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Personal Stories

Dianne Gunther: BRCA+ and #NotDoneYet

In 2011, I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, which put me at high risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.

Receiving the news that I carried the potentially life-changing mutation was certainly frightening, but my future instantly started looking brighter once my doctor handed me a “Little Bright Book” that introduced me to Bright Pink.

After attending an Outreach event, where I met other young high-risk women who had undergone prophylactic surgery, my options started to seem less scary and I started thinking that surgery might be the right choice for me. I remained proactive by getting annual MRIs for several years, and when the timing was right for me, I decided to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy in October 2015 at age 27. This means that I had my healthy breast tissue removed to lower my risk of developing cancer. I can now proudly say that my lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 5%!

Today, I volunteer as a Bright Pink Support Ambassador in Boston, which means that I organize monthly Outreach events for high-risk women in the Boston area. I continue to be impressed by the women I meet each month, and I look forward to both new and familiar faces. We talk about scary medical procedures, awkward dating scenarios, losing loved ones to cancer, and any other challenging experiences unique to young, high-risk women.

I chose to run the Chicago Marathon for Bright Pink because Bright Pink has had such a personal impact on my life.

I run for Team Bright Pink to raise money for Outreach events and resources, like the ones that were so helpful to me on my high-risk journey, and also to support the educational programs that empower ALL women to take control of their own health.

On a more personal level, the Chicago Marathon took place on October 9, 2016 — roughly one year after my surgery. I truly believe that Bright Pink has helped make my future infinitely brighter, and when I ran on October 9, I was thinking of how grateful I am to have a better chance at a healthy future ahead of me and the opportunity to share Bright Pink’s message with others.


Dianne is sharing her story to help demonstrate the importance of genetic testing and being proactive with breast and ovarian health. Dianne is #NotDoneYet until all women are educated about breast & ovarian cancer prevention and early detection. Donate to help make that possible.

Fueling our Mission, Personal Stories

Running For My Family: Josh’s Triathlon Challenge

 

I fundraised for Bright Pink to help them educate women about breast and ovarian health. Their message of prevention and early detection is very important, and my family can easily relate.

Last year, I was at the gym when I got a call from my mom. I usually don’t pick up the phone when I am working out, but I had a strange feeling about this call.

“Your sister has breast cancer.”

A giant pit formed in my stomach after my mom said those words. How does my own sister, a previously healthy 31-year-old woman, get breast cancer? Just a couple of weeks earlier, she had found a tiny lump in her breast. The doctor was fairly confident that the lump was not cancerous, but suggested a biopsy as a precaution. When the results came back, everyone was shocked.

Naturally, I thought about my mom. This was déjà vu for my family.

My mom received similar news in 1988 at the age of 37. Doctors found something suspicious after her first routine mammogram, and a biopsy later revealed that she had breast cancer. I was just one year old.

For my mom, a lumpectomy procedure followed by one round of chemo did not do the trick. The doctors only discovered more cancer. She needed to have a mastectomy, followed by six more months of chemo and eight weeks of radiation. In March of 1989, my mom was thankfully declared cancer-free.

“When it comes to changes in your body, always err on the side of caution…”

Twenty-five years later, the good fortune for my family continued. Rachel underwent a lumpectomy procedure in June of 2015. Eight weeks of radiation followed, and then she was declared cancer-free as well. My family breathed a huge sigh of relief.

When it comes to changes in your body, always err on the side of caution, and be proactive about routine self-examinations, doctor check-ups, and annual mammograms. When breast cancer is detected early, like it was for my mother and sister, the survival rate can be greater than 92%. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor about genetic testing. Finally, learn about appropriate prevention and early detection measures, and share what you have learned with your family, your friends and your co-workers.

Through all of this, my family has been incredibly lucky. However, we know that there are so many people out there that have not been so fortunate. That’s why I competed in the Chicago Triathlon with Team Bright Pink. On August 28, 2016 as I ran, I wore pink and thought of all those who have been affected by breast cancer, and all those we are working to save. Thanks to everyone for donating to my campaign — together we’re making a brighter future for women.


Like Josh, you can support our work by competing and fundraising on Team Bright Pink! Learn more. 

Personal Stories

We’re painfully aware of breast cancer. I’m ready to do something about it.

After I registered to run the Nashville Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, I decided to do it for Team Bright Pink. I wanted to contribute to their educational workshops which teach and inspire young women to be proactive about their health.

Yes, we’re all painfully aware of breast cancer’s existence, but it is a disease that can truly be impacted through taking the right steps for early detection—and early detection can save lives! Something about the idea that I could take steps now to reduce my risk of breast and ovarian cancer really resonated with me. My motivator and running partner, Megan, has been directly affected by breast cancer in her family, and I want to see fewer people suffer. Running with Team Bright Pink is a way that I can directly contribute to that mission.

Fundraising tip for all of my fellow Team Bright Pink: A $20 donation has the power to educate 5 young women through Bright Pink’s online risk assessment tool. This makes $20 a great denomination to request when fundraising. Start by giving $20 yourself, then ask some friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Don’t forget to share your story and fundraising page on social media.

We are in no place to stop — this team has much to accomplish!


Ready to turn your run into something more? Join Team Bright Pink for your next race or fitness competition.

Early Detection, Risk-Reduction Lifestyle

What to expect at your Well-Woman Exam

If your annual doctor’s visit causes unwanted nerves and anxiety, you’re not alone. But making time to see your doctor every year, even when you feel healthy, is critical to maintaining your breast and ovarian health. So, in honor of Call Your Doctor Day, we’re breaking down the Well-Woman Exam. Because knowing what to expect can give you peace of mind. And peace of mind counts for a lot.

  • Clinical Breast Exam: You should expect your doctor to thoroughly examine your breast tissue, which extends up your collarbone, around to your armpits, and into your breastbone. Word to the wise: Your doc does this multiple times a day so try not to feel awkward. It’s routine — trust us!
  • Pelvic Exam: During the pelvic exam, your doctor will feel your ovaries to check for signs of ovarian cancer. It may be a tad uncomfortable but it’s important to trust your doctor and relax. Your doctor may also perform a Pap test but Pap tests only check for cervical cancer — not ovarian cancer.
  • Mammogram: Plan to talk to your doctor about starting mammograms at age 40. But, if you have a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with breast cancer, you should schedule your first mammogram when you are 10 years younger than the age at which your relative was diagnosed. So, if your mom was diagnosed at 45, talk to your doctor about starting mammograms at 35.

Helpful tips…

  • Google is great but nothing beats face-to-face. To help guide a powerful doctor-patient conversation, complete our breast and ovarian cancer risk assessment quiz and take your customized results to your next appointment.
  • Under the Affordable Care Act, the annual Well-Woman Exam is completely covered by insurance. So no more excuses, ladies! It’s time to get that appointment on the books.

Personal Stories

I was 27 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer

Let me start off by saying, breast cancer does not run in my family.

2014 was a tough year and I’ll never forget it. After having a miscarriage, I decided I wanted to get back into really good shape. A month later, I was showering post-workout when I felt a lump in my right breast. I figured it was no big deal since my hormones were still balancing back out but I decided to have my general practitioner examine me anyway. Besides, I already had an appointment scheduled.

The day of the appointment, I had my doctor perform a breast exam and, sure enough, she felt the lump. She scheduled me for an ultrasound the next day and, after the ultrasound, I only had to wait a few hours before they called. I was told I needed to have a diagnostic mammogram and, possibly, a biopsy. My heart felt like it was in my throat but I stayed positive and scheduled the mammogram.

The breast specialist I saw was a grim woman with no bedside manner. She told me the ultrasound images were concerning then sent me for my mammogram. Once it was over, the doctor came back in — even more grim-faced than before. I needed to go to the hospital and have the lump biopsied immediately.

I felt like my world was crashing down. I went for the biopsy and the radiologist said she was pretty sure it was ductal carcinoma in situ (stage 0 breast cancer), although I wouldn’t have the official results for three days.

Three days felt like forever, but the pathology results finally came. It was breast cancer and it was aggressive. I was devastated but ready to form a plan of action.

So, I chose my team of doctors and scheduled my mastectomy. Surgery day came and I felt really good about my decision. I was surrounded by passionate and vigilant doctors and was happy to have a plan after so much waiting and uncertainty.

I had a little more waiting to do for the final pathology results, but we finally got good news. The cancer was limited to the right breast and my lymph nodes were clean. They did upgrade me from Stage 0 to Stage 1 but I didn’t need chemo.

Then, my oncologist decided to have my tissue looked at by the hospital where he is a fellow. It’s a good thing he did because they found a lot of things that were missed by the pathologists at the hospital where my surgery was performed. The most important being a particular trait of my cancer that had the potential to be very dangerous. Because of this, my doctor recommended chemo.

Chemo. The one thing I didn’t want to do. I was willing to give up my breasts but not my hair. I got over the shock pretty quickly and, soon enough, was ready to start — but not before we did some fertility preservation.

Fertility preservation entails lots of doctor’s appointments for you and your hubby, lots of blood work, lots of hormones, and a class to learn how to administer those hormones.

On the day of my class, I took a LOT of notes and left with a shopping bag full of hormones. They promised to call when it was time to start the regimen. I got the call that afternoon. I was four weeks pregnant! I was over the moon and so were my doctors. I had their blessing to have my baby and we agreed to start chemo once he was born.

So, nine months came and went and my beautiful baby boy arrived. A few weeks later, I started chemo. It was rough but I got through it the same way I got through the diagnosis and surgery — with lots of amazing family and friends by my side.

Treatment wrapped up in August 2015 and, not long after, I had my reconstructive surgery in what finally felt like the end of a very long journey.

So what would my advice be to you? Find a great doctor, don’t miss your yearly exam, and know your body. If something doesn’t seem right, talk to your doctor. Don’t wait!

Early detection is so important and so is being educated about your risk and your body. Without early detection, I’m not sure I’d be here today.

What Bright Pink does and stands for inspired me to run this year’s Chicago Half Marathon for Team Bright Pink. And now, thanks to running, I’m on the path to being healthier and happier than I’ve been in a long time.


Chiara is sharing her story in the hopes that it will help other women understand the importance of breast and ovarian cancer prevention and early detection. Help us bring her message to women across the country — just $20 has the power to teach 4 women early detection through our in-person Brighten Up workshop. Donate to help us educate and empower more young women like Chiara.

Personal Stories

Jenny’s Story

My first experience with breast cancer was when my mom was diagnosed when I was eight. She had stage 3, triple negative breast cancer which was a rare kind.

She went through surgeries to remove the tumors and the cancer would go away but a few months later it would come back. It eventually spread to her lungs, bones and lymph nodes. It kept going like a cycle; the cancer would be removed and we’d celebrate, then it would come back, then removed again, then back.

For 3 years, I watched my mom deteriorate and get weaker and weaker. When I was 11 years old, my mom died.

I’ve always been determined to not let the cancer win which is why I always try to use my mom’s death to make me stronger. I am in college now and am hoping to go on to medical school and become a doctor and help women.

I am also aware that I have a higher risk for breast cancer which makes me more aware of my health and checking myself monthly for any lumps or other symptoms. I hope people can be inspired by my story and know that they can use the bad things that happen in their lives as inspiration to go on and be stronger.


This Mother’s Day, start a conversation about your family health history. Because understanding how your family history affects your health is one of the most important and impact things you can do for yourself. BrightPink.org/FamilyHistory

Community

Bright Pink + The Webby Awards. It’s On.

We created AssessYourRisk.org because, at Bright Pink, we believe all women need an easy and unintimidating way to learn about their breast and ovarian cancer risk. When 120,366 of you completed the tool last year, we knew we were onto something.

Today, we are proud to share that some of the leading minds in tech agree. Assess Your Risk was officially nominated for Best User Interface in the 20th Annual Webby Awards.

Let us break it down: The Webby Awards = The Academy Awards of the Internet = A Big Deal! In less than 60 seconds, you can help us bring home a Webby. Cast your vote here.

Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by The New York Times, The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet.

The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which nominates and selects The Webby Award winners, is comprised of web industry experts, including Tumblr founder, David Karp, Executive Creative Director at Refinery29, Piera Gelardi, Musicians Questlove & Grimes, Head of Fashion Partnerships at Instagram, Eva Chen, Twitter Co-Founder, Biz Stone, Jimmy Kimmel, and creator of the .gif file format, Steve Wilhite.

So what is Assess Your Risk? AssessYourRisk.org is our digital breast and ovarian cancer risk assessment tool that helps young women effortlessly understand their risk for these diseases and offers personalized risk-management recommendations.

To be nominated alongside Reuters, Google and other notable names is a true honor for our 17-person, Chicago-based, national nonprofit. Talk about small but mighty!

Nominees like Bright Pink are setting the standard for innovation and creativity on the Internet,” said David-Michel Davies, Executive Director of The Webby Awards. “It is an incredible achievement to be selected among the best from the almost 13,000 entries we received this year.”

In a world where 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer and 1 in 67 ovarian cancer, taking proactive action is critical and we are so proud to be recognized for our impactful work in the digital space.

Winners will be announced on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 and honored at a star-studded ceremony on Monday, May 16, 2016 at Cipriani on Wall Street in New York City. There they will have an opportunity to deliver one of The Webby Awards’ famous 5-Word Speeches. Past 5-Word Speeches include: Steve Wilhite’s “It’s Pronounced “Jif” not ‘Gif’; Stephen Colbert’s “Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.”; and Björk ‘s “A E I O U.”

What are you waiting for? It’s time to vote!


Assess Your Risk was originally designed by Sew, a creative agency out of Los Angeles. The website was then built upon by Too Good Strategy of Austin, Texas.

Early Detection, Risk-Reduction Lifestyle

Be the Change: 5 ways to champion women’s health

All women deserve the knowledge and tools to be powerful advocates for their breast and ovarian health. Set an example and be a champion of change for the women in your life. Because, well, Sandra Bullock said it best: “The most beautiful woman in the world is the one who protects and supports other women.”

  1. Be the teacher: You have the power to impact the way women think about their health. Make today the day you start a meaningful conversation about the importance of living proactively. Need help starting the conversation? These quick tips for breast and ovarian cancer risk reduction are a great place to start.
  2. Set a good example: Adopting healthy habits like eating well, limiting alcohol consumption and exercising regularly, might just inspire the women around you to do the same.
  3. Be an advocate: Women’s health issues need to be talked about. Stay informed and be part of the conversation. Want to do even more? Bring Bright Pink’s free Brighten Up® Educational Workshop to your community and help spark a life-saving conversation.
  4. Make healthy fun: Invite friends on weekly walks, create a monthly “healthy dinner club,” or go outside of your comfort zone and sign up for a mud run obstacle course together! Who says being healthy can’t be fun?
  5. Send 5 friends a link to AssessYourRisk.org: Encourage the women in your life to take action and assess their risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Because knowledge really is power.
Personal Stories

Michele’s Story: Running Strong

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Another year had come and gone, as I watched my 2013 resolution escape out the window. While I hugged and kissed my extended family members (all 50 of them), I thought to myself: This is the year. I was going to run the Chicago Half Marathon but — then again — that’s what I said in 2013.

Five months later, I saw a Facebook post from Bright Pink about competing for Team Bright Pink. I had been following Bright Pink for a few years, simply because I applauded their mission and enjoyed reading up on tips and tools for taking care of my breast and ovarian health. Both cancers run in my family: My maternal grandmother battled breast cancer in her late 40’s, and my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer eight years ago. They continue to be the strongest women I know.

I thought — If I am going to run a half marathon, why not do it for a charity I admire? About two minutes later, I was finalizing my fundraising page. Little did I know that I was signing up for one of the best experiences of my life.

The people close to me have heard this phrase hundreds of times, and it’s true, “If I didn’t sign up for the marathon with Team Bright Pink, I probably wouldn’t have accomplished my goal.”

Team Bright Pink supported me the entire way — they helped me train with other Bright Pink runners through Fitness Formula Clubs (FFC), sent me countless encouraging emails up until the day of the race and connected with me after the race with thankful and congratulatory praises.

While I had an amazing experience training for the half marathon, and I continue to wear my neon pink shirt as often as possible, the best part of my experience was the inescapable and comforting feeling of being part of the Bright Pink community on race day.

My stomach was twisting into a tight ball of knots as I walked to my starting corral — the only race I had done before this was a 5K — could I really run 13.2 miles? As I plugged my headphones in and prepared for the 13.2 miles ahead of me, I was startled when a neon pink shirt ran over to me and wrapped me into a hug. She was a veteran Team Bright Pink runner and could probably tell that I was a bundle of nerves. She assured me that I would do great and told me to focus on having fun — my nerves immediately started to diminish and my excitement soared. Best friends? Yes.

Along the course, I ran a little faster to high-five the pink shirts in front of me and smiled proudly as I passed each mile-marker. When things got hard, and my legs begged me to walk, I thought of two women — my grandmothers. Then I thought of all of my young female cousins, sisters and friends and remembered why I was running this marathon and why I knew I would finish strong.

Bright Pink is a special community. It’s connectivity is something that I don’t think anyone can understand unless they immerse themselves in the optimistic, loving and forward-thinking environment. Team Bright Pink turns strangers into friends and doubters into believers.


Do you want to make a difference with Team Bright Pink? From marathons to mud runs to Crossfit competitions and more, Team Bright Pink does it all. Guaranteed charity entries to the 2016 Chicago Half Marathon now available! Learn about all of our events here.

Personal Stories

6 Women. 1 Race. 26.2 Miles.

For Kayla, Liz, Meghan, Christina and Vanessa, taking on the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was a group decision. Their friend, Kristina, was about to undergo a preventive double mastectomy and was running to both challenge and distract herself from her upcoming surgery. Her friends, eager to show their support, didn’t think twice before deciding to join her.

Kristina was diagnosed with a BRCA-1 gene mutation at 25. Several years, a marriage and a baby later, the reality of Kristina’s risk hit home when she discovered a lump in her breast.

“I had to wait seven days [for the biopsy to come back]. I didn’t know my results, but I knew my risk,” she said. “I was so upset that I didn’t take action, didn’t get genetic counseling and didn’t do anything to help myself.”

A few Google searches later, Kristina found Bright Pink and, with it, a support network of high-risk women like herself.

Though her tumor came back benign, Kristina decided to undergo a risk-reducing double mastectomy. With several months left before her surgery, Kristina needed a distraction. That’s when she received an email about running the Chicago Marathon with Team Bright Pink.

“I’d never run a marathon, half-marathon, or even a 10k before. I’d probably only done 3 miles…ever!” she said.

But Kristina wouldn’t be running alone. Five other women joined her to show their support, including her sister, Vanessa, and childhood neighbor, Kayla.

“We definitely motivated each other throughout training,” Kayla laughed. “Kristina sent us positive emails before a run or after a hard run saying things like ‘I know it’s 85 degrees in July, but we’re going to feel so good after this!’

Marathon Team Bright Pink

For Kristina, her friend’s involvement wasn’t just about a marathon.

“They really put their lives on hold for this. They flew all the way to Chicago to run this marathon!” she said. “[My friends really] went all-in with me.”

So “all-in,” in fact, that Kristina and Kayla decided to commit more of their time to Bright Pink. This Spring, the pair will be going through Bright Pink University to become official Ambassadors.

“I want to spread the word to everyone, including average-risk women like myself,” Kayla said. “It’s so easy to run from something that isn’t a problem right now, but who is to say it won’t be a problem in the future?

Inspired by the help she received from Bright Pink, Kristina wants to use her position as an ambassador to pay it forward.

“To [be able to] share my story — knowing it could potentially change somebody’s life — is truly amazing.”


To learn more about Team Bright Pink or sign up for a race, including the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, visit TeamBrightPink.org.

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