Steppin' Out in Pink Survivor Headquarters- Finding support in each other's stories
A place to read, reflect and connect on all things Steppin' Out in Pink Survivorship.
At Gundersen Health System you are considered a survivor from the moment of diagnosis.
Save the Date
When: September 10th, 2022
Who: Survivors (at Gundersen Health System you are considered a survivor from the moment of diagnosis).
What: Survivor Soiree is a time to come together with fellow survivors to connect and celebrate. Hear from our current advocate and enjoy light refreshments.
When: September 10th, 2022 at 7:30 am
Thank you to our 2022 Survivor Soiree Sponsor
Faith + Fitness by Emily Hansen
Faith + Fitness
"We cannot plan everything in this life", says Emily Hansen, 2020-2021 Steppin' Out in Pink Breast Cancer Survivor Advocate. From the initial diagnosis to the final treatment, Emily kept the faith that breast cancer would be just one chapter in her story. We caught up with Emily after her advocate year to talk about advocacy, survivorship, and more.
Q: The journey with breast cancer can be full of ups and downs- where are you now on your journey as a breast cancer survivor?
A: April 28, 2022, will mark 4 years since my diagnosis of breast cancer. That makes me a 4-year survivor! Although my diagnosis of breast cancer impacted the person I am today, it doesn’t define me. I am a wife, mom of 4, and registered nurse - living each day by faith.
Q: You were originally chosen as the Steppin' Out in Pink Survivor Advocate for 2020, but due to COVID we extended your advocate year through 2021. What is life like for you after your two years of advocacy?
A: I continue to share my story to encourage others. Unfortunately, breast cancer diagnoses continue to impact friends. Being an advocate for SOIP has shown me that we are truly stronger together. We are not created to live life alone and I’m so thankful to have a program like SOIP to create bonds that provide encouragement, hope, and friendship.
Q: Has being part of Steppin’ Out in Pink impacted your life?
A: Steppin out in Pink has impacted my life on so many levels. Sharing my story through a podcast, photoshoots, and interviews forced me out of my comfort zone. Opportunities to serve always leave me feeling fulfilled. This vulnerability in sharing my story feels like it's not wasting the pain and struggles. I felt the biggest impact at my first Steppin' Out in Pink, which happened to be just days before my double mastectomy, node dissection, and reconstruction surgery, I was feeling exhausted - emotionally, mentally, and physically. I was instantly filled with hope, being surrounded by strong survivors. This community encouraged me to keep fighting. Being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34 makes me look at life differently. I certainly don’t have a perfect perspective, but I do find gratitude in each day. If your heart is beating, it means you have a purpose today.
Q: The way you have handled adversity has been inspiring to so many people in our community. Is there anything else that you'd like to share with anyone that might be going through a similar experience?
A: I think it’s important to share that life after cancer can be very hard. Long after chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and endocrine therapy, I still feel the emotions and physical effects of cancer. It's important to let yourself feel whatever emotions you're having during and after your battle with cancer. But I don't let myself stay in a place of anger, fear, and isolation. I turn to God for strength and wisdom daily. Then I appreciate the things that cancer cannot take. I lean into my community. And I go forward in faith- one day at a time.
4 Things You Should Know After Receiving a Breast Cancer Diagnosis by Jamie Dahl
You are not alone. When I was diagnosed, I felt very alone. At the time I didn’t know anyone who had gone through breast cancer, and even though I was fortunate to have an incredible support system of family and friends, a diagnosis like this can feel extremely isolating. If you are in the thick of your fight, or just getting your boxing gloves laced up to start round one, you are not alone and you don’t have to do this by yourself. There is an incredible support system of other survivors and medical staff who are willing to walk alongside you. Lean on those who have gone before you and seek out their support.
Commit to having a positive, future-thinking mindset. You might ask, “How am I supposed to be positive when I’ve just been given the scariest news of my life?” I get it. I had those moments when all I could do was curl up in a ball and cry. It’s okay. You need to process those emotions. However, I found that consistently speaking affirming words of life and staying positive both in my inner reflections and my interactions with others was crucial. I made it a regular practice to imagine what I was going to be doing a year from that moment. I saw myself in the future enjoying life and living it to the fullest. This helped me mentally rise above my current situation, and it gave me hope that I was going to make it to the other side of this trial.
Let yourself be still. I am a self-proclaimed “do-er”, and it was very hard for me to just BE. I felt guilty for not having the energy to take care of my children and engage with my family the way I did prior to my diagnosis, but I realized that my mind and body needed to be still. Try to look at this trial as a chance to reflect and use it as an opportunity to soak in potential lessons you can learn. Most importantly, take time to take care of yourself. So many blessings can come from even short, dedicated moments. The world is constantly bombarding us with distractions, and we are easily caught up in the rushed and busy whirlwind. I found my “forced” stillness during my treatment gave me an opportunity to push a reset button on my life and establish new priorities and purpose.
Ask for help. There is no shame in waving the white flag and surrendering to the fact that you can’t do this alone. Are you strong? Yes. Are you Superwoman and a rock star who will fight this diagnosis with all you have? Absolutely sister! But Superwoman had her Super Friends that fought alongside her too. When your friends and loved ones find out that you are facing this battle they want to help, but often feel helpless. Let someone set up a meal train or accept that offer to watch your children for an afternoon. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask a neighbor to grab groceries for you. You are no less strong or capable just because you ask for and accept help. What you may not realize is asking for help not only removes a burden off you, but it blesses the helping person by giving them the opportunity to serve.
The Power of ONE by Patty Brown
“The idea was more than a little crazy. It was a lot crazy,” says Patty Brown, of her idea to start a local breast cancer fundraising walk. That crazy idea has become the tradition we know and love, Steppin’ Out in Pink. Patty has been a trailblazer for community fundraising, and we are grateful to have her in the Steppin’ Out in Pink Family.
Q: Breast cancer is not always a linear journey. How are you doing now compared to when you were diagnosed?
A: It feels like yesterday and forever since my breast cancer diagnosis. Diagnosed on April 1, 2003, it’s been 19 years. It is funny how you develop protective amnesia as you move forward in life and for that, I am grateful. I have learned to live my life with great bursts of joy and thankfulness. With that said, I’m still on my journey. Unfortunately, a diagnosis of breast cancer is not a short-term diagnosis. Instead, it follows you through your life, popping up here and there. But here is the good news – you can and will do well. I chose a bilateral mastectomy 11 years after the original surgery due to some changes in my genetic history and I am very happy with that decision, as it made me feel less encumbered by the worry of additional disease. You always have the freedom to make decisions about your own journey.
Q: You’ve been part of this event from the beginning- do you have any tips for making an impact through community fundraising?
A: When we first started the Steppin’ Out in Pink – we had a slogan of “the power of ONE”. That is the truth, and you are the one. Big changes start with you. The smallest actions will amount to one big, great thing. A few things you can do to make an impact are to share your own story and experience with breast cancer – this could also be a story about someone close to you. Make sure that there is honesty in your story. Second, talk with friends and family about why this cause is so important. The dollars you raise for Steppin’ Out in Pink stay right here in our community to improve research, assist breast cancer survivors via support programs, and fund mammograms for underinsured patients. Remind those around you that no gift is too small.