Nonprofit Each One Tell One Raises Dense Breast Tissue Awareness, Supports Breast Cancer Survivors
- August 3, 2017
- By Heather Reimer, Founder of Each One Tell One
- Categories: Fitness, Healthy Body, Healthy Living, Healthy Mind, Uncategorized
On October 1, 2013, Heather Reimer launched a Facebook page called “Each One Tell One” with the hope to increase the awareness of dense breast tissue and the potential dangers of having it. After being diagnosed with breast cancer only 8 months after a clear mammogram, Heather’s good friend experienced the same miss. Heather was then motivated to create a movement.
Heather was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer (grade 3 triple negative, stage 3) in late 2011. As she had always been told to, Heather had a mammogram when she turned 40. She was noti ed of a clean/clear mammogram (in other words… cancer free). Later in the year, in order to complete her wellness points for her employer’s wellness program, she opted for a whole breast ultrasound. This additional screening discovered that Heather had breast cancer, which had been there all along… it was hidden on her mammogram because she has dense breast tissue. Following extensive treatment to rid herself of cancer (bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction, eight surgeries and 17 weeks of dose dense chemotherapy), Heather learned that a dear friend also found a lump in her breast only 4 months after her “clear” mammogram, later being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, learning that three large tumors were missed.
Heather then partnered with Wendy Damonte, who lost her mother to cancer. Wendy was an advocate and voice for all by testifying in support of Nevada Assembly Bill 147 in front of the Health and Human Services committee at the Nevada Legislature. Governor Brian Sandoval signed this bill into law in 2013. AB 147 makes it mandatory for physicians to inform women of their breast tissue type. This information is important because dense breast tissue is more prone to develop breast cancer, and tumors are harder to see on a mammogram for women with dense breasts. Wendy’s mom had a similar story to Heather’s, as she too had a clean mammogram and then, 6 months later, she was diagnosed with end stage cancer. She had four tumors in her left breast, one in her neck, and of the 54 lymph nodes that were surgically removed, 38 of them were cancerous. Wendy doesn’t believe her mother died of breast cancer, she believes she died because she had dense breasts. Had she known that she had dense breasts, she would have fought for additional screening that would have detected her cancer earlier – with time for treatment, she would likely be alive today.
To spread the message of “know your density,” Heather and Wendy presented at numerous venues, both locally and nationally, sharing their story of survivorship and loss. From their speaking engagements and the Each One Tell One movement, at least six known cases of breast cancer in Northern Nevada women have been discovered, and they are all alive today because of it!
On October 1, 2015, Heather and Wendy moved Each One Tell One to an official 501(c) (3) nonprofit to further their mission of educating women about their breast density.
In 2016, Each One Tell One launched “Breast Cancer 2 Bikini.” This program was specifically designed for breast cancer survivors, allowing these women to take their lives back after cancer. Eighteen survivors trained for a NPC fitness competition, all appearing on stage, some even winning in their category! This was a life changing experience for these women, and the program is now moving through its 2nd year with another round of amazing breast cancer survivors.
Through the “Breast Cancer 2 Bikini” program, Each One Tell One created a powerful art exhibit featuring the women and their scars of survival. Beyond the Ribbon was an emotional part of the journey, spotlighting the survivors and sharing their intimate stories of survivorship. The ladies were inspired to be photographed in black and white to share that the only evidence left after “Breast Cancer 2 Bikini” was their scars.
The 2017 “Breast Cancer 2 Bikini” program concludes at the Best of the West Classic NPC competition at the Grand Sierra Resort on Saturday, October 7. Twenty survivors will be participating in the contest.
Our mission is simple, Each One… Tell One… give a voice to each person to tell their friends, family and neighbors the importance of knowing their breast density, and o er education about additional screening options. It’s every woman’s right to know her density.
For more information, visit www.EachOneTellOne.com or call 888-870-2266.
Through the “Breast Cancer 2 Bikini” program, Each One Tell One created a powerful art exhibit featuring the women and their scars of survival. Beyond the Ribbon was an emotional part of the journey, spotlighting the survivors and sharing their intimate stories of survivorship. Here are a few of the survivors, their stories and their scars:
You are stronger than you know.
I was told to ring the bell as I left my last chemo treatment to celebrate my victory. As the room cheered, I left feeling totally lost. What now? My body was not the one I knew before surgeries and treatments entered my life. What’s more, I had no idea how to reclaim my health and lifestyle. I remember asking my oncologist why I didn’t have a “team” like I kept reading about in articles. Where is my nutritionist, my dietician, my counselor? Turns out, I was going to have to do the research and find any resources on my own. I tried the cancer fighting diets, the infrared saunas, the lymphatic massages, the support groups, the supplements, the exercise groups…
You are stronger than you know.
While I knew about the side effects associated with cancer treatments, no one ever talked about the long-term recovery. Through trial and error, I started to find what worked for me to regain my health and ability to return to work. Slowly but surely I was coming back to life, but I wasn’t the Lori I wanted to be. I will be forever grateful for the “Breast Cancer 2 Bikini” program. It provided me with a much-needed opportunity to combine nutrition, exercise and an incredible support system. It pushed me beyond the limits I thought I could achieve at my age, much less post illness. I became stronger not only physically, but also in spirit. When I look at my photo, I see a strong woman who is con dent and ready for her next chapter in life!
Nearly a year after being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, I was done. I finished 8 rounds of dose dense chemotherapy. I lost all my hair, 35 lbs and my left breast. I had a new breast surgically created and a new name, “survivor.” I survived breast cancer.
Being a breast cancer survivor was the most amazing feeling of my life. I was brave, strong and I was alive! Well, that is not what happened and that was not how I felt. I have long disliked the label survivor. It feels like a nal destination when I needed a beginning.
I can’t sugar coat who I was post cancer. Depressed would be an understatement. Road kill –that might be a good description. When you pass by a dead animal on the road and the animal doesn’t look, smell or act anything like it was when it was alive. Yes, road kill. Road kill may seem a bit harsh, but it is the real story.
I felt guilty that I wasn’t happier to be done with treatment and to have survived breast cancer. Following about 6 months of feeling devastated I woke up and decided I needed to do something drastic. That turned into a 15-week fitness journey that landed me on stage at a fitness competition. This event was well outside of my comfort zone.
My journey to the stage gave me back what cancer had taken away, and more. I never would have imagined that the training would take me through a mental, physical and emotional path that seemingly paralleled my breast cancer treatment. It is difficult to communicate, but taking my body back through physical training and mental determination was a gift I don’t think could have come from any doctor or support group. It challenged me mentally and ignited my spirit. It was a gift I had to give and do for myself.
I feel like me again.
My diagnosis came at the age of 39. I had been healthy, had a clean baseline mammogram, and then one day at a traffic light felt a “pinch” in my breast. That started the rollercoaster that turned into a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer, which catapulted me and my family through 6 months of chemotherapy, a bi-lateral mastectomy, severe weight loss and complete hair loss.
Before treatment, I would have described myself spiritually as “agnostic” – I knew there was something out there, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was. Looking back now, I am convinced that “pinch” I felt, which got this ball rolling, was from my guardian angel. Without that pinch, who knows where I would have wound up?
The triple negative diagnosis was so scary for me. Everything I found was nothing more than a death sentence. I couldn’t find people to connect with who had my specific type and thrived and survived after treatment. No matter how positive I tried to be, the fear of recurrence, or worse, death, was always looming. Well, after my treatment, it was still a nagging shameful secret in the back of my mind. Every. Single. Day. Until very recently…
I participated in the “Breast Cancer 2 Bikini” program and transformed my body into the picture of health. I was putting my health first and I was eating well, working out routinely and committing to something bigger than myself. This was an extremely tough process mentally, but I know the physical changes I experienced allowed me to visibly SEE myself as healthy and thriving for the first time in years. I woke up one day and realized I hadn’t thought about death or recurrence in the last several days! What a gift that was to me, and it took seeing with my eyes to believe in my heart.
Now here I am, 4 years post treatment and I am changed. My body has scars, but they do not define me. I survived cancer, but that is not who I am. I am a funny, loving, caring woman. I am much braver than I was in the past; I know there is nothing that can compare to the battle I’ve been through, so why not take some risks! Personally, professionally and physically. I’m freer with my compliments and am not afraid to show my love to those around me. It took this disease to give me the experience… the experience was the only way that I could truly appreciate the life I was given and those around me. I am not grateful for cancer, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Sure, I could beat myself up for not seeing what was right in front of me before, but why do that? Cancer beat me up enough. I’m going to focus on loving myself and those around me.
If I could sit with myself in that doctor’s office the first day I would say this: Honor yourself and your feelings. You’re going to get “down,” and that’s ok. It’s ok to ask for help, and accept it willingly. If you need to cry, then cry. Then pick yourself up and fight. YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK!
No evidence of disease, a.k.a. NED! After 4 long years of battling cancer! That’s like music to my ears! Nothing is more terrifying than hearing that you have stage 4 triple negative breast cancer. Getting diagnosed was filled with 3 solid years of treatments and weekly visits to oncologists in-and-out of town. Every week turned into every-other-week, then into once a month and now every 3-6 months! I found myself wondering what now? I still felt lost and alone. The doctors just throw you out into the world with no guidance… On your own with no manual on how to live life after cancer. Going back to the old me wasn’t possible because, who is that person? She doesn’t exist anymore and, falling into the “new” norm, well not sure what that is either. I had a hard time dealing with the newness of my changed and scarred body. I couldn’t do things I once did and that was frustrating, especially since I gained a total of 70 lbs during all of my treatments! People don’t understand the inner heartbreaks and struggles that so many of us survivors face! Some would say, “Well, good thing that’s over!” Or, “At least you get a new set of boobs!”
One day I was asked to participate in “Breast Cancer 2 Bikini.” My first thought: “UHHH, NOOO! I am not putting on a bikini!” My second thought: “HELL NO!” But after being talked into it, which I won’t lie, took a little coaxing, I decided to participate and it turned out to be one of the best most amazing decisions I have ever made. I worked hard, lost 52 lbs and met the most amazing group of ladies who were all survivors, too! We laughed, we cried, we worked out and we leaned on each other for support – overall taking my life back in a way I never thought would be possible. I feel like I’m living life again, not just going through the motions. Although I would never want or choose to have cancer, it has given me some of the most amazing opportunities that I could have ever imagined! I have met people who I can call lifelong friends, who have opened my eyes to the beauty that is all around me. I found my inner strength in order to survive, and it feels great. THERE IS LIFE AFTER CANCER!