by Erin Thigpen
“On February 14, 2012 I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. This was not a surprise to me as I am a fourth generation BRCA 2 gene carrier and had recently watched my mom and grandma suffer from cancer. On February 24, 2012 I had a bilateral mastectomy—the cancer was removed, but my journey had only just begun. Shortly after followed 8 rounds of chemo, 8 steroid shots, an emergency 3-day stay at the hospital and 33 radiation treatments.
I believe God chose this path for me to empower women to embrace their inner beauty, even when challenges are thrown their way. At a time when I had no eyebrows, eyelashes or hair, I was also the strongest, most positive and most confident about my future. I am proud to say that I am a one-year survivor and just finished the final chapter in March 2013 with my reconstructive surgery and hysterectomy.“
How did you get involved with LIVESTRONG?
I was the emcee at Baylor Healthcare’s Young Adult Cancer Survivor Summit in Arlington, where I met Heidi Adams with Critical Mass. She encouraged me to get involved with LIVESTRONG and to help spread cancer awareness. My husband has also worn his yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet since the day I met him. In addition, I was invited to lobby in Washington D.C. this year!
What are you actively doing in the cancer community?
As Mrs. Texas International, I am volunteering as a motivational speaker at several events across Texas. I am specifically reaching out to young adults that may not be aware of their bodies, family history or available genetic testing. As a fourth generation breast cancer survivor and BRCA 2 gene carrier, my hope is that one day my children will live in a cancer-free world.
What should others do to get involved?
You can make a difference by making a monetary donation, sitting with a patient during chemo treatment, raising awareness by participating in walks or cooking meals for patients after surgery. Even a simple hug goes a long way! Remember, not everyone is blessed with a support system, so don’t ignore someone with cancer—embrace them, because that just may be the only love they receive that day.