Welcome to Eye On Strength and even more exciting, welcome to Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
October is definitely an important month to spread awareness for the cause, but at Eye Of The Survivor we treat every day as breast cancer awareness month.
Still, we certainly embrace October, which is also of special importance to us as we kick off and introduce our upcoming calendar for the coming year. Our calendar is the fundamental piece to everything EOTS is!
For anyone who may be new to the EOTS family, in late 2015 photographer Reggy Stainfil founded Eye of The Survivor, debuting our inaugural 2016 calendar dedicated to women who have battled breast cancer and survived. And so began an inspirational journey through his photography, their stories, and a network of support.
To celebrate our 2018 calendar launch, we held our annual kickoff on October 5th, teaming once again with AAngelsNJ for another year of strength and beauty.
Fellow breast cancer survivor Angelina Killane-Sims, and the founder and CEO of AAngelsNJ, spearheaded this year’s event making sure it was as beautiful and classy as all of our fierce survivors, hosting the celebration at The Loft at 350 in the Wilshire Caterers in West Orange. We cannot thank Angelina enough and are so thrilled to be partners-in-pink!
AAngelsNJ is a cancer awareness organization based out of New Jersey and serves as an extended family, support network, and resourceful tool for many local breast cancer patients, survivors, and their families with a focal point mission of serving the undeserved and underinsured.
Angelina has made EOTS a part of her family, and she also made our FREE kickoff event a great success with a sweet turnout of previous calendar survivors as well as many of our new pink dozen: Violet Marquez, Kim Nelson-Edwards, Maggie Joralemon, Sara Snyder, Debbie Hernandez, Kimberleigh Dagro, Marcy Prendes, Tuana Grundy, Carrie Duane, Lisa Crapps, Sharon Daughtry-Simon and Torra Waynick.
For a glimpse of these wonderful women and to support this great cause pick up your copy here for just $10 with all proceeds going to AangelsNJ!
We will introduce and chat more about each of these women in the coming year but for now let's get back to 2017...
Our current survivor for October of this year is Emma Philippe, pictured above. Emma is definitely a fighter who we continue to stand in awe of.
Emma was diagnosed at just 29 with stage 2 breast cancer. [More on stage 2 in this post!]
Before her diagnosis Emma felt healthy and lived an active life. She began to experience pain and fatigue lasting for about a year but didn’t seek medical attention until noticing a dimpling on her right breast. [More on dimpling in this post!]
Emma admits the diagnosis paralyzed her.
"The news of my illness on July 23, 2003 was received with great distress; I recalled it took me three months of denial, and then an ultimate acceptance of my condition. Finally, we scheduled a radical mastectomy with reconstructive surgery for October 13th."
Next, Emma faced an even more unexpected challenge when she fell into a coma for nearly two weeks due to complications during surgery.
This is definitely scary and beyond unfortunate but while it can occur, research and studies have shown that complications, especially as serious as falling into a coma, are very uncommon after a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
After this experience and setback, Emma didn't start chemo until a month later, having had to recuperate from not only surgery but her unanticipated coma.
And treatment wasn't much easier for her with eight rounds of chemo, a total of 40 radiation treatments, plus hormonal therapy, each testing her inner strength and taking a toll on her mind and body.
"I recalled one night sitting in front of the mirror asking myself why me, but out of nowhere the spirit of God began to speak to me, it assured me I was going to be okay. That I was no different from other thousands of women that had gone through the same experience. It was at that moment I accepted my challenge and began to fight."
Thirteen years later, she stands cancer-free and remains grateful.
"The recovery phase of my illness had its ups and downs at times mixed with depression, anger, fear of reoccurrence, but most times with hope."
Emma reminds us that believing in ourselves is as important as any treatment.
"Accept your challenge, know you will beat it, and never be ashamed of your story."
Exactly! Conversation is an integral part of awareness, so let’s keep the conversation going well past October and catch back up next month when we roll out November’s survivor and learn from her experience. Can't wait to see you there!
Before we go, as you know we are very big on birthdays so let's give a huge EOTS happy birthday to Reggy (10/25) and Emma (11/1)! We hope you enjoy your time with loved ones and wish you continued health and happiness in the coming year!