breast cancer

A Tribute to Jenny Stark: Breast Cancer Suvivor

She walked into the Prayer Room of Community Church, Orange, Texas, where we had agreed to meet.  Her beauty could be described as “the look of Barbie.”  She had a smile that lit up her face, soft curls in her neatly coiffed hairstyle, and her eyes glowed and twinkled as though she had something exciting to tell me.

Thus began my four year adventure with Jenny Stark, 40 years of age at the time, telling me her story for Created Woman.  It started with the day she received a phone call from her Doctor saying: “I’m not going to beat around the bush—you do have breast cancer.”   

At the close of our first meeting, I asked Jenny, “What part has your faith played throughout your journey?”  

“My faith tells me that ‘This is Just A Season’.”

For this article, I asked some of Jenny’s special friends to describe their journey as they traveled this season with her.

Carol Cash: Cousin/More like a sister/Friend

I can't even express how in awe I have been of Jenny's courage these last few years. Jenny NEVER ceased to be the positive, up-beat individual that she's always been. We went on a trip to Boston while she was still recovering. She was determined to take it all in and not let it slow her down. Her joy is contagious and I am humbled to have her in my life.

Chandra Best

Jenny is my baby cousin she is 10 years younger than I am. I look at pictures when she was a baby where I carried her around on my hip and pushed her in doll carriages. She was like our live little baby doll. She has always been so upbeat and bubbly her entire life. When our family found out about her breast cancer, it was devastating. Jenny has such a strong faith and she has been so courageous from the beginning of her journey and has continued thru each battle she has faced. Jenny, her mom, my Aunt Mary, my sister Carol and myself went on a trip to Boston not long after Jenny had a major surgery. She was hurting and was bandaged but she got up every day and did her best to have a good day and enjoy the trip. At the end of the day she would start slowing down, but never complained. I have such love and pride that she is my cousin. She is a shining example of someone who always sees the glass half full not half empty.

 Kaye Sims

I was so honored to walk beside Jenny during her breast cancer journey. I remember clearly the day she called several over to her house and told us she had cancer and hugged US as we were sad. Looking back I realized she was the teacher and perhaps I was the student on how to handle rough situations. Not thinking it was possible to handle this like she did, often times I thought she was just in denial or not fully understanding the magnitude of her illness. Soon I learned it was not denial, it was facing trials head-on knowing she had God leading the way. Although the journey was more difficult than most know, she set the bar so high for the rest of us when trials come our way.

 *****

 Jenny, thanks from all of us at Created Woman for sharing your story with us the past five years. Certainly, you are an example of what this website stands for: Becoming all God created you to be, even in the midst of adversities.

And to all of you, our readers: Happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you and your family abundantly during this season.

To read Jenny’s story in full, click the following links beginning with the first.

October 9, 2010: “This is Just A Season”

October 12, 2011: Paying it Forward

October 29, 2012: Thought Control: Jenny Stark’s Story Continued

October 15, 2013: No Matter What

 Jenny Stark

Thought Control: Jenny Stark’s Story Continued

This is the third in a series highlighting 42 year-old Jenny Stark’s story during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Jenny is not only a survivor of breast cancer, but one who still has the same class and faith as she did the first day I interviewed her three years ago. If you are not familiar with Jenny’s story, you will want to read This is Just a Season and Paying it Forward, the first and second installments respectively. The first covers the time period when she first learned of her cancer, what she went through, and how she handled it. The second was how she chose to use her disease to help others.

Previous stories about Jenny have been penned by me based on interviews with her.  However, when I called Jenny for an up-date this year, it became evident to me that a sit-down interview with a list of questions was not needed.  I sensed that Jenny could pen her story straight from her heart.

And so, in her own words that follow, Jenny shares her heart.  No doubt, it is the heart of many who have walked this path.

Jenny’s Words

Will there ever be a day that I’m not thinking about my cancer…

Early diagnosis, seems, as if to, occupy your every thought. You’re constantly making conscience decisions to take that next step.

Sometimes that next step may be to get up when what you want to do is lie in bed all day and have a pity party. So, you say out loud,  “Thank you God for my life.  I’m stepping out on faith today and I’m standing on Your word.”  God will meet you where you are, but it requires action on your part.  So put on your best smile, have a good attitude with plenty of gratitude and get going.

Enthusiasm is the result that others will see.  When they see you and know your circumstances, what a privilege to have that kind of mission field, some that others will never experience.  Your journey is a witness to the fact that in spite of what you’re walking through, there is life.

The key to retraining your thoughts is to stay busy (if possible) and continue doing normal activities, such as working, exercising, cooking or driving.  Yes cooking.  For those of you who like to cook, like I do, you know what I’m talking about.  As you go about your business, you overcome a hurdle in your mind, where you realize by the end of the day, that you didn’t think about your condition as much.  Over time, the more distance you put between your life now and your diagnosis, it will erase those fears and concerns that once stole your joy.

Cancer is like an amputation, you learn to live with it, but you’re never the same.  Eventually you will be done with treatment and surgeries and you will be at a point in life that is summed up best as a “slow fade.”  You will not feel 100% all at one time, but every day is a new day with new possibilities and it, too, is a choice.  A choice to choose, that this uphill climb is behind you, and you are well on your way to the new you.

Your life may take you to another level with different goals, with different people, all for the Glory of God.  What may have seemed important 5 yrs ago may not even be a thought today.  Don’t worry about what may change.  Don’t anticipate…Participate!

Mostly, find yourself in a win-win situation, where no matter what happens, you win.  Those thoughts will cast out all fears and you will see clearly.  In fact, your mind will wonder what it was so anxious about in the first place.  That is God’s peace.

As the words of a song point out:  “Let my life be the proof…The proof of Your Love”  So others will see the proof of Christ’s Love [in you].

So, let Jesus run circles in your mind, so that He touches your every thought.

Fighting Like a Girl, Jenny Stark

Fashionably Pink Fashion Show

  In October, breast cancer charities increase awareness and raise funds for research, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. This past Wednesday Fashionably Austin and Stiletto Stampede presented the inaugural Fashionably Pink Fashion Show in benefit to the new Seton Breast Cancer Center, which is scheduled to open  Summer 2013.

The event took place in the W Hotel at downtown Austin. The designers donated their creations and they were available for purchase them online in an auction to help raise funds for the Stiletto Stampede.

I thought it was very nice that not only the models and the designers wear pink in their outfits, but that the audience did too. Some women wore complete pink outfits and others used pink accessories or shoes. Surprisingly men did, too. Some used pink shirts and others decided to wear a small pink ribbon.

At around 8:15 pm the Fashion Show started. All the dresses were gorgeous. Every designer had their own style and different tones of pink were presented.

One of the pink dresses I admired the most was designed by Sarah Eileen. She is a bridal designer and consultant from Georgetown, TX, just north of Austin. I have to say it was one of my favorites. It was a hot pink short dress made with embroidered lace.

Having this type of events is the best way to bring many people together and be able to create a community of people who want to help. Fashionably Austin and Stiletto Stampede welcomed very different people who did not know each other but that have something in common, they all liked the idea of combining a night full of fashion and charity at the same time.

Mean Girls, Not In My House

While the movie is truly hysterical to watch (Mean Girls 2004), the theme is all too real for girls today and yesterday for that matter.  We are always trying to remain fashionable, wear nothing larger than a size 5-6 and have the right friends.  It’s unfortunate, but the reality is that many girls, to make sure that they feel good about their situation, will find someone worse off than them and make sure they know it. My daughter is only 4 years old, but as I watch her play on the playground at the park I can already see the beginnings of cliques forming.  The adorable little boy with the glasses swings alone, the girl with un-brushed hair tries desperately to make it pretty with her little fingers and still none of the kids go near her.  It’s sad to watch them draw these lines for themselves at such a young age but it’s worse when their parents do it for them.

Several months ago during a Mommy’s night out, a friend shared a story of how another parent had rudely snapped at her in the school parking lot.  After hearing the story I was appalled.  What gave this woman the right to snap at my friend for a reason that was none of her business?  I wanted so badly to never speak to her during pickup or let my daughter anywhere near her child again.

The next couple of times I saw her I found myself being short and abrupt, and then I realized what I was doing.  I was behaving like a child!  “You’re mean to my friend so I’m going to be mean to you”… what kind of example was I setting?  It wasn’t until a birthday party several weeks later that I found out her mother had been battling the final stages of breast cancer while she was working over seas for extended periods of time.  In fact, her mother had passed away only 2 days before.  I pray I never find out how I would behave if faced with a similar situation.

We all do the best we can for our children and for now I refuse to let my 4-year choose all of her friends.  My mother used to tell me “I can see farther than you,” and she was right.  When she’s older, I hope that her exposure to people of different colors, sizes, religions and economic backgrounds will give her the wisdom to surround herself with diverse friends.  The last thing I want to raise is a Mean Girl.

Stay Pink: Supporting Breast Cancer Research All Year Round!

When you hear the words 'Breast Cancer’ or ‘Cancer’ in general, the word “Celebrate” isn’t usually the first to come to mind!  However, the closer we get to a cure and the more we get involved, the more cause for celebration there is!  For this reason, the effort to Stay Pink should radiate from deep within until the day we have a Finale Party that forever demolishes this evil beast!  Until that day, Staying Pink has almost become so effortless as so many events, products and awareness constantly help raise the resources needed.  In effort to highlight just a few as we wrap up the month of October, Here are some of my favorite ways we can forever Stay Pink!  

An obvious choice since Halloween is just a few days away, Pink Candy not only taste good, but does good too!  All the pink candy you need for Halloween and beyond plus, 7% of your purchase will go to breast cancer research.

Ohnuts.com 

The Christmas gift to yourself that keeps giving for you health nuts who love to run, Reebok has come out with a Pink Ribbon Reebok Line that looks great too!  Run your heart out while keeping the awareness!   Purchases up to $750,000 will go to Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

 http://www.reebok.com/US/sport/walking

Beauty

A good way to stay pink, is to take care of your skin.  Orgins Make a Difference Skin Rejuvenating Treatment and is donating $5 from each sale to Breast Cancer Research.

 

A fun way to keep pink on all year round is by sporting OPI’s Pink shatter on your nails.  It's fun, sassy & very pink!  OPI launched the limited edition Pink Shatter: Pink of Hearts Nail Lacquer to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure in its promise to save lives and end breast cancer forever, $8.50, ULTA Stores

 

 

Clothes 

Avon who has been an advocate for breast cancer research for years designed this pastel pink jacket in which 100% of net profits  are donated to Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, $45, www.avon.com.  Stay Pink even throughout the winter!

Reese Witherspoon & friends at the Avon Foundation for Woman Event

 

 

In support of research in the name of fashion, Ford designed the Ford Warriors T-shirt for only $25.

Hollywood 

 

Director of the movie 'Five' - Alcia Keys, Jennifer Anniston, Demi Moore

What's the best way to get people listening?  Get 3 of the biggest names in Hollywood to direct 5 short films exploring the impact of breast cancer on people's lives.  Set your DVR for November 5thor  6thon lifetime to see these incredible stories.  They will encourage you to Stay Pink forever!

http://www.mylifetime.com/movies/five

 

 

Just in the past few weeks, one of my favorite TV Personalities, Giuliana Rancic, announced she had the early stages of breast cancer.  After undergoing surgery, she was back to work in a week!  By catching it early and now raising awareness, she is Staying Pink!  Congrats Giulina, may we all follow in your footsteps and get our mammograms, too!

 

"I still have a long road ahead, but thanks to everyone's overwhelming love, support and prayers, it will be an easier journey,” Rancic told E!.

 

 

As the face of Estee Lauder, British actress, Elizabeth Hurley attended the Estee Lauder Breast Cancer Awareness Month Event held at the Selfridges Department Store in London on September 29, 2011.

As part of a Pink Ribbon Collection designed by Elizabeth Hurley, this pink lipstick set will donate 20% to their research foundation.  See More of the Collection!

 

Ladies, Stay Pink all year round!  You can raise awareness, look & feel stylish while sporting some pretty cool gadgets!  It's not hard to help save lives!

Thanks for Staying Pink!

Beauty is Brave-Judy, revisited

This time last year, CW introduced you to Judy Kassaye, a thirty-something vibrant woman who had won her battle with breast cancer. After a double mastectomy, with her faith leading the way, Judy did more than survive the diagnosis and months of chemotherapy. The months in and out of doctor's offices and hospitals fueled a fire inside this dark-eyed beauty. Rather than avoid cancer treatment centers like the plague,  she decided to enroll in nursing school with a  dream to become an oncology nurse. Her purpose:  to affect the lives of other women forced on the journey of breast cancer.

 

Cancer free for one year and eight months, she was accepted to nursing school on April 13, 2011. Two days later, she and her oncologist celebrated the news together. In the same visit her doctor's  fingers  found a small lump.

On April 18th , history repeated itself and Judy was once again, diagnosed with cancer; stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer.  Although she had already lived the experience of  diagnosis and scheduling chemo treatments, her initial reaction was to be numb with shock. How could this happen again? Why should this happen again? Ironically,within two days of her diagnosis, she was notified that she was awarded a scholarship to nursing school. Her dream collided with her past and Judy wrestled with her new reality.

 

 

On Easter Sunday, with her eyes wide open, Judy's understanding of life became wider and deeper.

I'm a Christian so Heaven is home and it's disease and grief free. I can live on earth with God in my heart or I can live in Heaven with Him. It's win, win. Either way He gets the glory.

All that said she continues with,"I've decided to fight for my life. I believe I have a God-given appointment to finish nursing school so I don’t see myself going to Heaven before then."

Each day Judy inspires her friends, acquaintances and strangers with her optimistic attitude. Speaking engagements are opening up for her to share her story and she  is writing a book. Her goal is to share her life lessons with everyone she meets.

To read the original blog on Judy, go to:

http://www.createdwoman.net/woman/when-beauty-conquered-the-beast

Life’s speed bumps and collisions can leave us with tire tracks on our back from being run over by life or we can let God leave a distinct Fingerprint on our heart. When we yield to His purpose He prepares us to love and empathize with those He sends our way.

 

Pink is the New Green

Yesterday was a travel day for me. My husband and I flew from Florida to the great state of Texas, and on that seemingly endless flight I read the latest edition of Elle cover to cover. If I was not aware, well I am now, that October is breast cancer awareness month. Its almost as if for one month marketing and ad executives take off their "green" hat and respectfully pay homage to finding a cure for the disease that kills 110 women a day. The pages of Elle were full of ads and articles about breast cancer. While heightening public awareness and making preventative measures known is relevant and undoubtably important, I wondered to myself if for one month, pink is the new green.October is the month that was once known for trick or treat yet in recent years it has become iconically glittered in pink. Personally, I am not a fan of pink. I don't think I own any pink clothes, no pink jewelry, its never been my favorite color, well, you get the point. I've never found things designed in pink particularly fashionable for people above a certain age, ahem, five. However, this month I am proud to present options for those of you, who like me, don't want to be the anti- donor but also don't want the obligation of wearing a pink t-shirt just to show your support. Don't fret, fashion has not forsaken us. Several retailers offer donations to breast cancer research for buying products completely independent of all pinkness. Sephora has created a line called "Beauty Gives Back". It includes brands like Stila, Clinique, and Shiseido, and when a purchase is made through "Beauty Gives Back", a portion of the proceeds are donated to research. Nordstrom is offering a more quintessential bargain. Free measurements in stores and with the purchase of a bra one dollar will go towards cancer research, with some bra retailers offering to match that. Nine West has also gotten in on the giving and has created a tank top as well as a (very trendy) military boot. These products can be found on their website under Runway Relief. Now let's say you are looking for something more traditional--and by traditional I mean pink. Lily Pulitzer has created a precious charm bracelet for an affordable $48 which can be found at Admittedly, Coach is not my go-to brand for anything really, but if you visit their home page will speak for itself as to why I'm promoting it. The collection of pink is so classy, so demure, yet not boring or expected. How can I turn down a pastel purse or a fun logo scarf, knowing that 20% of the proceeds will go to breast cancer research? Honestly, I can't (sorry bills, you'll have to wait). After doing my own research on fashion and its correlation to breast cancer research, I've found it to be very trendy. It is no longer the bedazzled pink ribbon tank tops it once was. It is designer charms, earrings, watches, and shoes. Now stop swooning and get out there because the best part of shopping this month is knowing its for a good cause!

Paying it Forward

This is Just a Season” was read by over 2,000 viewers on CREATED WOMAN this past year.  It was the story of forty-year-old Jenny Stark from Orange, Texas, and her journey with breast cancer.  Jenny’s courage to embrace breast cancer,  her desire to help others traveling down the same road, and her faith was truly a class act. Knowing that Jenny was going to have reconstructive surgery within a few months after that story, I wanted to do a follow-up article on her.  Discussing this with her, she told me that her surgery, called a TRAM-FLAP, was scheduled for October 10, 2011.  I suggested that we wait until after the surgery to let viewers know how she was doing.

Immediately, she replied:  “No, I don’t want this article to be about me and my surgery.”  “I want it to be about  Paying it Forward.”  “Paying it forward?”  I asked.  “Yes!”  “The knowledge I have learned through my own trials, equipped me in helping someone else through theirs.”  “It’s like passing the baton,” Jenny explained.

And so it was- - - this is where I picked up on Jenny’s story from last year of how Jenny went about Paying it Forward to a friend and former co-worker at the bank where Jenny had once been employed.

Like most women when they first hear the news from their local doctor that they have cancer, Jenny’s friend was shocked and afraid to proceed to the next step.  The next step called for her traveling two hours away from her home in Orange to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas, for more tests.  “I will go with you,” Jenny told her friend.

When she received word from her doctor that she would need Chemotherapy, Jenny went with her on her first treatment.  When she was given a Saturday appointment for a CT scan, Jenny volunteered to drive her.  When it came time to get the results of that test, her friend was too scared to receive the news herself over the phone.  Jenny placed the call with her to get the results one way or the other, so she wouldn’t have to wait the entire weekend with no results.

Jenny went so far as to fill in for her friend at the bank on a part time basis in her absence.  She wanted to relieve her of the worries or concerns that she may have, so she could totally focus on getting better.

Jenny emphasized the importance of making yourself available for the FIRST OF EVERYTHING to the one who has been diagnosed with cancer.”  “It’s not so much that you have to attach yourself permanently to that person,” Jenny explained.  “It’s a matter of being willing to be a servant, to be there for that person, whether it’s driving them to their  appointments, or just answering their questions.”  “In short, make yourself available to do everything that is in your power for them in their time of need.”

Jenny also introduced her friend to the  “Do and Don’t list when faced with cancer, as she had detailed in This is Just a Season. (linked above) Jenny very emphatically reiterates two that she feels strongly about:

1.  Don’t get on the internet when your doctor confirms that you have cancer.  Everyone’s breast cancer is unique; what you find on the internet may not apply to you.  Besides, it only creates anxiety to find information that might not even apply to your situation. Let your doctor explain to you the steps to be followed according to your specific situation. He will also keep you at the point where you need to be in at the present time.

2.  Do ask God for direction in choosing the right hospital, and follow the doctor’s orders in charge“You see, it works like this,” Jenny explained.  “There is a big difference when faced with making crucial decisions based on our emotions rather than on praying and asking God for directions.”  “As we receive directions from God, He will guide us to the right hospital, as well as the right doctors whom he has given wisdom and skill.”  “God, the hospital, and the doctor work as a team in restoring your health.”

As Jenny and I talked on in general about the storms of life that come to all of us at times, I marveled at her insight and wisdom of how to walk through those storms and not become a victim to them.   “Wow, you are so wise!” I exclaimed.  She laughed and then gave me an illustration, using her hands in a lowered position, then in an upward position.

 “You are never down; you are either up or getting up.”  If you are getting up, you are moving in an upward position.  Picture yourself moving in the direction toward God.  If you are down, you are not moving at all, so always be leaning towards Him or on Him.”

We glanced at our watches and two hours had passed since our conversation had begun.  I could have lingered in her presence another two hours gleaning wisdom from her. We  prayed together for her upcoming reconstructive surgery, and as we were saying our goodbyes, Jenny remarked:  “I had no idea what I was going to say when I met with you today.”  “I had no notes; I just knew I wanted to talk about my friend, and my journey with her this past year.”

My thought was:  Jenny didn’t need any notes.  Her heartfelt message poured out from within of her desire and hope that she had helped her friend.

I personally believe that God is smiling down on Jenny saying:

“You have answered The Discipleship Call.  You have BELIEVED, LIVED, LOVED, MINISTERED, and LEAD your friend through her journey with cancer this past year.”

Well Done!”  “I am pleased with my servant, Jenny.”

“You Paid it Forward!”

Editor's Note, October 2011

Life experiences, trials and joy lead us to be the woman we are today and sometimes that woman is exactly who we were created to be.  Our experiences mold us, inspire us; some teach us about priorities by showing us what things we should do today and which ones we should wait on.  With life pulling us in so many directions and opportunities, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle, loosing ourselves in the  routine of life, never stopping to smell the roses.  We miss the good things in life often because of our task at hand.  Lots of times, we miss the opportunity to help someone who needs exactly what we have by simply not lifting our heads from our blackberry.  But sometimes, as women, we band together shouting with one voice yelling, ‘Enough is enough.’  And when we do that, the world listens! Women around the world have yelled loudly for the cause of Breast Cancer and the results have been astounding.  The month of October is nationally known as Breast Cancer Awareness month and I can’t think of a better theme for Created Woman Blogazine for the month October.  As women, we are poised to be each other’s cheerleaders – not the enemy.  So as we look out into the first cool month of the year, I charge each of you to be the cheerleader in someone’s life that is facing, not just breast cancer, but any type of cancer that has tried to consume their life.

For the October issue of Created Woman, we will hear stories of triumph over trials as well as re-visit some heroines from last year and catch up with what they are doing today.  Their personal stories of conquest will inspire you to go beyond what you ever thought you could achieve.  Plus, just as fashion makes everything look better, we’ll show you ways fashion can actually help fight the cause.

As much as we enjoy sharing our life with you, hearing your stories are just as important to us.  Your comments and emails allow us to have a conversation with you, our friends.  Tell us what you’re thinking, share what inspires you, how you are becoming the woman you were created to be!

Thank you as always, for being a part of the Created Woman Blogazine, and enjoy becoming and being the woman you were created to be!

 

Created Woman

Fashion blog that highlights family health fun & purposeful living

October Calendar 

 

What Can You Do?

  1. First, if you are 40 or over, take some time to get a mammogram.  Do this for you and your family!
  2. Help to find a cure by supporting one of the below organizations.
  3. Spread the word - Be a voice.
  4. Become someone's cheerleader.

Ways to be a part of the cure:

Fashion Targets Breast Cancer

Stand Up to Cancer

Susan G. Komen

Join the family!

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