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Breast Cancer Alliance's Walk of Hope in Greenwich, Connecticut, 2006

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#VBGIVESBACK

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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We're proud to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month in partnership with the Breast Cancer Alliance, which funds major investments in early-stage research, fellowships, education and support. Founded in 1996 by Mary Waterman, who was dying from Stage 4 breast cancer, BCA has grown into a powerhouse organization and provided over $30 million in grants to doctors and hospitals across the U.S. "The research it has helped to launch has led to life-saving breakthroughs in treatment and understanding the complex nature of the disease," says Yonni Wattenmaker, BCA's Executive Director. "It has enabled many thousands of underserved patients to receive quality breast health care free of charge, and has funded the fellowship year for specially trained, highly skilled breast surgeons who go on to work in communities that never before had such a surgeon or in over-extended communities that need more support."

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What sets BCA apart from most breast cancer charities, she adds, is its three-pronged mission: one, to improve survival rates and quality of life for those impacted by breast cancer through better prevention, early detection, treatment and cure; two, to provide scientific venture capital to launch early-stage innovative research, breast surgery fellowships—the only breast cancer charity to do so—and, three, to provide financial resources to institutions supporting breast health care for underserved patients, eliminating financial barriers of access to education, dignified support and screening.

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All month long, we'll be hosting special shop-for-a-cause days at VB stores nationwide and donating 10% of total sales to the organization. In addition to giving back to this incredible cause, you'll get to meet women whose lives have been affected by the nonprofit for the better. Here, we talk to four of the hosts—Caroline Brown, Karen Colella and Stephanie Latham, all of whom have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and Andrea Comerchero, who experienced the devastating impact of the disease through her mother's eyes. They share their insights, advice and personal stories below.

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CAROLINE BROWN

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Tell us about your personal connection to BCA…
I first learned about Breast Cancer Alliance from living in the Greenwich/New York City area several years ago; however, my knowledge was fairly limited. A month after my husband and I moved to Houston, Texas, in 2012, I was diagnosed with early Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma after I discovered a lump in my breast. With no family history of breast cancer and being diagnosed at a young age of 30, I was completely stunned when I learned this news. I was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, but I was further connected with Breast Cancer Alliance through a dear friend in Greenwich and BCA board member, Jordan Rhodes. I was asked to walk in the Breast Cancer Alliance annual luncheon in 2017 as a survivor "model," which solidified my connection to BCA. What I find so special about Breast Cancer Alliance is how they have a national impact, offering grants to fund cutting-edge research focused on early detection, prevention, treatment, and cure. To come full circle, clinical physicians and researchers at the hospital where I was treated, MD Anderson Cancer Center, have received grants from BCA to ultimately help find a cure for breast cancer.

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Stereotypes or misconceptions about breast cancer you'd like to clarify?
I learned that breast cancer doesn't discriminate, as I was an otherwise healthy, very active, 30 year old with no family history of breast cancer when I was diagnosed. I also learned not to only rely on your annual appointments for breast checks. While I was diligent about having my annual exams, I was also so incredibly fortunate to have found the lump myself (I happened to accidentally brush my hand across my breast in the shower and I felt something suspicious) and to have been seen by a doctor immediately. I can't stress enough the importance of self-exams and truly knowing your body—early detection saved my life. I also learned how many different types of breast cancer there are, and that no breast cancer, treatment, and experience is the same.

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Advice to share for women going through breast cancer?
I treated my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment like one big project (it was helpful that I was a former project manager in my past corporate life!). It is easy to get overwhelmed looking at the entirety of your treatment plan, so I found it beneficial to break it down into smaller milestones and really take one day at a time. I was also big on celebrating these milestones (hitting double digits of chemo, making it halfway through chemo, finishing chemo, etc.). When it comes to cancer, no milestone is too small to celebrate! I also learned to listen to my body during treatment—I rested when I needed to, I exercised when I felt good, and I tried my best to not feel guilty if I needed "me time" during treatment. I also learned just how strong and resilient I was, and this attitude is something that I carry with me every day. When faced with a current challenge or obstacle, I give myself a pep talk and say, "You survived cancer! You can do this!"

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KAREN COLELLA

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Tell us about your personal connection to BCA…
I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after I moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, from NYC with two young children. I was introduced to BCA by a dear friend who thought that becoming involved with the organization and being surrounded by so much great energy would be instrumental throughout my healing process. I am very proactive in sharing my cancer journey with others, hoping that my positive outlook and experiences can help others struggling with a breast cancer diagnosis. BCA encourages women to share their stories.
In sharing my journey, I hope to help women get through the physical and emotional hurdles, which often leave them feeling hopeless, alone and afraid. I started out as a volunteer at BCA and was featured during their Annual Luncheon in 2016. I’ve had the honor of co-chairing BCA’s Education and Outreach Committee for two years now and it’s been so incredibly rewarding to see first-hand how BCA’s funding is put to work. I also work closely alongside our Executive Director, Yonni Wattenmaker, on fundraising initiatives, which include BCA’s Annual Luncheon and GoForPink! The profound mission of BCA resonates deeply in my heart, and I am so proud to be part of such an amazing organization!

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Stereotypes or misconceptions about breast cancer you'd like to clarify?
1. I have no family history of breast cancer; therefore I am low risk. About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.
2. Only women can get breast cancer. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 833.
3. I’m too young to be diagnosed with breast cancer. I was diagnosed at the age of 37, younger than the recommended cancer screening guidelines for mammogram screening in women, which is currently 40-44 years old. Early detection and screening can lower the risk of death by 47%

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Advice to share for women going through breast cancer?
Embrace your circle of support and welcome help from family and friends. Loved ones want to help in any way they can. Whether it be meal drop-offs, carpools, running errands or babysitting, say YES! Use this time to get rest, build strength and immunity and RECOVER!
Try to welcome your breast cancer journey as a positive chapter in your life. This journey will give you the opportunity to recenter and refocus on the more precious things in life. We don’t often get the opportunity to see life through a different lens. Slowing life’s pace and reconnecting with your healing body will not only bring a positive perspective to your diagnosis but will also bring you peace and gratitude.

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STEPHANIE LATHAM

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Tell us about your personal connection to BCA…
I was introduced to BCA when I was first diagnosed while pregnant with my daughter Caroline (now seven!). My family and I were so grateful to find an organization that so purposefully invested resources to fund early-stage research that would otherwise not be able to advance.

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Stereotypes or misconceptions about breast cancer you'd like to clarify?
I was in my early 30s when I was diagnosed and my lump was actually under my arm, not right on my breast, so it is important to do the full exam and listen to your body!

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Advice to share for women going through breast cancer?
Statistics are truly just that. Each person is different, each situation is different so make the right choices for you, your family, your body. My favorite life mantra is "Life is Choices"—you don’t always get to choose what happens but you do get to choose how to respond. This comforted and grounded me through the entire adventure, step by step.

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ANDREA COMERCHERO

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Tell us about your personal connection to BCA…
My connection is Yonni—she and I have known each other for most of our lives, growing up at sleepaway camp together, but got reacquainted and subsequently became close friends when our kids attended the same sleepaway camp that we did.

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What was it like experiencing breast cancer through your mother's eyes?
It was difficult. My mom has always been invincible to me. Seeing her go through surgeries, treatments and all that happened in between not only scared me, but she also showed me her incredible strength. There were times I thought she’d give up the fight, but I saw her look at her kids and her grandkids and I knew that was all she needed to boost her mood and keep on pushing through.

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Advice to those who have a family member diagnosed with breast cancer?
Breathe and listen. Listen to the doctors, listen to other people’s experiences, but most of all, listen to the person who has been diagnosed.

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Event Listing

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SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9

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GEORGETOWN
Veronica Beard | 1254 Wisconsin Avenue NW
11 AM-1 PM

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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10

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NEW YORK – UPPER EAST SIDE
Veronica Beard | 988 Madison Avenue
Noon-2 PM

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NEW YORK – SOHO
Veronica Beard | 78 Greene Street
10 AM-Noon

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DALLAS
Veronica Beard | 44 Highland Park Village
1 PM-3 PM

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GREENWICH
Veronica Beard | 252 Greenwich Avenue
11 AM-1 PM

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BOSTON
Veronica Beard | 145 Newbury Street
11 AM-1 PM

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LOS ANGELES — PALISADES VILLAGE
Veronica Beard | 1062 N. Swarthmore Ave.
Noon-2 PM

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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13

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HOUSTON
Veronica Beard | 4444 Westheimer Road
11 AM - 1 PM

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NEW YORK — AMERICANA MANHASSET
Veronica Beard | 2110G Northern Boulevard
Noon - 2 PM

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CHICAGO
Veronica Beard | 11 East Walton Street
4 PM-6 PM

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FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15

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SAN FRANCISCO
Veronica Beard | 2241 Fillmore Street
6 PM-8 PM

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