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Cheryl’s Adventure – Pinkalicious

Blue – simply one of the most beautiful colors in the world!  Nothing is more beautiful than bright blue skies or breathtaking brilliant blue waters of the ocean.  Up until a year ago, blue was definitely my choice of color.  And then I was diagnosed with breast cancer!  The last thing I desired was to be left feeling blue!  I would have to make a change – it was time for a transformation!  I needed a new color to view the world as beautiful– my life soon became Pinkalicious! 

Cheryl CopelandPink has always been a bright and cheery color, but now pink was packed with purpose!  Yes, I had physically seen all of the same t-shirts, hats, key chains, and car magnets before, but this time it was different.  Whenever I saw someone sporting their pink gear for breast cancer – my heart simply smiled.  God had placed random cheerleaders in my path to remind me that I was never fighting alone! 

Aside from a sea of pink to lift our spirits each cancer patient is also inducted into the Breast Cancer Club!  There are no registration forms, no formal ceremonies, no yearly dues, or even a single laminated ‘Cancer Card.’ What this club DOES offer is priceless – it allows for people to form instant connections and lifetime bonds with other cancer warriors!  

Members offer more than just moral support – they are the key to the kingdom of knowledge!  Once diagnosed the insane amount of details and decisions can feel quite overwhelming.  If you have access to talk with someone who has “been there – done that” you are one step ahead of the game!  These members are commonly known as the angels on earth that God sends your way to guide you in the right direction.  

Gail Cloutier is an angel God indirectly sent my way.  I taught with her daughter Beth for several years.  Gail was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer in February of 2008.  She had a double mastectomy with over 20 positive lymph nodes.  Her cancer had metastasized to the lungs and eventually to the brain.  In true fighter fashion she underwent chemo and radiation therapy as well as participated in clinical trials at MD Anderson.  

Beth immediately contacted me after learning of my diagnosis to let me know that she was available anytime I had questions.  Beth and I finally had a chance to talk the day before I was meeting with my surgeon to schedule a double mastectomy. We talked for nearly an hour about the process her mother had taken, which was the same procedure I was about to schedule.  Beth shared with me her mother’s wisdom, “If she had it to do all over again, she would have gone for the cancer first.”  

The very next day I met with my surgeon.  With a smile she asked if we were still scheduling a double mastectomy.  I told her that as much as I wanted to get rid of the very breasts that were trying to kill me, I truly believed that God sent Beth, and her mother Gail, to have me “Go after the cancer first.” My surgeon understood my decision and we scheduled for a lumpectomy.  After all, my tumor was only 1 cm.  What harm could that little thing cause, right?

After surgery I found out that the cancer was present in two of my lymph nodes.  We knew that this meant I would HAVE to have chemotherapy to track down any loose cells floating around in my body.  Ms. Gail was 100% correct!  There is no telling the trouble I would have dealt with had I gone through with the original double mastectomy and had to wait an extended period before I could start chemo.  I thanked Beth and her mom every chance I could for leading me down the right path, and in my heart, saving my life! 

Gail was an angel here on earth not only to me, but to every person that was blessed to know her.  She lived each day with a loving and fighting spirit that inspired and encouraged us all! I am sorry to share that Gail’s battle with cancer came to an end on Sept. 5, 2012.  She is survived by her husband of 39 years, Greg Cloutier, their two children – Matt and Beth Cloutier (married to Sam Miller), and her two grandchildren Vincent and Ryan Miller.  Gail will be missed and remembered by all who knew her. 

Another Breast Cancer Club member that taught me to live life to the fullest and laugh as often as possible is my friend Shanti’s mother, Luvenia Johnson.  In July’s issue I shared the story of Mama’s “Maine” Adventure.  I am happy to share that Mama is now cancer free and dancing in the heavens – she passed peacefully with Shanti by her side on October 2, 2012.  

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month – it is time to paint the town PINK!  Join us in supporting and remembering those who have battled breast cancer.  Showing your support for breast cancer can give even a stranger passing by the courage to continue fighting! Let’s all become Pinkalicious and kick cancer’s @$$! 

Cheryl Copeland is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about life’s lessons and her personal adventure with breast cancer.