In loving memory of Dorit Shapiro, President of Gal to Gal, who passed away on October 12, 2008 from Stage IV breast cancer.
I first heard about Design-Her-Gals and the Gal to Gal Foundation in May 2006, more than two years ago. I had been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer six months earlier, and I was very excited to hear about an organization that was working so hard to raise awareness about women and their families living with this serious condition. And the gals were so cute and glam—my then-six-year-old daughter just loved creating gals, and I admit it, I did too. Since I was in the midst of my first chemo regimen, I was glad to find a scarf option that my gal could wear. I remember writing to DHG, asking if a “beat cancer” t-shirt could be created, as that had become my mantra during my tough battle. Jeanne Fitzmaurice, the Gal’s Gal, wrote back to me and that began a virtual friendship that has blossomed over the past two years.
A Little About Me…
I am a wife and mother to two beautiful daughters, ages 4 and 8. I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at the age of 35. My diagnosis came as a complete shock since there was no family history of any cancer and I was leading what I thought was a healthy, though stressful, typical Mom lifestyle. A few weeks after my diagnosis, during routine pre-chemo testing, the news went from bad to worse—the cancer had already spread and my initial diagnosis was stage IV breast cancer. We were devastated! At the time, we were told that only 20 percent of patients with my diagnosis lived another five years.
Initially, I thought I was just told that I was dying from breast cancer. Now, I believe that I am living with advanced breast cancer, waging a battle against a tough enemy. My cancer diagnosis has brought about a significant transformation in my life. Some of its impact is obvious—enduring treatments and tests, physical discomfort, and some sleepless nights. But other changes may seem surprising, such as acceptance of my situation, perseverance to beat a formidable opponent, and appreciation of the blessings I have in my life. Before my cancer diagnosis, I got caught up in trivial details that now seem so unimportant, like how others perceive me. I believe that my cancer diagnosis has been a gift; it has changed my life and helped me realize that I have so many things to be grateful for, like my family and good friends.
My Involvement with Gal to Gal…
In October 2007, when I heard about the virtual walk the Gal to Gal Foundation was conducting, I enthusiastically joined with my daughters and husband. I felt so deeply that the world needs to know about what living with stage IV breast cancer is like, that I wrote to my local newspapers and television stations. My letter to the editor was published in our neighborhood paper, and my oldest daughter and I were interviewed for our local news. The story was eventually shown by nearly 15 affiliates around the country. My involvement with the Gal to Gal Foundation shifted from huge fan and supporter to Board Member, when Jeanne invited me to formally participate in the Foundation and bring my skills and enthusiasm to enhance our mission.
In May 2008, exactly two years from when I first heard about DHG and GTG, Jeanne and the Board of Directors asked me to serve as President of the Gal to Gal Foundation Board of Directors. I am truly humbled by the honor to represent an organization who lends a voice to women like me who are living with stage IV breast cancer every day. I feel a strong, personal connection to our mission, and my participation with GTG has given me a new-found purpose and inspired me to speak up for the women who may not feel comfortable using the term “survivor,” but are surviving every day, facing obstacles with courage and hope. Though I never had the privilege of meeting Robin and Janis, the inspiration for our Foundation, my goal is to honor their memories as well as the memories of all the women who have lost their battles to this tough enemy so that women and families living with stage IV breast cancer are never forgotten and receive the support they need and deserve. I hope you will join me in supporting this wonderful organization until there comes a day when we are not needed because we have found a cure and no one must face living with this diagnosis.
Right now we are busy planning for our next Virtual Walk, which will begin on October 1, 2008. We are working with our generous sponsors and hope to bring you a virtual walk with new features, more fun, and an even greater purpose that will directly impact the lives of women living with stage IV breast cancer. Stay tuned for more information.
With Love and Gratitude,