Introducing Life BEYOND Breast Cancer
It took me all day to find the words to introduce a new section on our website called Life BEYOND Breast Cancer. It isn’t easy to look at the hardest part about “living” with this disease in the face, but as advocates and friends, we deal with it all the time.
With Life BEYOND Breast Cancer, we wanted to create a space where loved ones can honor metastatic thrivers and their families.
We also hear from survivors and their caretakers. They tell us that a breast cancer diagnosis never really leaves them, and they don’t always know how or where to share more of their emotional or physical experiences. This too is “life beyond breast cancer”, and those voices need to be heard. Contact us if you’d like to share your story with our readers. Every story can make one person feel less alone in their own experience.
In our first two tributes, we honor Liya Khenkin and MaryAnne DiCanto.
We met Liya and Alexander about five years ago online, as we have so many of the patients we support. They were locals in our breast cancer community, so they attended one of our events. I remember being beyond excited because Liya won one of our raffles. Over the last five years, we were constantly in touch, promising to find a time to meet again. Problem was, this dreaded disease kept making one of us cancel. “Liya isn’t well” then “Linda isn’t well” was a constant. But our friendship prevailed and continues on through Alexander and their boys.
Liya was taken from her family in September 2017. She lived with Metastatic Breast Cancer in the most admirable way possible for eight years.
When we heard that Liya passed, a complete wave of silence fell over our team. A rare thing, I promise you. We knew that Alexander and Liya are both brilliant artists in their own rights. Alexander a photographer and recent cartoonist. Liya a writer. Alexander and I decided that the best way to honor her was to give their work a place to live. And so, thanks to Liya and Alexander’s inspiration, we created Life BEYOND Breast Cancer.
Scott and Maryann DiCanto became my role models from the moment I saw how Scott held Maryann on a cold morning in New York City. Her smile was intoxicating. She came over to me as a tease to her husband and said, “Scott will do almost everything for me, but probably not wear a tutu!” I took that as a challenge and five minutes later, he was in the tutu. He said, “I would give the world up for her, why NOT wear a tutu”. Maryann, Scott and I stayed in touch thanks to our friend Champagne Joy. When MaryAnn’s metastatic disease began to affect her ability to contribute at home, our Foundation sent a grant. The last time we saw Scott and Maryann together, Scott warned me it could be the last time. He was right.
It was MaryAnne’s bravery on a rainy, cold as hell morning in 2015 when we were advocating for Metastatic Breast Cancer in Times Square that drew me to her. There she stood, not feeling well, but still wearing a smile that lit up our morning.
We hope you find inspiration, love, and comfort knowing that the spirit of those affected by breast cancer lives on in all of us and that their legacy continues to touch all those they leave behind. Contact us if you would like to create a special place for a loved one that is living with, or is beyond, life with breast cancer.
Marcela Shine is Founder of Avanzar Ventures, Business Manager of The Tutu Project and an advisor to the Carey Foundation. Her company, Avanzar Ventures, has been supporting the project by providing operational, social media and technical implementation strategy since the inception of the project.