Meet the Models - The Pink Runway 2016
Vernal (pronounced Vernelle) Branch’s life truly was shaped by her breast cancer experience. She was diagnosed at age 45 when her 3 sons were in high school and college. She underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction followed by chemo. Her strongest supporter was husband of 46 years, Calvin. At the most difficult moments, Calvin encouraged her to fight the disease, to do everything that she could to survive. He wanted her to be around to rock grandchildren with him.
Vernal refused to allow herself to have a pity party, and her involvement with breast cancer organizations began 8 weeks after her surgery. After seeking out programs that educated her on the disease, she has worked with national organizations like the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program as well as the National Cancer Institute and the Komen Foundation. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation and today she is able to directly pursue her desire to help women access resources for breast cancer through serving on the board of Reach Out for Life and contributing to its effort to provide free breast imaging to low income women. Her travels have taken her to the White House to speak about health care with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. She also spoken before a congressional committee about how the Affordable Care Act affects cancer patients. When she isn’t helping other women, Vernal enjoys hiking, swimming, tennis, and fishing and Cabela’s adventure wear serves her well. Oh…she can also wear it to rock those grandchildren with Calvin.
Lisa Mazourek is a cancer survivor who is very comfortable in Cabela’s She is a Cabela’s Outfitter who helps prepare patrons for hunting, fishing, boating, camping, and shooting adventures. She unites her love for the outdoors and all things Cabela’s with the chance to support a cause like Reach Out for Life. Lisa spends lots of time outdoors hiking and exploring, always with her trusty K-9.
Sheena Mackenzie has experienced the effects of breast cancer in both her personal life and her work. She was deeply moved by a friend’s death at the age of 48 after a 3-year battle with breast cancer. Her friend was a social worker who lived behind Sheena, their houses separated by an alley. When it was clear that she was dying, Sheena went for frequent visits. At the time, her work environment was making her crazy, and her friend said, “You definitely need to make a change and do something that brings you happiness. Think about it: you could be me.” Sheena went outside into the alley between their houses and cried, but the comment motivated her to change her career path.
Today Sheena works for a group of nonprofit community health centers that target medically underserved populations. Without assistance many of these patients would delay their healthcare. Sheena sees first hand that skipping preventative procedures like mammograms can result in poorer health outcomes and more expensive treatments later. In some cases the result is premature death. Sheena says that “The vouchers from Reach Out for Life for free mammograms are a tremendous help in getting our underinsured women in for early screening and diagnosis. The impact of this is huge, bringing peace of mind for those who are cancer free, and early diagnosis, which can be life-saving, for those who do have a cancer diagnosis.
Cynthia Holmes’s mother was diagnosed in 1990 with breast cancer. She lived with the disease for 3 years, strengthened by her loving family and her faith. Cynthia cared for her mother every day, and she cherishes the memories of the time they spent as a family before she passed away at the young age of 53. Cynthia’s doctor warned her that she was at a high risk for developing breast cancer because of her mother’s history, and Cynthia is rigorous about her mammograms. After her mother’s death, Cynthia became involved with breast cancer awareness groups. She has participated in outreach efforts and team walks to raise funds for breast cancer research. Cynthia is happy to model Cabela’s fashions for Reach Out for Life to bring additional awareness to the need for early detection and to honor survivors.
Mark Wilson is a Cabela’s manager who has seen cancer affect his own family when his grandmother was diagnosed. Cancer has become a part of life for so many families in our community. We don’t see breast cancer in men very often, but just this week a male received a voucher for Reach Out for Life’s procedures. I does happen, so men need to take any lumps seriously as well. Mark wanted to support Reach out For Life today and to encourage members of the community to pursue outdoor activities to maintain good health. Mark spends lots of time outdoors hunting and fishing. It is an important part of who he is. When he is at work, he is often found helping others prepare for outdoor adventures or making his co-workers laugh. Mark is great at lightening the atmosphere.
Karen Weiss has supported the activities of Reach Out for Life since last year’s Bowling for Boobs event. For that event she came up with an amusing name for her team: Thanks for the Mammaries. Little did she know that the week after the Bowling fundraiser, she would learn that the mammagram that had been taken before the event revealed lesions in both her breasts.
Karen made the decision to have a total bilateral mastectomy just two months ago in July that will be followed by years of oral medication to prevent the growth of tumors. She shares the message that her lesions could not be felt by her or by her physician, but her mammogram detected them in the early stages. She has kept her sense of humor through these recent experiences, and Karen says, “I am now a statistic. We all know that 1 in every 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. I am that one for one of these tables of 8, so I hope that lets 7 of YOU off the hook.” Karen asked us to express that “It is crucial that all women, regardless of their income, have access to mammograms, and our community is so fortunate to have Reach Out for Life working towards that goal. We all need to help them keep up the good work.”
Michelle Logan is looking forward to a long life with her husband raising their three young soccer players. Two years ago, when she was 34, Michelle followed through on a decision that she had made many years ago to have a preventative double mastectomy. Such a significant move to protect herself from breast cancer was prompted by her family’s history. Michelle’s grandmother died of the disease when her own daughters were in their early twenties. Then Michelle’s 39-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the same year as her 41-year-old sister. Michelle was 9 when her mother and aunt both had double mastectomies and chemotherapy. Her mother’s cancer recurred 9 years later, and she underwent radiation and chemotherapy. Both women are still alive 28 years after their initial diagnoses, a positive outcome to a frightening story. Testing identified no specific genetic abnormality for Michelle, but it did calculate her risk of a breast cancer diagnosis at 86%, so her husband encouraged her to have the surgery that could save her life.
Michelle’s mother taught her to be an advocate for herself and for other women. She recognizes that her decision to have voluntary surgery is not right for everyone, but with three young children, it was right for her family. Unfortunately, what we don’t hear much about, is the fact that this can be a difficult surgery. Women go home with drains, and many can only sleep sitting up. Complications are not unusual, and Michelle had problems with her incision that led to additional surgeries. Her discomfort sleeping led Michelle with her friend Marilyn Collins to invent the Ta Ta Topper, a thick mat with cut outs in the area of the breasts to allow women to sleep on their stomachs comfortably after surgery. Michelle says that “It makes us happy that we can help other women who went through breast cancer like we did.” She advocates for breast cancer research on the Advisory Board of Massey Cancer Center.
Keisha Carroll has been deeply touched by breast cancer through the illnesses of both her aunt and her aunt’s closest friend. Neither of them had family histories of breast cancer, but we know that breast cancer does not discriminate in choosing its targets. The two women were caught by surprise, and they both turned to prayers for guidance about the treatments that they should pursue. Keisha says: “Today I praise God for healing my Aunt Leola and dear friend Shelby. They made it through their courses of treatment and have been cancer free for more than a decade.” The experience made Keisha more aware of her body, and she never misses an annual breast screening. Keisha says that Reach Out for Life is providing a wonderful service to women from low income households, and she feels blessed to be a part of this wonderful event.
Gina went to her general practitioner because of a lump in her breast in 2002 when she was 25. He was decisive when he told her that it was a calcification that would go away if she had a baby. Gina wasn’t married, and the man she was dating was not husband material, so she rejected the doctor’s solution. She still felt unsure about the lump, so she went to MCV for a second opinion. This time the doctor took her more seriously and administered tests that indicated cancer. She was told that it was early stage, but more tests and biopsies showed that it had invaded the lymph nodes. All of the lymph nodes on her left side were removed. She had 6 months of treatment and has been in remission ever since.
Gina took an active role in her own health management. She said that the emotional affects of a cancer diagnosis at 25 were minimized because of the strong support system that surrounded her. Her hair fell out, her nails turned black, and she wore a mask in public because her immune system was compromised. But she lived, and today she gets mammograms twice every year. Gina believes that women, particularly those with a family history, should receive first mammograms younger than they do, because so many women are being diagnosed at younger ages than they were in the past. Gina warns the young women in her family to perform self-exams, and if they feel anything suspicious, to get it checked. Family time is very important to Gina.
Jo Smith received her cancer diagnosis at a more typical age during a mammogram 18 years ago. It was no less of a shock, however, and she quickly spoke with a surgeon and opted for a mastectomy. She had to wait for surgery because of the Thanksgiving holidays, and she says that her memories of the time period telescope to a few significant ones, such as the first time that she looked in the mirror after surgery. She recalls it as an awful moment. But she says that many TEARs later she adjusted and began to feel grateful. She had resigned from her job when first diagnosed, and she sought ways to give back. Jo found an excellent hospice program at St. Mary’s Hospital, an active imaging partner of Reach Out for Life’s. It was exactly what she wanted to do, working directly with the patients in their homes and giving time off to the primary caregivers. She remembers one man that she assisted. He was very large and determined to continually roam the house. Afraid that he might fall, she followed behind him like a puppy dog. He never fell, but he became one of her collection of memories of the people that she was able to help.
Jo recently turned 80, which we all know is the new 60. Like our last model, Gina, Jo enjoys a very active lifestyle, and together they remind us that the need for mammograms cannot strictly be determined by age. You are never too old for a mammogram!
Marsha Fornash Fulton
Marsha Fornash Fulton is a business woman and a 10-year breast cancer survivor. She remembers vividly the day she received the call from the Pathologist. As the phone rang, she turned to her sister and said, “This call might change my life,” and it certainly did. The fear of the unknown was a great challenge in 2006. We are fortunate today to have breast cancer experts using state of the art diagnostic tools for early detection, and we have available to us wonderful support groups. Marsha is passionate about the availability of the best procedures and treatments for all women in the fight against breast cancer, and she is proud to support Reach Out for Life which brings the highest level of care to all women, no matter what their life circumstances are.
Maureen Neal became aware of breast cancer as a young child. Her grandmother lived with her family and helped care for her and her siblings. Maureen remembers the long, deep scar across her granny’s chest from her mastectomy. Maureen writes,” as a young female, seeing my grandmother with only one breast and a scar where the other should be, made an impression on me. Today, Maureen is Chief Operating Officer of Advancement at the Daily Planet’s healthcare centers for lower income patients. The centers provide Reach Out for Life’s vouchers to women in need of breast imaging. Her sister made mammography her career, for years driving a mobile mammography van around small island villages in Hawaii. Today, Maureen Neal shares her expertise as a board member of Reach Out for Life, and her sister works in a breast imaging center serving at-risk communities. Their legacy stems from the sadness of a scar on a loved one.
Reach Out for Life has formed the Becky Satterfield fan club to extoll the work of this active advocate for equity in health care. Becky feels that Reach Out for Life fulfills a huge need in Richmond and the surrounding area. She believes that all women should be able to have mammograms so that they can raise their children and care for themselves and their families. Often the women who use the Free Mammogram Outreach Program already have symptoms of the disease, and Becky knows that the earlier a cancer is found, the better. She relates to us “I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer, so my cancer was new. Early detection is the key to a good recovery and outcome. I only received radiation, and I did not have chemo. I have mammograms every year, and I have been cancer free since the end of 2006—now 10 years out!”
Yay, Becky! And thank you from all of your friends at Reach Out for Life for the work you do in the community. Becky claims that she is slowing down a little in her activities, but we haven’t seen it. She says that she likes to walk, play corn hole, swim and wave ride, and she looks forward to shopping at Cabela’s for her casualwear. Today she looks ready to curl up with a good book in front a fireplace when the cool weather arrives.
You might be wondering how we got all of this wonderful information from our models. Cabela’s supplied them all with an information sheet. Some were more forthcoming than others; a few models needed to be prodded for more about their connections to breast cancer. We are all in this together, and we have tried to provide a spectrum of stories for you today along with the fabulous fashions of Cabela’s. Our next model, Margo Webb was so eloquent, that I am simply going to read what she wrote about her personal connection to breast cancer:
“I am the social worker for Reproductive Health with Richmond City Health District. A majority of our patients are women of underserved communities. Reach Out for Life has been a partner of ours and has provided much needed mammography, ultrasound, and biopsy services to many of our uninsured patients. Without these services it is likely that early detection and prevention would not be an option for these women. Today I helped a 36-year-old patient whose grandmother died of breast cancer. Her sister is 37 years old and is currently fighting bilateral breast cancer. The look on my patient’s face was absolute worry and anxiety about how she would be able to pay for her first screening mammogram. When I explained the services that Reach Out for Life offers, her burden was lifted! She smiled knowing that she would be able to receive a mammogram, and that this could save her life and put her mind at ease about her cancer status. Thank you Reach Out for Life! You provide a wonderful and essential service to the citizens of Richmond.”
Brace yourselves. The story that you are about to hear may be unsettling to some of you. Ruth Coles is a breast cancer survivor, but that is one of the three cancer diagnoses that she has received since 2004 when her annual mammogram detected a small cancer. She moved on after a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. And just when she thought it was safe to go back in the water, Ruth received a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Then came the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with its treatment of surgery and more chemo.
Defying all obstacles life throws her way, Ruth maintains her cheerful spirit, enjoying the outdoors riding in her husband’s antique cars, playing pickle ball—has anybody else here ever played that? (Tracy-look around-there are a table and a half of players)—and boating, enjoying the smell of the water and fresh air. She will be able to relax oh so well in her Cabela’s fashions, and Cabela’s has kindly allowed all of our models to keep their outfits, so enjoy yourself, Ruth!
Ruth is happy to be a part of such a special event today. She had a good outcome because her breast cancer was small when it was detected, and Reach Out for Life is trying to bring the same possibility to all women in our community.
Rachel Carver is another Cabela’s Outfitter. The Outfitters here know how to show you the right clothing for every type of weather condition. They are passionate about the outdoors, and they are also good people who thrive on community involvement and support for important causes like Reach Out for Life’s programs that help women in the community in need of access to free breast imaging procedures. Rachel lost a close family friend to breast cancer, so she was excited by the opportunity to help spread the word about Reach out for Life today. Rachel loves supporting women, and she welcomes the opportunity to help them prepare themselves for outdoor adventures at Cabela’s.
The Humphrey Family
The Humphrey Family lives the outdoor lifestyle. Nathan and Candice take Jake, Josh, Triston, and Penelope along on family hunting, fishing, and shooting trips. They were all affected by breast cancer when Candice’s mom, Connie Hensley, was diagnosed in 2010. Today she is cancer free.
After multiple tours of duty, Nathan today works with Freedom Hunters, a nonprofit military outreach program that salutes the work of the armed forces by taking combat veterans, families of fallen heroes, children of the deployed, and wounded veterans on the outdoor adventures that they once loved. Cabela’s supports his work, and Nate truly believes that organizations need to support each other to better the community. Nate just returned from a month long Alaska trip in time to model, which is another of his hobbies.
DeeDee van Buren
DeeDee van Buren knows that she is not unusual to have lost friends to breast cancer. It is all around us. One of her last days at the pool this summer, she stopped at a beautiful memorial garden to a neighborhood friend, Nanette, who battled breast cancer with such grace. Nanette’s memory still touches her as she faces challenges in her own life, challenges like her own sister’s diagnosis a few years ago with breast cancer. Fortunately, DeeDee’s sister is a survivor.
Women who have close relations with breast cancer must be vigilant about their own breast health management because they are at a greater risk for abnormalities. Deedee is active in her work for breast cancer awareness. She finds the support of the women and the community to be uplifting and energizing as they work together. Dee Dee writes that “Women can take their pain and turn it into a way to energize themselves and to ease others who are hurting. It is truly beautiful to witness.” Deedee is proud to support Cabela’s Pink Runway event benefiting Reach out for Life.
Aracely Harris was born in Mexico, and she spent years in Honduras Central America. She has worked as a Family Relations counselor, an English teacher, and a bilingual medical interpreter. Her dedication to advocating for Hispanic women’s health care serves a tremendous need in our area. Aracely is the Director of the Hispanic Liaison office of the city of Petersburg. In that position she sees firsthand the positive impact that Reach out for Life has for diverse populations. Through her office, women from low income families receive direction to maintain their health care. Aracely describes herself as a huge advocate for breast cancer awareness who works to remind women to get their annual mammograms.
She is frequently called upon by other program partners of Reach Out for Life to translate for their patients from the Hispanic community. She is an active community volunteer and a board member of Reach Out for Life. Aracely is ready for her day off today in her Cabela’s fashions. Aracely loves birdwatching, walking, running, and sightseeing.
When Claire McGowan was 11 months old, her mom, Dale Call, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mother prayed every day to please let her live long enough to raise her two children. Through a double mastectomy, bone marrow transplants, chemo, and radiation, she fought with everything she had and everything that the science of that time had to offer her. Claire was barely a year old when she saw her mother for the first time without hair, and she cried.
The BRCA (Bracka) gene has played a huge role in her family life. Claire’s grandmother died of breast cancer when Claire’s mom, Dale. was 10 years old. Claire remembers everyone assuming that she also carried the BRCA gene, but when she was 21, test results came back negative. She was the first female in her mother’s family since the testing had begun NOT to carry the gene. 25 years later Claire says her mom continually amazes her with her strength, her attitude, and her health. Claire says, “I am glad to be the daughter of a breast cancer survivor! Cheers to the fighters, and cheers to the strides being made in the battle against breast cancer.”
Claire stays busy running her restaurant, Stir Crazy Café, on the Northside. When she can grab time off, she enjoys horseback riding, a passion that she shares with her brave mother. Claire also loves hiking, yoga, biking swimming, camping, and rock climbing.
Running a nonprofit organization like Reach Out for Life is an ongoing challenge. There are always women to help, contracts with partners to be negotiated, and funds to raise to keep providing these important medical procedures for the growing number of women in our community who cannot afford them. People like our next model, Tammy Hicks, can really brighten the day. Norah remembers the phone call well: “This is Tammy, and I want to make a donation.” Tammy explained that she was a survivor, and she wanted to give back. Her breast cancer diagnosis in December of 2015 was nothing new for her family. Tammy has a sister, a sister-in-law, a cousin, and an aunt who are all breast cancer survivors. The year of her 50th birthday has been marked by surgeries and healing. She writes: “Throughout my journey, I have felt incredibly blessed because I had access to the life-saving screenings that are necessary to detect this disease in its early stages. Given my family history, I also know how important it is to be screened every year. For my 50th birthday, I decided that instead of receiving gifts, I would give one. I wanted to help another woman who did not have access to these very important procedures. I researched online for a nonprofit that would help women in my community, and that is how I discovered Reach Out for Life. This nonprofit provides free screenings for local women who lack medical coverage; what an incredible gift they offer! I wanted to assist in their efforts. I used my 50th birthday party as a fund raiser, and we raised $650! My prayer is that those funds will help another woman catch and defeat this terrible disease. Breast cancer is treatable when found early; my family and I are living proof.”
Reach Out for Life thanks friends like Tammy who understand the difficulties of raising enough funds to support these programs that seek out women in need of services, educate them about the need for mammograms, and pay for them to receive any procedures that they require. Lord, please bring Reach Out for Life more friends like Tammy!
Tammy can relax and continue her path to wellness in the comfortable casual fashions from Cabela’s. These clothes are made for the long walks that Tammy cherishes with her husband, and the time that she spends with her wonderful family.