2016 Calendar Model ~ Meet Becca Ostman

By: Jamie McAllister                                                                                                     

Rebecca McNeal (Ostman) was 32 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 2A ductal carcinoma in January of 2012. She lives in Chesapeake with her life partner of two years, Tiffany Foster; their four children, Savannah, 17, Rebeckah, 14, Joshua, 11, and Noah, 7; and several felines, Jasmine, Bones, Billy, Nip, Tuck, and Miss Kitty. She works at Old Dominion University as a vessel captain/engineer. She runs her department’s research vessel and performs all of the maintenance on it.

Rebecca has been selected as one of the calendar models for A Calendar to Live By 2016. In her unique and humorous tone, Rebecca describes how her breast cancer was discovered, her involvement with Beyond Boobs!, and why Soleil Moon Frye and Sara Gilbert, in her opinion, are better than a Baywatch beefcake.

What led to your diagnosis?becca

I felt a lump and my primary care physician sent me to by OBGYN, Erin Kann, who rocks. She got me to Jenny Reed, who cut that sucker out with a quickness. The pea-sized lump had grown to egg-size in two weeks.

How did you find out about Beyond Boobs!?

Sara Jones, a Boober!, former calendar model, and long-time friend who has since passed away, got me to reach out to the group, and Boober! Charlene Cattoi explained to me why I needed them and welcomed me into the fold.

What is your favorite healthy food/dish?

Homemade organic pizza, salad, hormone-free chicken on the grill, and homemade Thai food.

Who are your biggest supporters?

Tiffany, Savannah, my mom, and my sisters.

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

My embarrassing boy crush from before I knew I was gay was Jeremy Jackson, who played Hobie on Baywatch. I still have three of the posters that adorned my wall in my “life treasures box” and I still rock his Always CD that I had imported from Germany, LOL. My unyielding love for Punky Brewster and Darlene from Roseanne should have tipped me off, though. Eventually, Darlene posters replaced Jeremy, LOL.

One word to describe yourself:

Polarizing.

What does being selected as a calendar model mean to you?

It means representing Beyond Boobs! in yet another way. It means representing my age/orientation/cancer type/lifestyle/reason for diagnosis in a place that reaches a wide audience, hopefully to educate other women like me that they ARE at risk. It is the first reason to buy a new dress since high school prom. And it is a way to celebrate my health and future with those I love.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

Teaching the awesome videographer how to use one of my “accessories.” My photo shoot made me feel like one of my ancestors and I hope it echoes them and my heritage beautifully.

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2016 Calendar Model~ Meet Brittany Pronia

By: Jamie McAllister

When Brittany Pronia felt a lump in her right breast accompanied by sharp pain, her primary care physician ordered an ultrasound that was performed on her 29th birthday. The results came back as abnormal and in October 2014 she was diagnosed with Stage 1A, triple-negative, invasive ductal carcinoma with spots of ductal carcinoma in situ throughout her right breast.

After her diagnosis at Langley Air Force Base’s medical group, Brittany received a handout with a list of local breast cancer support. The handout described Beyond Boobs! as a meeting place for women who were diagnosed at a younger age. Two years later, Brittany is now an enthusiastic Boober! and will represent BB! as one of the models in A Calendar to Live By 2016.

Brittany and her husband of six years, Phillip Jr., live in Hampton with their children, daughters Piper, 5; Presley, 2; brittanyand Alexys, 13; and their son, Anthony, 10. Their pit bull, Hazmat, and their cat, Jax, add plenty of fur and love to the family. Brittany works as a reliability engineer at Caterpillar Marine Asset Intelligence.

Here Brittany shares her summer plans, the lengths she went to as a teenager for Backstreet Boys concert tickets, and how she feels about being selected as a Beyond Boobs! calendar model.

What is your favorite Beyond Boobs! event or activity?

So far, my favorite Beyond Boobs! event has been Breast Fest and Mr. Breast Fest is definitely the reason why! I’ve only been with Beyond Boobs! for about seven months, so I haven’t been around to attend everything, but I definitely enjoyed the guys strutting their stuff in custom-made bras, trying to raise some cash for this awesome group of ladies, myself included.

What are your summer plans?

Family, family, family! Living far away from everyone turns vacation time into time spent visiting family. I plan on spending the Fourth of July with my parents, brother, and niece back home in Alabama while visiting others, as well. I’m also taking my girls to a family reunion for my husband’s family in Arkansas that, unfortunately, he will miss since he is on deployment.

What is your favorite dessert indulgence?

I *bleeping* love ice cream!

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

My teenage celebrity crush was Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. I had a wallpaper of posters and magazine pages covering my bedroom walls and was even fortunate enough to get tickets to their Millennium tour for my 14th birthday by camping out overnight at a Blockbuster to be the first in line to purchase them. At the concert, I showed my love by writing (in Sharpie) “I LOVE YOU, NICK!” across my stomach and lifting my shirt up as he flew over me on some sort of surfboard thing on his way to the stage. I was able to snap a picture, and I’m pretty sure he was looking at me, LOL. 

What does being selected as a calendar model mean to you?

As a calendar model, I feel I represent those who should NOT get breast cancer, but, somehow, still do. I started my period at 13 (not too young); I had my first child at 24 (not too old); I breastfed two babies for a total of 18 months; I haven’t gone through menopause; I’m a healthy weight; and I have no family history of breast cancer. I feel that seeing my story will make other young women more aware of their bodies and help them to become better advocates for the health of their breasts. If, in the least, that leads to one more self-exam or, at the most, that helps save a life, then being a calendar model means everything to me.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

The most impactful moment of my photo shoot was filming the video. I was asked by the videographer what I would say to one of my daughters if they were diagnosed with breast cancer. Of course that thought had crossed my mind, and continues to do so, but I had never had to vocalize that to anyone else before. It led to an overwhelmingly emotional response that I was not expecting, especially since I had been so strong through everything else.

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Calendar Model ~ Meet Mary Ashby

By: Jamie McAllister

Mary Ashby didn’t mess around when she felt a golf-ball-sized lump in her breast while performing a self-exam in the shower. Her mother was a breast cancer survivor and Mary took her higher risk for the disease seriously. She went straight to the ER to be checked out and to request a mammogram. Right after her 35th birthday, in late August 2013, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma.

Mary is thrilled to be representing Beyond Boobs!, along with ten of her Boober! sisters, in A Calendar to Live By 2016. She resides in Williamsburg with her husband, Vernon, her seven-year-old daughter Mary, and her mom, also named Mary. She works as an IT specialist for the Department of Defense. Here she talks about her involvement with BB!, shares her favorite recipe for kale salad, and explains how much it means to her to be a calendar model.

How did you hear about Beyond Boobs!?ma

I have a friend who knew about Beyond Boobs! She passed my information to the executive director, Mary Beth Gibson. The rest is history.

Who are your biggest supporters?

My biggest supporters are my husband, my daughter, my mom, and my closest friends, Jackie and Erica.

What is your favorite healthy food/dish?

Currently my favorite health food is kale salad. I first tasted it at the Beyond Boobs! retreat. One of the Boober! sisters brought it. My husband and I now eat it every day for lunch. It has kale, carrots, red onions, cherry tomatoes, craisins, and a light vinaigrette dressing. It’s practically all raw and delicious!

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

I’ve never really been star-struck. I did love to watch Scottie Pippen play basketball when he played for the Chicago Bulls and I had a poster of him on my bedroom wall.

One word to describe yourself:

Happy!

What does being selected as a calendar model mean to you?

I am really excited to represent this organization. I’m also excited to be able to share my story with other women who need to know that breast cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I am excited to have this platform to share that, despite how scary this road can be, there are others here for you if you let them.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

It was probably the “joy” of trying to get the photo shoot just right. That will be an inside joke until September. I was impressed with the creative thoughts. It meant a lot that Beyond Boobs! wanted to perfect the moment.

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Calendar Model ~ Meet Jennifer Cherry

By: Jamie McAllister

Jennifer Holub Cherry was already familiar with Beyond Boobs! when she was diagnosed with Stage 2B ductal carcinoma in situ in late January of 2013. She had learned about BB! when she saw the group at several different community events. When Jennifer was diagnosed after the first mass in her breast was found during a routine annual mammogram and a subsequent MRI found the other two, she knew she needed and wanted to be a part of BB!. She attended her first meeting within two weeks of her diagnosis and since she was joining such a loving, dedicated group of Boobers!, it was only fitting that her first meeting took place on Valentine’s Day.Jenn Cherry

Jennifer works as a business and facilities manager and has a 16-year-old daughter named Katelynn. Three fur babies also have free roam of the Cherry home in Newport News: Buddy James, a pit bull/boxer mix; Tyler John, a miniature pinscher; and Bella Bean, a spoiled rotten nine-month-old kitten.

Today we get a chance to peer behind the curtain to learn more about Jennifer, including a must-have item for her beach bag, her teenage fantasies about John Stamos, and her involvement with Beyond Boobs! as a model for A Calendar to Live By 2016.

What is your favorite summer beach read?

Any romance novel. Throw in a little comedy and I’ll have it finished in no time, ready for the next one!

What is the best advice you have received about living beyond breast cancer?

Everything is YOUR decision. Listen to what the doctors advise you to do, listen to what your family and friends advise you to do, but at the end of the day, it is ultimately YOUR decision what you will do, because IT IS YOUR LIFE and YOU HAVE TO LIVE IT!

Who was your teenage celebrity heartthrob? How did you show your undying love?

John Stamos!! He first played “Blackie” on General Hospital and I was hooked. Even though we weren’t supposed to watch soap operas, my grandmother would let us get away with it and we could watch them with her. I just wanted to run my fingers through that silky black hair and have him sing to me all night long!

What is your favorite BB! event or activity?

The Old Dudes Motorcycle Club Poker Run is one of my favorite BB! events. Spending time with such an amazing group of Dudes and Dudettes who give so much of themselves to help us is truly priceless. They give of their time, talents, and money and ask for absolutely nothing in return. They are truly an inspiration and I can’t thank them enough for what they do for our wonderful survivors! Thank you and we love each and every one of you!!

What does being selected as a calendar model mean to you?

Being selected means I can spread the BB! mission that much more than I already do. I will be able to make more people aware of why we are here and what our goals are for young women diagnosed with breast cancer. I can help educate more and more people and have a larger impact in the breast-cancer community. God kept me around for a reason, and spreading the message of BB! is part of that reason.

What was the most impactful moment of your calendar model photo shoot?

The beautiful [videographer] Alexis [Kikoen] was asking me questions for the video when I suddenly got emotional. I was talking about someone extremely important to me and I couldn’t look at her even though she was standing right there next to Alexis because I knew if I did, I would totally lose control. As everyone knows, I don’t like to lose control! When you see the video you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

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Can Having Breast Cancer Be Lucky?

Can Having Breast Cancer Be Lucky?

Now that St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, we wish for the the luck o’ the Irish. We look for lucky symbols, like four-leaf clovers or horseshoes. However, can anyone diagnosed with breast cancer really consider herself lucky? We recently posed that question to our Boobers! on Facebook and we would like to share with you some of the heartfelt responses we received.

four leaf cloverFor the Luck of Cancer

By: Melissa Powell

If you were to see the scars that rest on my now flattened chest, you might not consider me lucky. But you are not looking deep enough. If you were to watch me climb out of bed each morning, stiff from the medicine that continues to keep the stalker at bay, you would not consider me lucky. But you are still not looking deep enough. If you were to sit with me as I wait for the next scan that could determine whether or not I will see my children grow, you would not consider me lucky. But you have yet to see the miracle that has occurred.

Before cancer I raced through life, running toward an invisible finish line. I often neglected to stop and look at the change in scenery, the changes in my children’s faces, or the amazing beauty this life has to offer. Before cancer I would often put work before family, obligations before fun, and daily life before living. Before cancer I was in a dark room with only a flashlight to see the things that surrounded me.

Cancer has flooded my once dark room with light. I can now see all of the beauty that encompasses my life. I see my children snuggled close beside me, telling me of their dreams. I can see my beautiful partner, who I barely knew these last thirteen years. I can see that quiet meditation calms my once racing mind. I can finally see that life is now – not yesterday or tomorrow – but is unfolding as quickly as I type these words.

I was lost before cancer, floating through life like the last leaf falling from a barren tree. I found myself in cancer and found that luck is something that surrounds you every day – you just have to turn the lights on.

Luck as a Way of Life

By: Michele Yepez

Luck is more than a simple word for many women who find themselves subjected to the big C. For some, it becomes a way of life. The entire idea of finding out you have cancer is considered an incredible stroke of bad luck, and yet so many women feel the luck they have to get them through it far outweighs what got them there in the first place. The support systems we have – friends by our side, new women who enter our lives – seem part of our lives because of luck as much as anything else. Are we lucky because of who we had when we entered our journey, and those whom we meet along the way? Are we any less lucky for having to face this journey in the first place?

Luck is subjective. Some of us feel that luck, as it is most often discussed, does not really exist. One woman recently stated she believes “Everything happens for a reason.” It could be that this is a different way to define luck. Others refer to their luck as a blessing, or fate. When talking about luck in these terms, we zero in on the positive influence of the word. Even if you don’t believe luck exists, or that the word has any particular power, for the most part, and on some level, we believe in the concept as a whole. Whether we work for our luck or it is through some divine force, we all seem to agree it is there.

There is another side of luck when we are faced with a diagnosis that shatters our reality. The word can morph into a frustrating epithet instead of the uplifting validation it was meant to be. Once we face our “luck” – or whatever we call it at the time – phrases like “You’re so lucky to have found the tumor now!” or “How lucky to have so many people to help take care of you!” aren’t always regarded in the inspiring way they are intended. And then, a feeling of guilt. Before the diagnosis, this wasn’t something we struggled with. Outside positivity didn’t come with the grains of salt they seem loaded with now, and the bright side coming from someone across that invisible line never seemed anything but kind. Yet, we agree, and even tell others the same things as they go through their struggles. But one major thing is different. When a person has not gone through what we have, they can’t see how a little word like “luck” can take on a whole new significance.

While there is plenty to go back and forth over when it comes to this four-letter word, one thing everyone seems to agree on is this: If there is nothing else to feel lucky about during this journey, we are all incredibly lucky to have found each other because beyond the boobs, surgeries and treatments we endure, our sisters are a huge part of saving our lives. We are, truly, lucky to have each other.

Finding Luck

By: Charlene Smith Cattoi

Yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer! This is my story . . .

I am now 57 years old. Oops, I mean young! On Tuesday, October 9th, 2001, while I was at work, I received the phone call. The voice on the other end of the line told me “Charlene, I’m sorry. You have cancer.”

NO! I didn’t feel lucky then, however . . .

About five years after the diagnosis, I found Beyond Boobs! Through this breast health group I started to find my luck. I wish I could say I always felt lucky; however I have felt F.U.D. – FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, and DOUBT. That feeling of luck was hidden under the FUD. Through the support of Beyond Boobs! and the many faces of breast cancer that came into my life through this amazing group, I dug deep past FUD. I was shown strength and courage.

When I felt “Why me!” I thought . . . Then who? Why not me?!  I let my cancer show me humor, beauty, love, support, more humor, friends, family, life . . . Like I had never seen before!!!!!

I am LUCKY that I have been able to give back in some small way, I hope! Thank you, Beyond Boobs!, for helping me find my LUCK through great people who give from their hearts, minds, and souls! These are the Boobers! (survivors) and Boostiers! (supporters). Because of YOU I am truly LUCKY!!!! And I have a life list!

Yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and yes, I am lucky!

 

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Beyond the Boobers! ~ Stories of Support ~ Mother Confronts Cancer Again

Mother Confronts Cancer Again with Daughter’s Diagnosis

By: Jamie McAllister

Mary McLean comes from a long line of women named Mary. She continued that particular family tradition when she named her daughter, Boober! Mary Ashby. To cut down on confusion, the elder Mary goes by Ms. Mary. Ms. Mary and her daughter share more than a name, though. They were also both diagnosed with breast cancer.

The first time around

Ms. Mary was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in November of 2002 after she felt a bump while performing a routine self-exam.

“I felt something that didn’t feel quite right, so I went to my family doctor,” Ms. Mary explained.

Ms. Mary will never forget how she felt when she heard the diagnosis. “It was chilling,” she said. “My main thought was that I had to try to have a positive point of view. I told myself that I was going to be OK.”

She was 60 years old when she was diagnosed. Ms. Mary went through chemo and radiation and had a lumpectomy performed on her left breast. She turned to a friend in South Carolina for support; the two had been members of the same church. Ms. Mary called her friend after receiving the news because she knew her friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a double mastectomy.

“She provided a lot of support and encouraged me to hang in there,” Ms. Mary said. “Sadly, she has since passed away.”

The second time around

In August of 2013 Ms. Mary’s daughter, Mary Ashby, felt a lump in her breast during a routine self-exam. Mary had always performed self-exams, but her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis had made her even more aware of their benefits. “Mary had been told before that she had lumpy breasts,” Ms. Mary said. “They told her she was too young to have breast cancer and passed it off.”

After Mary moved from Fairfax, Virginia, to Williamsburg, she found a lump in her breast and under her arm. She went to the ER and they sent her to a doctor, who found a lump in her breast and sent her to have a mammogram. She insisted they find out what was going on and a mammogram and biopsy were performed on her left breast.

Mary was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at only 35 years old.

“I felt that same chill I experienced when I was diagnosed,” Ms. Mary said. “It was like repeating my own experience.” Ms. Mary was relieved that doctors had delivered a diagnosis, even though the prospect of cancer was frightening. “We were happy to finally know what was going on,” she said. “After you find out what is happening, it is easier to deal with it.”

Mary underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments, as well as a mastectomy. Her husband and mother both accompanied her to appointments for treatment.

As a mother, it was difficult for Ms. Mary to see her daughter go through cancer treatment. “Lots of things go through your mind when you see your child sick,” Ms. Mary said. “I gave her all of the love, understanding, and support that I could give. I just kept saying ‘Lord, give me the strength to keep holding on.’”

Embracing Life2MaryShades

Ms. Mary is grateful that her daughter has a group like Beyond Boobs! to turn to for help and guidance. “They have been through the same things she has,” Ms. Mary said. “They understand how she feels from day to day.”

Ms. Mary doesn’t believe in pity parties and she encourages everyone to live life to the fullest, no matter what. “Many times people aren’t going to understand what you’re going through because they haven’t been there,” she said. “But you need to enjoy life. If you can afford something and want to do it, do it. It can be something as simple as going out to lunch, shopping, or attending church. Anything that gets you out and keeps you going.”

Ms. Mary credits her faith for helping her and her family through the rough patches in life. “The Lord has kept us thus far, and we believe that He will continue to guide us from here,” she said.

 

 

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Who’s That Girl ~ Meet Lucy ~ 2015 Calendar Girl

By: Jamie McAllister

Lucy McKay of Burke, VA, was first introduced to Beyond Boobs! when she attended the 2013 Dancing with the Stars event put on by BB!  She received a copy of A Calendar to Live By 2014, and when she saw it she knew that she wanted to be a part of it.photo

“I was in the middle of treatment when the photos were taken and I wanted to show people that a woman can be beautiful without hair,” she said. “In the midst of sickness, I was able to still have fun and keep a big smile on my face.”

Lucy has been through so much in the past four years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time in September of 2010. She had numerous surgeries and a double mastectomy as well as chemotherapy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer again in September of 2013, underwent 6 months of chemotherapy and had surgery at the end of July. In September she will undergo radiation treatment.

She said the best part of modeling for the calendar was the camaraderie amongst all the women. She was also impressed by the diversity of the models. “Women can open up the calendar and see themselves in the photos,” she said. “I love that the calendar models were chosen based on their diagnoses and other factors and not their appearances.”

Lucy, 46, is the Director of Finance for Hofheimer Family Law Firm in Virginia Beach. They specialize in divorce and custody cases for women only and are the largest firm in the nation to handle such cases. She and her husband Jon have two children, Myles, 8, and Liam, 5.

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