, I didn’t think I could do another one because of some side effects and my own fear. I had no job or money, and I felt like I was burdening my family. My whole life was changing, and I had no control over it.

I made it through all the bad stuff—chemo, weight gain, hair loss, swollen ankles, poor self esteem and more.  With the support of family and a friend, who made me laugh, and even my ex, who made it a point to call and say stupid stuff to make me laugh, I came out the other side a SURVIVOR. 

In December 2011, I met an angel, Susan, through our nurse navigator Tiffany. You see, before I was diagnosed, I had my own fella, Tim. He was fighting cancer, and his life ended that November, shortly after I finished my radiation treatments. I showed up for the Bosom Buddies Christmas Party. (Bosom Buddies is a local breast cancer support group.) I realized I was going to be alone in a room full of men and women. I turned away, intending to leave. Tiffany stopped me, asking where I thought I was going. I tried to fight back the tears as I explained that Tim had passed a few weeks before and I felt alone. She took me by the arm and said she wanted to introduce me to someone.  That’s when I met Susan, the “stranger” who had sent me the most awesome bag of goodies [a sparkle caps gift bag] to help this lady feel like a HOT CHICK.

It was such a blessing that Tiffany was watching me struggle at the door. I met and adore some of the most caring, wonderful women. The Bosom Buddies took me into their fold and made me feel beautiful, smart, and funny, at a time when my self-esteem was at rock bottom. They made me feel LOVED.  Yea, I knew my family loved me, but this was different. This was powerful!  It was life changing to have these ladies enter my life.  The cancer journey is over, but the fear still lingers. There isn’t a follow-up plan for triple negative breast cancer, no five years of medicine that will keep the cancer at bay. I did not have insurance when the tumor was discovered, so I learned a lot about Medicaid. The hardest thing, after the treatment was over, so was the Medicaid. I still have to be seen for checkups, medical tests and lab work. The financial struggle is ongoing. 

I was asked, “What makes your breast cancer journey unique?” I was led through the horrors of breast cancer to find people who care. There is a plethora of friends I haven’t met yet, some who are waiting for me to make a difference in their lives—nothing one does for another is too small or insignificant. I made a difference several weeks ago.  A Bosom Buddy and I were at dinner when a woman approached our table.  She had overheard us talking about Bosom Buddies and asked us about it. This “chance” meeting ended with this breast cancer patient receiving a Sparkle Caps gift bag.  Susan told me I was a great ambassador for Sparkle Caps. I disagreed. I was where I was supposed to be in order to offer uplifting hugs and support to another “pink sister.” 

With the help of God, I will deal with the fears and the uncertainty of life after cancer with the support of my family and friends. When I waver, I have so much support. I think I’ve got this!!  (NOTE:  I know she’s got this.  Susan “Victorious”)



1) Mustachioed Mary; 2) Cute Hat, Cute Mary; 3) After-Chemo New Hair - New Mary; 4) Two Years Post Diagnosis; 5) Alexis and Kayla, Granddaughters - 1st outing without a nap - corn maze fun; 6) Granddaughters Alexis and Kayla, Daughter Shawn and Shawn's Hubby Michael




7) With Good Friend Lisa Dailey – 2012; 8) Employee of the Month - Dec. 2012 - Elizabeth at Snelling; 9) Mary and Yours Truly – Women of Strength – We filled all these containers with Christmas decorations taken down in my house – January 2014; 10) Dancing to Elvis Impersonator - Bosom Buddies Christmas Dinner 2013; 11) Former Sparkle Caps Gift Bag Recipients - Karen #16, Mary #15, Annette #1 - Bosom Buddies Christmas Dinner 2012; 12) Mary's crocheted turtles - she crochets many different projects


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JULY / AUGUST SPOTLIGHT ON ANGELA MAYSON, LIVING LIFE “ONE DAY AT A TIME WITH NO REGRETS”:

Intro by Susan “Victorious”:  I briefly met Angela this past May; and since then, I have been reading her book “No Regrets.”  More on that later.  As I was reading, I knew that I wanted to spotlight this remarkable woman; and lucky for all of you reading this, she agreed.  Her journey and battles (yes, plural) with cancer follow in her words.

“What is it like to live ‘One Day at a Time’?  After being diagnosed with cancer a second, third and even fourth time, I learned that I could not live life worrying about the future.  I needed to focus on today.  Now with that said, it is easier said than done sometimes.
 
“I still have my days when I feel life getting out of control; I begin to think about the future and worry sets in.  That’s when I have to take a step back and rely on my faith—knowing that God is in control, and He will see me through whatever is ahead.

“Being diagnosed with cancer in 2002 was devastating for me.  I had a 4-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old-son.  I immediately began thinking about their future without a mom.  I had to learn to focus on getting better.  After a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, I was deemed ‘cured’ and cancer free.

“As with many cancer patients, there can be the fear of a reoccurrence.  My greatest fear came true four years later when it was discovered that the cancer was back and in my lymph nodes.  I had to undergo chemo and radiation.  Once again, the fear of the future for my family was at the forefront of my mind.  Again, I had to focus on getting better.  After 6 rounds of strong chemo and 28 rounds of radiation, I was considered in remission.

“Four years later, I was diagnosed again with a reoccurrence.  This time the cancer decided to take up residency in my liver.  I thought my life was over.  I did not have the desire to fight a third battle because I knew what I was up against.  I wanted to give up, but I knew I couldn’t.  I had a husband and two children who needed me; I wanted to see my children grow up, and I wanted to be a part of all the events that would occur in their lives.  It took me a long time to get myself together and realize that I could do this again.  Little did I know that God was not done with me.

“I did have to take more chemo, which eventually caused my body to go into remission again but only for a short time.  Unbelievably, the cancer would resurface for a fourth time.  I have been on Abraxene for three years, and I am doing great.  Oops, a new bump in the road.  Recently, the cancer figured out a way around the Abraxene, and we had to ‘back up and punt.’  I am currently on the chemo pill Xeloda.  My most recent scan revealed that the Xeloda is working and the tumors are once again shrinking. 

“Even though cancer is a bad ‘thing,’ it has produced a lot of positives in my life.  It has given me a stronger relationship with God; taught me how strong I truly am; and how my journey and knowledge of this disease can help others in similar situations.  I co-authored the book “No Regrets” with my brother-in-law, Dr. Charlie Mayson, which gives proof through our lives and the lives of others we have met along our journeys that living a life of ‘No Regrets’ is possible. 

“At the end of the day, it comes down to simply living life ‘One Day at a Time’;  never looking to the past—because we can’t change the past;  never looking to the future—because it is not here;  but living in the present—in the now—where we can make a difference.

“‘Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own’.  Matthew 6:34”

Note from Susan:  If you are interested in reading “No Regrets,” it is available through Amazon.com.  In our Sparkle Caps gift bags, we are using “No Regrets” for women with recurrent and/or metastasized cancer. 




1) My Clemson Tiger chemo chair and my special breast cancer quilt made by my dear friend Terri.  Makes for a perfect chemo day!!  2) Angela and kiddos Kyle and Alexis  3) Angela and son Kyle and some tag-alongs wanting to join in the fun!  4) Angela and brother-in-law Charlie Mayson, co-authors of "No Regrets"  5) Alexis and Angela




6) Angela and Alexis having some fun  7) Angela and husband Morgan  8) Angela sandwiched between her brothers Carroll, Jr. and Chris with parents Carroll and Brenda   9) Farm Bureau Call Center Folks - Angela Day in October (breast cancer awareness month)  
10) Angela and The Grinch (Cancer does not mean that life stops 


 

11) Angela's best friend Terri Dinwiddie made this quilt for her  12) and 13) Close-up of handcrafted and very personal quilt from one friend to another  14) Husband Morgan, daughter Alexis, parents Carroll and Brenda, son Kyle, and Angela (Cancer does not define family)


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MAY/JUNE SPOTLIGHT on ADRIAN STEWART FRIEND – “ME AND GOD, WE GOT THIS!!!”

Stuff it with a sock!!!  What???  If you are facing radiation treatments, here’s some sage advice from my husband Gary.  From personal experience, Adrian and I know this to be true.  Get a man’s long white sock (these are thicker); stuff half of it inside your bra in the area of the burn; let the other half drop down outside your bra (possibly even fold it in half first).  Aaaaah, instant relief from the pain of the burn!

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you a little bit about Adrian, a woman of God dealing with breast cancer.  She contacted me in early August 2012 after reading one of my testimonials on The Breast Cancer Site.  As she talked about her progress through her Facebook posts, she always ended those posts with “Me and God, we got this!”  No matter the difficulties, like a sever radiation burn, she grew stronger in her reliance on God, and her faith has been a beacon to others, lighting their way.  

Nine hard, long months, from July 16, 2013 – March 12-2014, consisting of surgery, 6 chemos and 33 radiation treatments, including hair loss and the aforementioned radiation burn—all that had now become a part of Adrian’s new life.  

Let me conclude with some quotes from Adrian.  “When it started, I was a scared woman. . . .”  “I am stronger.  I am a survivor, only because the entire journey God was beside me, guiding me, placing people in my path I needed; carrying me when I was weary; keeping me from being stressed, depressed or scared!!”  I have new fiends “who are walking this journey also or who have already been down that road.  Supporters who encouraged me every step of the way; prayer warriors who cried out to God on my behalf.”

Please enjoy more of Adrian’s story through her photos.

God bless.  With love, Susan “Victorious”



Photo Captions L-R:  1) Daughter Lydia and Adrian - the day I found out I had breast cancer; 2) Adrian and granddaughter Berkley with their Sparkle Caps gift bags; 3) Family Support with pink bracelets before Adrian starts chemo




Photo Captions L-R:  1) Family Support, 2) Wig shopping with granddaughter Rylee; 3) First Chemo; 4) Berkley sharing her hair bows




Photo Captions L-R:  1)  Radiant in her fight-on red Sparkle Cap; 2) Adrian's prayer cloth, still worn every day; 3) Husband Harold – “My strong rock and soft shoulder to cry on.”


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APRIL SPOTLIGHT on KARI and NANCY – WHY A FELLOW CHEMO PATIENT REFERRED THEM FOR SPARKLE CAPS GIFT BAGS – PART 2 and the REST OF THE STORY

Following is part of a message I received in January from Penney Grobe-Garbe (the subject of our March Spotlight – Part 1):

“I was terrified to go to the chemo treatments. I always had a friend or my husband go with me. Not anymore. I have met some amazing women. Two in particular have been awesome. Both are breast cancer survivors. One is now fighting bone cancer. Through it all, they always manage to smile and bring laughter to everyone around them. I am wondering what I would need to do to have sparkle cap gift bags sent to them. I want to show how much I appreciate all they have done for me.”

Penney shared that Kari (51) and Nancy (65) always have everyone around them laughing at their stories and antics, inspiring others along the way.  

Kari Bundy receives chemo every three weeks for breast cancer, and she takes Nancy to her weekly chemo treatments.  If she is not running errands while Nancy is getting chemo, she and Nancy are “acting up” with others, many of whom have become cherished friends. Kari has been busy with her Newfoundland dog, which recently had 10 puppies. She also became a “landlord” last December, as explained below.  

Last August, Nancy Rabe learned that she had breast cancer, which had spread to her bones, and was receiving chemo every week until the end of February. Now she gets chemo every three weeks, and she will be on it for the rest of her life, which she faces with a positive attitude. She is happy to be back at work part time as a cashier at McDonalds. She likes to read and go for walks, but the walks have been delayed a bit, until she gets her strength back.

Nancy had been in an assisted living facility when she met Kari at her first chemo treatment. Nancy had applied to another facility and was waiting for an opening. When Kari learned about this, she offered Nancy a room at her house, telling her she could stay as long as she needed. In December, Nancy moved in and will stay with Kari until some time this spring (after the winter snow has departed, which appears questionable right now for Wisconsin). Because of the shared experience of cancer and now living together for a short time, Penney relates that Kari and Nancy have become close friends and they are blessed to have found each other.  

Note: As I read Penney’s initial e-mails to me asking for gift bags for her two friends; as I read about Kari and Nancy; as I read about the friendships established during chemo treatments; as I read about the chemo bell being donated to their cancer treatment center by fellow cancer patient Chip, I saw that the overwhelming bond in each and every one of the circumstances was LOVE and COMPASSION.  God bless Penney, Nancy and Kari.  May their lives continue to be rich with blessings as they bless others.  Susan “Victorious”


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MARCH 2014 - SPOTLIGHT on PENNEY GROBE-GARBE – A REQUEST FOR TWO BECAME A GIFT FOR THREE. . .and an even bigger gift resulted for cancer patients!

Message from Penney to Sparkle Caps: Jan. 2014: “I am currently undergoing chemo for breast cancer.”  Diagnosed July 2013, triple negative, first sentinel node involvement, stage 2B.  On Aug. 29, the day after her birthday, she received a bi-lateral mastectomy and reconstruction, followed by chemotherapy.  “I am doing great. This is not about me though.”

“I was terrified to go to the chemo treatments. . . .  I always had a friend or my husband go with me.  Not anymore.  I have met some amazing women. . . . Two in particular have been awesome.  Both are breast cancer survivors.  One is now fighting bone cancer.  Through it all, they always manage to smile and bring laughter to everyone around them.  I am wondering what I would need to do to have sparkle cap gift bags sent to them.  I want to show how much I appreciate all they have done for me.”

I wanted to do gift bags for Penney and her friends Nancy and Kari (Part 2 coming in Apr.).  I arranged with Penney to send the two gift bags (hers was a surprise) to her home address, so that she could personally surprise her two friends.  When I asked her for information on her friends so that I could personalize their gift bags, this was her reply:  “I cannot thank you enough.  I am overwhelmed!  And I cannot think of two more deserving women!”  And I, Susan “Victorious,” cannot think of a more deserving person than Penney to also receive a Sparkle Caps bag of blessings.

Penney is 43, married to Ray, and has a 19-year-old son Jonathan.  “My son has been a great source of strength.  When I first told him I had BC, he said, ‘Don’t worry, mom.  It could be a lot worse.’”  Jonathan’s reply when she asked him if he’d told his dad:  “I told him you had BC. You don’t have it anymore.  They removed it.”  Penney said, “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

Two of Penney’s goals are (1) to educate women on the importance of mammograms and (2) if something doesn’t seem right, trust your instincts, which is the direction she took when her Feb. 2013 mammogram came back clean.  In July 2013, when she felt a lump, she had an MRI and was diagnosed with breast cancer.  

“. . .ladies, get your mammograms; and if something doesn’t seem right, get it checked.  Don’t take no for an answer.   You know your bodies best.  And believe it or not, gentlemen, you can get breast cancer, too.  Anything odd, get it checked.”

AND MORE OF THE STORY OF A GIFT THAT WILL KEEP ON GIVING:     See the rest of the story in pictures.  Whether you are or have been a cancer patient, may you be uplifted and empowered through Penney’s story, in picture and words.  
Susan “Victorious”



Photo Captions L-R:  1)  Penney and husband Ray; 2)  Penney and Jonathan - June 2013; 3)  Penney - Ready for a Mother's Day Event - May 2012




Photo Captions L-R:  1) On behalf of all us cancer patients who have rung a chemo bell signaling the end of our chemo treatments, and on behalf of all those to come, I thank Penney and Chip for donating this bell to their treatment center. As Penney found out on February 28th, the date of her last treatment, ringing that bell is such a high after so many months of chemo treatments and side effects;  2)  Plaque - beautiful sentiments; 3)  Bell and Plaque - What an incredible gift to those finishing chemo treatments!;  4)  Penney rings the chemo bell - February 28, 2014.



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OUR VALENTINES SPOTLIGHT ON A BEAUTIFUL TRIO OF WOMEN OF THREE GENERATIONS

FIRST, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO PEGGY SEIGLER, who is 83 today, February 12th.

Let me introduce you to Ms. Seigler, who is battling lung cancer, with success. She’s just a little bit of sass and a lot of spunk wrapped up in a big smile for everyone. I first met Ms. Seigler in September last year, shortly after she received her Sparkle Caps gift bag. Over a period of time, she has received a pink and a black sparkle cap; and being the fashionista that she is, she has matched her pink cap to a top of the same color, even going so far as to shop for a black top to match her other cap; of course, both tops have the necessary fashionista sparkles!

I met Ms. Seigler’s daughter, Allison, when we were all at SC Oncology. She has taken her mom to live with her on a temporary basis, since Ms. Seigler plans to move back home as soon as she regains some strength. Did I say that Ms. Seigler was also feisty?! This mom-daughter combo is wonderful to see; the love that Allison has for her mom shines like a bright star.

Ms. Seigler is also a granddaughter spoiler (go, Peggy!) to the apple of her eye, Kathleen Grace Harrison. These three ladies are living under one roof, but I think that granddaughter Katie is reaping the benefits of having her Mema there. Allison relays that now that she is in charge of her mom and daughter, mom and daughter have bonded together to present a united front against her. Allison’s mom calls her “The Warden,” and Katie tells Mema to stick up for herself. Allison says she can’t win, but Allison does win every day as she devotes herself to her mother’s care and raising her daughter.

The close bond between Mema and granddaughter Katie was strengthened when Ms. Seigler and her late husband helped care for Katie when she was a baby; and through the years, Ms. Seigler picked Katie up at school twice a week until this school year, when she started her battle with cancer. I know that Katie will get to spend more of those beloved overnights with her Mema once Ms. Seigler is able to return home. Who wouldn’t love a grandmother who let you stay in your pjs all day, play with stuffed dolls bigger than you, and also play with the huge collection of beanie babies, belonging to Ms. Seigler. They went to the state museum and frequented the Pig on Devine to get ice cream. Now that’s my kind of grandmother!

Love, Susan "Victorious"



1) October 2013 - Halloween at SC Oncology. Ms. Seigler became a wonderful Tammy Faye. I love the IV stand, too. Very, very clever.  2) Katie and her Mema pre-cancer.  3) Enjoying a beautiful day in the garden pre-cancer diagnosis.  4) Allison and Peggy Seigler




1) Ms. Seigler, Allison and Katie.  2) How adorable is this?!!! There are all kinds of visitors at SC Oncology to help uplift the spirits of those going through chemo and other treatments.  3) Mrs. Fashionista in her matching black sparkle cap and sparkle top. Notice the lap blanket, too. 

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JANUARY 2014 – SPOTLIGHT on JEANEE BOURQUE - “JEANEE’S MIRACLE”

ABOUT Jeanee: She is, foremost, a poet and artist. Her boyfriend Keith is a songwriter, musician and singer, and both are active in the art community in Columbia.

STATISTICS: January 2013—Jeanee was diagnosed with inoperable Stage IIIc Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Estrogen -, Her2Nu+, with 2 tumors in the right breast, both over 5cm, with involvement of at least 2 lymph nodes. Jeanee received heavy chemotherapy, which required overnight hospitalizations, followed by additional treatments the next day at another facility.  

OUTLOOK: Because of the painful side effects, Jeanee begged the oncologist to lighten the chemo load, but she was told that they had only one chance to get this cancer and they could not back off on the strength, leaving Jeanee crying tears of fear.

The DOOR OPENED for JEANEE’S MIRACLE when a nurse overheard her crying and entered her room: During her second overnight stay in the hospital for chemo infusion—about 2-3:30 a.m.—Jeanee stated that she was trying to sleep but couldn’t stop crying. As the nurse talked to Jeanee and learned of her fear, she told Jeanee, “No doctor can heal your cancer. Only God can. Let me pray with you.” She took Jeanee’s hands in hers and prayed for 20 minutes. This was the turning point for Jeanee—from fear to peace, knowing that she would be fine. 

Jeanee’s Miracle: From the third chemo on (beginning in May), the doctor could not feel either tumor but stated they needed to continue the heavy-duty treatment.  In early July, Jeanee had an MRI; and two days later, she was told there were no signs of cancer in her breasts or lymph nodes. On August 8th, she had a mastectomy with lymph node removal. The resultant lab results stated that there was no cancer in the lymph nodes or breast tissue. JEANEE’s MIRACLE!!!!!!

Let me quote Jeanee: “Now I believe in miracles, and I believe in the power of prayer. I felt bathed in love many times during my cancer treatments, and that love was truly a blessing.  Don’t ever give up hope. [emphasis added]  I believed I would be healed; I thanked God for the healing even before I had it….!” “Have a positive attitude.” “Be thankful for every minor improvement.”

Jeanee now lives with faith and trust in God as she continues on her cancer journey. She stated to me that every morning when she gets up, she raises her arms to the sky and thanks God for her healing. Her final comments for you, the reader: “Praying for you to have miracles in your life, too.”
 
JEANEE’S FINAL WORDS in POEM:  Tiara in Hand - March 6, 2013

~Bold Warrior Amazon Woman here, Tiara in hand
With burning feet and swollen heels, tiptoes on demand
The crown will not stay in her limp and thinning hair
Going bald, she wondered will people stop and stare?
Her face a blaze with a violent heavy raised red rash
Unable to work much, the bills pile up, how to get cash
So much more left to endure for our girl to survive
And for everyday that comes she feels lucky to be alive!
For it is not about the appearance or the external view
It's about the spirit; on a healing mission for me and you!~





Photo Captions (L-R): 1) "Camo Chemo Fighter" 2) Bravely Bald (Speech at Int'l. Scream Festival) 3) Jeanee and Keith -
blondes have more fun! 4) Keith and Jeanee at a dinner/theater production in October 2013





Photo Captions (L-R):  1) Jeanee's "Self-Portrait"  2) Painting by Jeanee - "Beach"
3) "Eye for Love" by Jeanee.

To see more of Jeanee's artwork and to make any purchases, go to artsails1@gmail.com.




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DECEMBER 2013 – SPOTLIGHT ON BOSOM BUDDIES

DECEMBER SPOTLIGHT on RECIPIENTS: Here are a group of beautiful, strong, powerful, HOT CHICKS, breast cancer survivors, at the Palmetto Health Breast Center annual Bosom Buddies Christmas Party, held December 17th. A picture is worth a 1,000 words, and I’ve added just a few words of explanation to some. Merry Christmas, Bosom Buddies. Love, Susan "Victorious"





Photo Captions L-R: 1) Annette is taking pictures of the Elvis impersonator; 2) Annie Ruth is a Survivor Extraordinaire, as a 3-time survivor at 78. We all look up to her and her courage and spunk!; 3) Our husbands were relegated to a table behind us so we women could oogle "Elvis" w/o their knowledge until . . . Stay tuned in the pictures to see what happened! My hubby Gary (to the left), Vicki's Ray, Jeanie's husband, Jeanee's boyfriend Keith, Annette's husband Tommy; 4) Girls' Table - (to the left) Vicki, Annette, Mary, Jeanie, Jeanee (missing), Lauren (Karen's beautiful daughter), Karen, and the sweater would belong to me, Susan "Victorious."





Photo Captions L-R: 1) Jeanee with her bright smile and eyes. It is planned that Jeanee will be the featured January Spotlight on a Recipient; 2) Will you be mine??? Not saying who asked that!!!; 3) Jeanie (on the right) enjoying "Elvis." Elvis and all the other singers in one body is Phil Urban; 4) Karen, one of our first Sparkle Caps gift bag recipients; 5) Jessica.




Photo Captions L-R: 1) Yours Truly, Susan "Victorious" - mouth open, as usual; 2) Mary gettin it on with rock and roll by Elvis or one of the other singers present in "Elvis."; 3) Elvis came up behind Vicki, unbeknown to her at that second. Once he started rubbing her shoulder, she became quite aware and enthusiastic. Here is Elvis #2 fan. At one point, I asked her if I was going to have to pick her up off the floor because of her possible swooning! Her hubby is in the back--we were casting glances at his expressions; 4) Tanyua is one of the gals at our dinners pre-Bosom Buddies monthly meetings but was sitting at another table. I missed getting a picture of Rose; 5) Vicki joining some venturous women in getting up and rockin' and rollin'.


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NOVEMBER SPOTLIGHT on FRIENDSHIP - The Month of Thankfulness – HAEWON SOUZA and KATHY YOUNG

Haewon transitioned today, Monday, Nov. 25, at approximately 2:45 p.m. She was under Hospice care the last couple of weeks. Kathy visited her last Friday and took the above post with her, to read to Haewon. Haewon's sisters were present; and being under heavy sedation, one of the sisters asked her to move her mouth if she could hear the story that was going to be read to her. As Kathy read their friendship story, I was told that Haewon moved her mouth throughout the reading. I am blessed to have seen Kathy and Haewon's friendship in action, if only for an hour or so. God has now given her peace and taken her home.

If you have not already done so, I hope you will take a few minutes to read about the wonderful friendship between Haewon and Kathy and how Haewon came to accept God.

NOVEMBER SPOTLIGHT on FRIENDSHIP - The Month of Thankfulness

As a Thanksgiving blessing to each one of you, I am going to spend a little time relaying (1) basic statistics and then (2) some insight, humor and love about Haewon and her friend Kathy, who, in Haewon’s words, is like a sister to her.

Haewon is wife of 37 years to her devoted Dennis; mother to Michelle and Michael; and 1st-time grandmother to Zoey. She lovingly served her community for 30 years as a pharmacist and manager of a local pharmacy, with a reputation among her peers of always being positive, thoughtful and loving, making everyone feel as if they were one big family.

Haewon’s Sparkle Caps gift bag was the last one to be given out in Dec. 2011, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A follow-up bag of love and blessings was sent to her in Aug. this year after she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.


When cancer strikes, sadly, marriages and friendships are tested. Some are lost while others are strengthened. I want to tell you about a loving and enduring friendship that I was privileged to witness on Oct. 12 while visiting my sister Barbie in CA. Through my eyes and words, and some quotes from Kathy, I hope you will FEEL and be blessed. Please read to the end to see how you can say “thank you” to a special friend in your life!

Kathy and Haewon have been friends for 18 years, meeting through their oldest children, Kathy’s son Jamie and Michelle, who went to school together. Kathy later met Michelle, who told her she should meet her mom as she felt that they would become the best of friends. Kathy said, “For 18 years, we would get together for lunch as often as possible and talk about our lives, our children, our hopes and dreams. We passed through many milestones of life together.” “She deeply appreciated our friendship, as well as the friendship of so many others.”

In addition to incredibly strong, devoted and loving family support, Haewon is blessed, as she repeatedly stated during the telling of her life-changing story, to know God. She is from Korea, where she grew up in a Buddhist home. Feeling “lost” during most of her earlier life—knowing that something was missing—she came to know Jesus Christ through the loving guidance of several friends. Her love for God is foremost in her life. He is her best friend!

Kathy is her earthly friend. Her eyes were filled with love and compassion and pools of tears formed in them as we all listened to Haewon. Although battling fatigue and nausea, Haewon sat on the couch with her eyes closed most of the time and told stories with love and humor, often evoking peels of laughter from her “audience.” Kathy sat in a chair, pulled up to the couch beside Haewon, continually touching her arm and hand, passing on her strength and love as Haewon tiredly and tirelessly entertained us. The “sister” bond is mutual.

Haewon was going to be a grandmother. She was bound and determined to be the first to see her new granddaughter (after mom and dad). A day and a half after having a double mastectomy in Feb. 2012, she told her husband to get her out of the hospital and over to the one where her granddaughter was being born. He grabbed a wheelchair and they were on their way. In the meantime, the other grandmother was on her way, too. Haewon had to be the 1st—she just had to! When the other grandmother got there, the baby had not yet been born, so she decided she had time to get flowers. In the meantime, Haewon got there. She had her husband close his eyes as he wheeled her into the room after Zoey was born, and Haewon was the first to see her beautiful granddaughter, who gave Haewon strength and courage to continue her battle. Haewon can tell a story!!!

Kathy wrote, “She [is] an angel who embraced all who knew her with such love and devotion. Even while in such excruciating pain, she always asked how others were doing or how they were feeling.”

It’s difficult for many of us (even myself as a survivor) to know what to say or do for another dealing with a difficult life-changing health or other issue. How do we cancer patients express our deep gratitude to those who continually stand by us? If you’d like to say “thank you” to such a special friend, I’d like to suggest—if you are moved by Haewon and Kathy’s friendship—that you print this post and send it to that person—“Thank you for being my Special Friend!”

Susan “Victorious”

Photo Captio
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1) Haewon, granddaughter Zoey on Mother's Day of 2013 and daughter and mommie Michelle  2) Kathy - Beautiful lady, inside and out

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OCTOBER 2013 - WITCHY POO

What do Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Halloween have in common (other than the month of October)? WITCHY POO, of course!!!

October Spotlight on Witchy Poo, a 3 1/2 year breast cancer survivor.

FASHION COMMENT: To celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Witchy Poo decided to make her own breast cancer survivor’s cape. The shiny black cape with pink lace overlay was highlighted by a feathered witch’s cap, breast cancer jewelry, and a breast cancer shirt and socks. False eyelashes with sparkles gave her back some of those eyelashes she lost through chemo treatments. Her black and red fingernails were the height of fashion in Black Goo Swamp and Dark Woods Hallow. Witchy Poo is one stylin gal!

Witchy Poo showed up in public for the first time this Oct. at her sister Barbie’s party in CA—one long and tiring flight on her broom. The gathering was for Women of Weddings (“WOW”) (which was the first group who supported The Sparkle Caps Project). Witchy Poo was the surprise guest and not recognized as the founder and administrator of The Sparkle Caps Project by the few who might know her. She surprised the other guests after she snuck outside, peered through the French doors at the women; got their attention through a knock on the doors, waived, laughed and then let out her cackle--I personally heard that cackle was heard in her home state of SC.

Witchy Poo showed up for the 2nd time at South Carolina Oncology on October 22nd, where she woo’d and awed staff and patients alike as she was on the trick-or-treat hunt for referrals for Sparkle Caps gift bags. She received referrals for 15 women in treatment for cancer that day, as she picked up a new chemo area – OB /GYN.

I personally know Witchy Poo. She is passionate about helping women following her on the cancer road, but she needs your help to do so. Please read the post titled “Happy 3rd Birthday Challenge,” and then please be moved to make a donation to Sparkle Caps, so that together we can keep empowering and uplifting women in treatment for cancer, as we let them know that, in spite of their hair loss, they are HOT CHICKS!

Thanks for listening. Susan “Victorious” (on rare occasion seen as Witchy Poo)



Photo Captions (L-R):  1)
Witchy Poo and members of Women of Weddings, plus some other friends  2) Witchy Poo pulled out from behind her cape her favorite cap - a Sparkle Cap, of course. Not even her witch's hat could outshine her Sparkle Cap. Sister Barbie at the stairs. 3) Sexy fake eyelashes (which Witch Poo does not have by much in the real world) with "rhinestone" toppers. 4) Mean witch? No way. Just a pose. 5-6) So much fun playing a character.  Above Right:  Witchy Poo and members of Women of Weddings, plus some other friends

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SEPTEMBER 2013 – COLLEEN

SPARKLE CAPS GIFT BAG RECIPIENT #500!!!!  SEPTEMBER SPOTLIGHT ON COLLEEN COLE and FAMILY:  I “met” Colleen through her wonderful testimonial on The Breast Cancer Site and found her through her photography site, ColleenColePhotography.  She is just starting her breast cancer journey, and I will let her tell you her story below, as told in that testimonial.

First, by way of explanation of some of the pictures, Colleen and her family received gift bags—cancer is a family affair and we like to reach out to the family when we can:  Husband Corey; Daughters Ryan 12 and Callie 8; step-daughters Talynn 13 and Kaitlyn 11; and son Jackson 18 mos.

“My Life is Forever Changed!”

“I stopped nursing my son Jackson in May. At the end of May, during a self breast exam in the shower, I noticed a bump because I felt I wasn't drying up on right side as quickly as the left. Realizing I didn't have my yearly physical, I scheduled it right away. My OB/GYN told me he was going to schedule an ultrasound. I had it a couple days after, and the the radiologist told me (and he should of NEVER said this) that with no history in my family, just getting nursing, etc, he was 90% sure it wasn't cancer-a fibroadenoma is what he said he thought it was! I could wait for six weeks or have it biopsied then. I chose to wait; 2nd ultrasound-still told fibroadenoma; scheduled biopsy; waited 2 more weeks. Biopsy on Aug 7th! Hated that! August 13th my ob/gyn called me with those words: ‘It's Cancer!’ My daughters, 12 & 8 screamed and cried; I was just shocked! I have Stage II Invasive Ductual Caricnoma, all hormone driven, and I will start chemotherapy the first week of September. I will fight this for my children and husband! Met my oncologist yesterday and he told me ‘Colleen, I am proud of you for being a self advocate and checking-it saved your life!’ Its so important to check yourself and schedule mammograms right away! I will be a survivor! I will walk with all those other brave, beautiful women who have and are in the same boat as me! However, I have my daily ‘pity parties’ because it is definitely scary and life changing. Staying positive and using your support system is VITALLY important though! I am so forever grateful for mine!”




Photo captions L-R: 1) Beautiful in her turquoise sparkle cap; 2) Colleen's Sparkle Caps gift bag,

3) "We're in This Together" by Rob Harris; 4) Portion of gift note that accompanies gift bags



Photo captions L-R: 7) Some fun things in children's mini gift bags; 5) Each of the four girls received her own angel
key chain;
6) Mini gift bag for Jackson; 7) Family of cloth angels made by Nancy O'Connor

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AUGUST 2013 – LORI

AUGUST SPOTLIGHT on LORI PRASHKER-THOMAS, Woman Extraordinaire!: Lori, 41, is wife to Michael and mother to beautiful daughter Melanie, 16. She is a photographer and co-owns ShadowCatcher Ltd. Photography. She is a Rabbi / Officiant. And Lori is a Breast Cancer Fighter / Survivor!

What makes Lori extraordinaire? Let me quote from her Breast Cancer Site testimonial, and I’ll bet you’ll agree with me that she is a woman extraordinaire!

She has been living “ . . . that’s right living with Stage IV Breast Cancer.” She’s been fighting for over 2 1/2 years, “The ups, the downs, the uncertainty, the anger, the sadness. Thought I was going to die, and at times felt like I should because I could not do this anymore, until one day I met some inspiring women at a national breast cancer walk in Washington, DC, when I heard / spoke to women with the same diagnosis as I, who were living with this for 2 years, 3 years and even in remission.”

“I have one other source of inspiration that keeps me fighting.” “I was shooting a special photo shoot for women with breast cancer and some survivors. They are what keep me going everyday. If they can do it, I can do it!” NOTE: On the photography site’s Facebook page, under a post for July 25, you will see a group of photos of beautiful, courageous women fighting cancer, whose photo sessions were provided by Lori, free of charge.

I want to direct your attention to one photo of Lori, where she is showing off her tattoo. It is a memorial tattoo to the important women in her life: her mother, grandmother, sister and mother-in-law. She said “they may not be physically here but I know they are watching over me.”

Lori gains strength and support from so many sources; and she, in turn, gives so much to others while battling advanced breast cancer. I am sure that she is an inspiration to all who come in contact with her—she certainly was to me when I “met” her through her testimonial on The Breast Cancer Site.

Let me finish off with some more quotes from Lori. “I have been through numerous drug trials, the holistic approach, the chemo and the radiation and until recently nothing was working. . . .” “Through it all, I have kept the faith and the prayers, both my own and of friends and family, in my heart, and am continuing to fight forward with some new drugs, great doctors, an AMAZING family and lucky to say an enormous amount of support from friends who have become my family. I have faith and will continue to have faith through it all!!!”

When we are fighting cancer, we have to center our focus on ourselves—a hard thing for women to do with all the hats we wear at one time. Lori is fighting a difficult battle with Stage IV Breast Cancer—yet through her beautiful photography, she extends herself to other women at a difficult time in their lives—boosting their self images at a time when those images are taking big dips because of hair loss and all the other changes to their appearance that fighting cancer can present. As we say at Sparkle Caps, we are all “HOT CHICKS.”

Yes, Lori Prashker-Thomas you are Woman Extraordinaire! Thank you from all the women you are helping on the cancer journey. Susan “Victorious”



Photo Captions (L-R)  1) Lori in all her beautiful baldness - That's what we at Sparkle Caps call a HOT CHICK!; 2) After Chemo;3) Lori and Michael; 4) Lori's business headshot; 5) Lori and Michael's wedding photo - 4-23-2008; 6) Lori's memorial tattoo to all the important women in her life: her mother, grandmother, sister and mother-in-law; 7) Lori and her beautiful daughter Melanie, 16

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JULY 2013 – ANNA

JULY SPOTLIGHT on ANNA GREENBERG: Anna, just 28 years old, came to the attention of Sparkle Caps when a gift bag was requested for her this past February. She lived in Tucson, AZ and was employed by the American Cancer Society as a community relationship manager. Briefly, here is Anna’s cancer journey and story: (Tissues needed and be prepared to be inspired!)

Two great accomplishments led to the discovery of Anna’s cancer. First, she lost 90 lbs. She then finished a half-marathon in October 2011, experiencing the runner’s high and excitement of the day. The next day, her fitness trainer noticed that her right leg was bigger (by almost 2”) than her left. Her doctors immediately diagnosed her with Rhabdomyosacroma, a rare cancer tumor that occurs in the muscles attached to the bones, which is most often found in children. There was no explanation why it struck Anna. She jokingly said, “I won the lottery.” Her sense of humor carried her through her cancer ordeal.

A month later, Anna had surgery to remove the lump; but a routine scan pre-chemotherapy revealed cancer in her lungs. She had half a lung removed. One thing led to another. She had a brain tumor and four brain surgeries and then found out she had cancer in her pelvic bone and liver, facing additional treatments.

Now who wouldn’t be down after all of that! Not Anna. On December 24th she wrote: “Sprung a leak this morning on my head. The doctor gave me a brain drain and four staples. Feeling good and ready to continue my day.” At another time she said, “Holding things in can result in anger and make cancer more active.” In an interview, Rabbi Samuel M. Cohen of Tucson’s Temple Emanu-El said, “She has been very open about what is going on. . . .” “People can see in her the possibility that hope can triumph. There’s great energy in optimism and hope.” Another said of Anna, “I’ve never seen someone maintain such a positive attitude in spite of every hurdle.”

I would like to quote from The American Cancer Society’s post of January 28th.

“Singer and actress Bette Midler provided Anna Greenberg with her dying wish, singing 'Wind Beneath My Wings' to her during a telephone conversation. Her brother Aaron recorded the unexpected call from her idol, who she had briefly met at a film screening, on his mobile phone. ‘You're such an angel. You're such a wonderful soul and I am so glad that I got the chance to meet you,’ Midler said during the eight-minute phone call.”

Anna passed away on May 28, 2013, 3 days after the phone call with Ms. Midler. In her 20s, she became a role model to so many people because of her courage and strength in dealing with her life issues. Her brother Isaac posted, “Her life story is beautiful and unfortunate, but Anna lived up to her name which means gracious.” She’s an inspiration to me (Susan “Victorious”). How about you?

COMMENTS:

    Leah F:  Made me tear up!

    Vicki E:  That is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this! So touching !!!

    Mary B:  Beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    Mary B:  I am inspired...truly....and so thankful for my blessings...and thankful for others who share their story and bring joy to me, even when their story does not have a happy ending...who decides if the ending is happy anyway, she got her phone call, and how awesome was that.....I will strive to find joy in every moment that I am given....thanks for sharing, I do need a tissue.

    Karen H:  A beautiful story..Thanks for sharing..it was special !!!!

JULY 2013 - EVELYN

 

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A ONE-YEAR BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR? A picture is worth a 1,000 words! CONGRATULATIONS to Evelyn. July 20th marks her first year as one! Now she is sponsoring a gift bag for another woman on the cancer path!



Photo captions L-R: 1) Evelyn celebrates life with joy, looking forward to each new day. 2) Evelyn told me she loved pink! 3) Evelyn received so many compliments on her pink Sparkle Cap and loves it so much, she bought a turquoise one from Sparkle Caps. She donned it to celebrate her upcoming first anniversary as a breast cancer survivor.  4) A new angel to compliment her new cap. 5) For her birthday in Jan., Evelyn's sister Lisa started her on a collection of Breast Cancer Awareness pins and gives her two a month. How cool are these pins!!! 6) Taking in a beautiful FL afternoon. Evelyn loves to garden and craft handmade cards, two of which I, Susan "Victorious," have been lucky enough to receive.


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JUNE 2013 - VICKI

JUNE SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON VICKI. Her gift bag thank you note was the start of additional communications between us, which has resulted in a wonderful friendship. Now let me tell you a bit about her unique cancer journey and her more personal side.

Vicki was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2007, when she had several positive lymph nodes. The surgeon and oncologist wanted to leave them in, against her wishes, stating that chemo would take care of them. This was apparently the standard of treatment at that time. She had a bi-lateral mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. In February 2012, she was diagnosed with recurrent breast cancer, including more positive lymph nodes, resulting in additional surgery and chemotherapy.

Most of us dealing with hair loss due to chemotherapy learn to deal with it because we know it is temporary. Not temporary for Vicki. After her first course of chemotherapy, her thick, dark hair did not return. Vicki is a walking billboard for sparkle caps. (I think that's carrying her love for Sparkle Caps a little too far!)

Vicki is more than her hair loss; more than her recurrent breast cancer; more than my friend. Vicki is first a Christian who talks and acts as one. Second, she is devoted to her family. She and her daughter Karen share a very close relationship, and Karen’s daughters - Allison, 12, and Kelli 15 - are often at the home Vicki shares with Ray, her husband of 25 years. (Watch out for those granddaughters – they painted their dogs’ nails a beautiful pink!) She donates fun items to the Sparkle Caps gift bags; and in February, she came on board as the Vice President of Operations – she will be the seeker of grants for Sparkle Caps. Two of her essays (one a 2nd place award winner) are included in the bags.

Vicki is a proud “cruiser.” Over 24 years, she has been on 23 cruises, taking in Alaska, Europe, the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Caribbean. She loves yard “saling” with Karen, satisfying her love of and search for vintage goodies. She loves to read, sews some, does crafts and baking with the granddaughters; and she likes lying on a blanket in the yard with Allison and Kelli as they look for cloud shapes.

Vicki complains that she used to be a multi-tasker, and she misses being able to do that since cancer. Like most of us getting older, too much on our minds, or juggling kids, work, and home, we forget. “What did I want in that drawer?” “Why did I walk back to the bedroom?” “Where are my keys? “Where?” “Why?” “What?” “When?” Those are chemotherapy patients’ questions.

When Vicki and I are with a group of bosom buddy friends for dinner once a month, we all just laugh as we talk about breast cancer, ports, symptoms, i.e., hot flashes, etc.; we understand our mental pauses for that word we just lost and love each other for what we each bring to the table.

Vicki believes in Angels. She listens. Her grandmother called them “Angel Whispers.”




Photo captions L-R: 1) Now that's a good looking couple! 2) Christmas open house at Susan's - Allison, Kelli, Vicki, Ray and Karen; 3) Vicki can even smile in the chemo chair. Of course, this was her last treatment, and I made it there to celebrate with her and her family; 4) Vicki helping out at the 3rd Annual Rainbow Charity Golf Tournament held this May; 5) A favorite picture of Vicki with her daughter Karen



6) Vicki with her chemo nurse Tess; 7) Butterfly appeared on Vicki's last day of chemo - symbolizes new life. Good omen! 8) Pre-cancer cruising days. Ray, Vicki, Karen, Kelli and Allison; 9) Vicki and her girls; 10) A day to celebrate - ringing the bell to signal the last chemo finished! 11) Ray and Vicki - There's her beautiful smile!

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APRIL 2013 - DAVID, LILLA AND BABY

Sparkle Caps’ ONE AND ONLY MALE Gift Bag Recipient: I have an extra ordinary, extraordinary story to tell about this beautiful couple and how we crossed each other’s path through Sparkle Caps. If you know me at all, you then know that this is also an emotional story.

I keep a log of Sparkle Caps gift bag recipients. David is #252 and his wife Lilla is #253 in my “Little Red Book,” but they are so much more than numbers. How did David become Sparkle Caps’ ONE and ONLY MALE gift bag recipient?

I was at South Carolina Oncology Associates (my treating facility) on November 27, 2012 to drop off a gift bag; and as usual when in Columbia, I checked with the chemo nurses to see if they had any referrals. I was talking with Dusty, and she asked me if I did gift bags for men. Even though the answer was “no,” Dusty wanted me to know about David. As she talked, I asked pertinent questions. I flashed back to my two younger brothers; and I KNEW that I could and would do this special bag of blessings, because God was using my past to inspire me to do something that heretofore would have been impossible for me to do.

On my way home that afternoon, I stopped at several sporting goods stores, ending up at Simpson’s in Sumter. I spent forever looking for a cap for David, made more difficult because I knew nothing about what a 30-year-old male would wear on his head. I finally found not one but two; and from there, I built a special bag of blessings for David. As it turned out, those were the types of caps that he loved. There had to be a gift bag with a sparkle cap though, and I wanted to support this young mother (their son “Wells” was seven months old at the time), so I put together a support sparkle cap gift bag for Lilla.

David Todd: (1) His dad had Lou Gherig’s disease; (2) David was experiencing similar symptoms to his dad’s; (3) David’s gallbladder surgery was scheduled for June 29th, (4) the concerns of Lilla and David’s moms came together so that. . . 4) Lilla’s mom, Lilla Ann, a nurse for a neurologist in Columbia. . .(5) talked to her boss about David’s symptoms; (6) and the neurologist ordered an MRI of the brain and spine prior to David’s gallbladder surgery, (7) which led to the discovery of a tumor surrounded by fluid on the left side in the back of the brain; and (8) on July 4th, David was at MUSC in Charleston for life-saving brain surgery.

The Connecting Paths that made this possible: (1) My brother David had a blood cancer when he was 16; (2) My brother Peter was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 24. Those events happened more than 35 years ago but still evoke so many memories for me. Those memories made it possible for me to emotionally connect with David and Lilla.

In memory of Peter Michael and David Kirk, my sister Barbie and I sponsored the Sparkle Caps gift bags for Lilla and David. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was another one of life’s “coincidences,” as directed by God. He led me to David that November morning; and on another day, I was blessed to meet David and his mother Debbie while I was at SCOA. I love being a part of an experience that brings blessings to others while they are traveling their own unique and difficult cancer journeys.

To learn more about David and Lilla, go to CaringBridge and type in davidtodd. There you will read the story of how God led them to discover David’s brain tumor, and you can follow David’s progress as Lilla writes about how he battles cancer to the ground and kicks it to the moon.

RESPONSIVE COMMENT FROM LILLA:  We are so thankful for all of the wonderful blessings that God has provided us through this--a very special blessing has been getting to know Susan 'Victorious'! What an awesome ministry you have through The Sparkle Caps Project!!