Love, Hope and Life. When I thought about our approach to our Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, I kept coming back to keeping the message authentic and transparent. I've witnessed firsthand the battle with cancer. I've seen how it can transform not only the individuals that battle the disease but also the friends and families that fight for their loved ones. It's a heart wrenching journey that will forever change the course of your life. I had the opportunity to connect personally with some of the folks at the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation and wanted to tell the stories of the individuals that they support on a daily basis. The stories you're going to read over the next month feature amazing women with even more amazing support networks. We spent hours with these women - we laughed and we cried. Perhaps most importantly, we captured the story of cancer and their fight to live. I've tried my best to keep these words as authentic to the words that were spoken in our interviews and I hope I've done a good job at capturing the raw emotion that went into these meetings. You're never to healthy or young for cancer. It doesn't care about your race, sex or age. You can be rich or poor, it has no preference. Cancer will try to break you. It will challenge every ounce of fight you have in your body and it will push you beyond your limits. My heart goes out to those who battle the disease and my thoughts are forever with those families who have lost loved ones. I know firsthand...your lives will never be the same. I am going to do my part to help find a cure and I ask for your support in doing the same. We are donating 20% of the proceeds from the sale of each Love, Hope & Life bangle bracelet to The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation. Let's kick cancers ass!                                                                                                                                                                                     
Fred Magnanimi
Founder, Luca + Danni
 

Jennifer's Story

My name is Jennifer, and I am a breast cancer survivor.

Cancer runs in my genes. I lost my mom to ovarian cancer when I was 21 years old, and she lost her mom to breast cancer at the same age. Needless to say, I was happy to turn 22.

My life was very typical. I was married to an amazing man, we had a young family, and we had our whole lives ahead of us. My son was three and we just had twin girls. One night while breast feeding, I noticed a lump in my breast, and immediately had it checked. Originally, the doctors thought it was a clogged milk duct, but quickly realized it was far worse. I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, and it had rapidly spread to my lymph nodes. I also learned that I carried the BCRA I gene mutation, which put me at a higher risk for ovarian cancer. Even worse, the BRCA mutation is something I may have unknowingly passed along to my kids.

When I was diagnosed, I made a conscience decision that I wasn’t going to be afraid. My mom wore a wig during her treatment, but I decided a wig wasn’t for me. I’m a 2nd grade teacher, and I wanted my students to know I had breast cancer, and I wasn’t afraid. I’ve always been a positive person, and I refused to let cancer change that. My battle with cancer actually enhanced my view of life, and a lot of that has to do with my amazing husband, Mike and my kids.

 Mike didn’t sign up for cancer, it was a difficult journey that wouldn’t have been possible without his love, guidance and strength. My mother-in-law was amazing, too. She moved in and helped out with the kids, and she was the mom figure when I needed my mom. I knew my mom was fighting with me, in spirit. I am eternally grateful for the love and support my husband and mother-in-law gave me throughout my journey—not everyone receives that kind of love and support.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have a second chance at life and that’s something I don’t take for granted. What are you going to do with your life?

 

Gina's Story

My name is Gina and I am a breast cancer survivor.

I was exposed to cancer early in my life. My mom is a breast cancer survivor for 11 years and while I always thought I was educated about cancer, I honestly thought I had more time.  

There are random moments that forever change the course of your life. One night in 2012, I was sitting on the couch and was stretching before I went to bed. I felt a lump and immediately told my husband. I was 34 years old and while my mom had breast cancer, I didn't do self exams because I thought I was too young. It was in that moment that I learned that cancer doesn't discriminate against age.   

I was lucky with my diagnosis and didn’t need chemotherapy. I was able to do outpatient radiation treatments, and ultimately, “beat it.” It was a euphoric high for my family and me. But, you never really beat cancer, and there’s no such thing as true remission. Four years later, during a routine oncology visit, they found another lump. This time, I wasn’t as lucky. I needed chemo and opted to have my ovaries removed, because the cancer was fueled by estrogen. I wasn’t going to give cancer an advantage over me, and the decision was an easy one.

I’m excited to turn 40, because being 39 really sucked! I’m going to make every moment in my life count, and I’m going to do it with the ones I love. My kids have been absolutely amazing, and my husband, Scott has been my rock. He stuck around, and my fight became his fight.

I have a third chance at life, and I’m going to make every moment count.

 

Charlotte's Story

My name is Charlotte and I am a breast cancer survivor.

On November 6, 2013, I turned 40. It also happened to be the day I had a routine doctor’s appointment. During the visit, the doctor suggested a mammogram. I was young, healthy, so I almost didn’t get my mammogram. But, I trusted my doctor and the results of that test changed my life.

I had no family history of breast cancer. I didn’t want to believe the diagnosis, so I went for a second opinion and those doctors recommended genetic testing. The results came back positive for BRCA 2, and the decision was easy. I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy and have my ovaries removed. I was lucky, we caught it early.

Over the next year, I underwent five surgeries. My body rejected the procedures and the emotional toll on my family and me as the toughest part of the cancer journey. My old child kept everything bottled up inside, while my youngest told me he “didn’t want to catch it.” I lost my mother and my grandmother shortly after I finished with all the surgeries. My cancer took an emotional toll on them.

Through it all, my husband Mitch was my rock, and I couldn’t have done it without his love and support.

You live only once, and I’ve learned that life is too short.

 

Erica's Story

Erica was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer in December 2014 and she left us within six months.  Cancer is always a difficult battle but this situation was unique - at the time she was diagnosed, Erica was 13 weeks pregnant.  The doctor's were certain that Erica couldn't carry a baby and, if she did, if she'd be able to deliver a healthy baby and survive in the process.
 
Erica always had an amazing heart. She would always give something she had to someone she felt needed it more. She accomplished so much in 32 years, things that other people couldn't accomplish in an entire lifetime. When Erica walked into a room, she lit that room up with her smile.

Erica was ultimately hospitalized in March and she never came home again. She did carry that pregnancy and a healthy 34 week old baby Ella was born in April. It was a miracle baby and our lives, attitudes and faith were changed forever. One staff member at Woman & Infants said they've never seen anything so miraculous, so intense. 

On June 23rd, Erica's brother Ryan went to visit her in the hospital with his acoustic guitar in hopes that he could provide some musical therapy. He played Amazing Grace, which was one of Erica's favorite songs. When Ryan sang the last word of the song, Erica opened her eyes and her mouth, and that was when she took her last breath. It was devastating to lose Erica, but the gift that our children gave each other will remain in our hearts forever.

Erica was a gift and we're honored to call her our angel!

 

Carol's Story

I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer in January, 2014. I was a healthy 51 year old woman and an avid runner with no history of cancer in my family.

I have know the Magnanimi family for over 20 years and remember when Danny and Fred were young children. I was close with Danny when he went through his battle with cancer and it was a very difficult time for me. Danny passed away in April of 2013 and less a year later, I was dealing with cancer after having seen it's impact firsthand. You can plan your life but ultimately you just have to roll with the challenges and embrace the journey.

Everyone needs a support network. Cancer brought me closer to my Dad - he brought me to the hospital for my surgeries and was there during the worst days of my chemo treatments. I also want to thank my neighbor Olga who helped me shave my head (that was an emotional moment) and my friends Racyne and Julie for all of their love and support.

Lastly but perhaps most importantly, I want to stress that it pays to schedule your regular check ups. I live a healthy lifestyle but was a year late on my colonoscopy. If I had went when I was 50, there's a chance that they might have caught it early and I wouldn't have been diagnosed as stage 3.