Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Insider's Story

This entry was written by Michelle Zeigler, LBBC's Marketing & Communications Assistant:

I always assumed yoga was for flexible people. Not for someone like me—who can barely reach down and touch her toes; someone who trips over a jump rope and somehow falls over an aerobics step at the gym. When I was hired at Living Beyond Breast Cancer as the Marketing & Communications Assistant, I knew I’d be working on Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. And I knew I needed to understand—really understand—what the event was all about.

It’s hard to explain what the event means, because it holds different meanings for different people. For me, this was an opportunity to help change the lives of so many women. Women whom I had never even met. It was an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself—and bigger than my everyday stresses. Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer gave me an opportunity to step outside of myself and put life in perspective. There are women out there going through much more than me—and staying positive. They’re living their lives to the fullest. Couldn’t I take some time to focus on someone other than myself?

So I decided to not only help plan the event, but to join Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s fundraising team and help raise the money. You may be saying to yourself, I’m no fundraiser. Well, neither am I. Marketing and fundraising are two completely different things!

What kept me motivated to raise the money? The women we serve. Women whose phone calls I take each day. Women who tell me they’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer and are afraid. Women who tell me they need support. Women who tell me they’ve chosen to live their lives as fully as possible. Women who tell me they have hope.

I also do it for the caregivers. Those whose loved ones have been diagnosed, but who remain by their side. Husbands that stand by their wives. Daughters that encourage their mothers. Friends that help a loved one without being asked. I raise the money for them.

When I stood at the bottom of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps last year, I watched as families gathered together to do the yoga poses. I watched as two friends embraced. I watched as fundraising teams with matching shirts encouraged one another. It was breathtaking and overwhelming, all at the same time. So many people from so many walks of life…all in one place for the same reason.

I’ll always remember that moment. I remember that moment when I’m stressing over not having enough time in the day. I remember that moment when I’m sitting in traffic and feeling the weight of inconvenience upon me. I remember that moment when I’m angry with a loved one. I remember it and think, life is so much greater than this. Am I always successful at stepping outside of myself? Of course not. But this event has made me think hard about life and how I want to live it. And I’m thankful for that.

Have a story to share? Leave a comment here or on our Facebook Page. It's with your support that we can raise $200,000 for the nearly 200,000 women that will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Snapshot

We can tell you how amazing Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer is (which we do). But pictures also speak for themselves...

Unfortunately nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone. That's why we've set a fundraising goal of $200,000 for this year's event. Will you help us? Check out the website and become a fan of Yoga Unites for LBBC on Facebook. And of course...spread the word!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Never done yoga before? No problem!

This entry was written by Yarissa Reyes, our Marketing & Communications Manager:

When I first heard about Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer I must admit I was a little intimated by the thought of hundreds of people doing a yoga class on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. Doing weird poses in front of strangers? No thank you.

I always thought of yoga as something spiritual people did to get in touch with their inner self, you know the whole meditation thing. The more I learned about the event, however, the more intrigued I became. I started reading some of the blog entries and talked with numerous people who had participated in years past. Everyone had one thing in common to say: You have to try it!

When I saw pictures of the event from previous years, I was in awe. It’s inspiring to see so many people together in unity – men, women, children, teens, young ones and not so young – all together for one great cause. Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer is unique in that you don’t have to run or walk, you need not be in excellent physical shape to participate, all you need is to be there and breathe.

What I’m looking forward to the most is seeing everyone together in a sense of community, a community of support for women affected by breast cancer.

Something else that is inspiring is the banner that is signed by everyone in honor of, in support of, in memory of… When the event is over, the banner is filled with names and pictures and signatures. It’s a vivid reminder that we’re all touched by cancer in some way.

I can’t wait until May 16. I’m looking forward to taking my little corner on the steps of the Museum with my husband, my two daughters, friends and family. I want to take lots of pictures so I can share with those who aren’t able to make it to this year’s event but who are supporting me in my efforts of raising money for LBBC.

If you have doubts about taking part in this event, I invite you to read the other blog posts, take a look at the photos and video and join the online community on Facebook. I promise you that you’ll want to try it too!

Monday, February 8, 2010


This post was written by one of the women we serve:

I was 19 years old and life couldn’t get any better. I was going into my junior year in college as a teaching major, had a wonderful boyfriend, and a new family who loved me. I was two weeks away from my 20th birthday, and I was so excited to be done with my teenage years. But a routine yearly exam with my doctor made my life come to a stand still… or so it felt. On May 28, 2008, I was diagnosed with Stage IIIA breast cancer.

From my doctor, I went to the hospital where an ultrasound was performed. The following day I was sent to a bigger hospital for a biopsy. (Living in more than small town USA you have to go away for anything other than ordinary medical care.) Six days later I was laying on an operating table in the middle of a lumpectomy. Over the course of the next 18 months I would have four more lumpectomies. May 28, 2008 changed me as a person and as a human– to me there is a very big difference. I thought, wait… this can’t be happening to me. I’m an athlete and a healthy, happy, young woman.

I remained numb for about 3 months. Through chemotherapy, and 2 more lumpectomies I refused to take on the role of cancer victim. I was so angry at life and at everyone around me because I was in a world all my own; a world no one around me could understand or wanted to understand. August came and I went back to college. I have remained in school through the entire 18 months of my battle. I am now 21 years old.

This past summer, two days before I turned 21, I found out the cancer had metastasized to my ovaries- a very rare location for this cancer to spread to. Since then, I have gone through six months of targeted therapy with strict diets and exercise routines. I was told on November 19, 2009 that my cancer had gone into remission. I went last week for my first PET scan, and the cancer was back with a vengeance. I already have two new tumors. I skipped the depressed state and went straight to angry. This quickly turned to constructive anger and I became proactive in getting treatment.

I am scheduled for a complete hysterectomy on Friday, January 12th. I am very scared. The mastectomy has to wait until school is out. I am currently in my student teaching and am set to graduate in May 2010. The hysterectomy will leave some sense of peace in me I hope. I am determined to be back into remission by graduation.

There are so many people who have made this journey possible. They added humor and joy to each day. They carried me when I thought tomorrow would never come. I lost many people through my diagnosis, but found others who truly are the best of friends. Don’t ever give up because when you see only one set of footprints, because it means you’re being carried when you no longer have the strength.

It's stories like these that are the reason why we hold events like Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer (YU4LBBC). Will you help us raise $200,000 for women affected by breast cancer? Visit the event website to learn more and get involved.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Shared Experience

This entry was written by Dorel Shanon, a breast cancer survivor who has attended Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer every year:

Dorel in action

My daughter Ari attended her first Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer event with me when she was in second grade. I went by myself the first year after completing treatment for breast cancer. It was a magical, powerful and incredibly transformative experience that I will never forget. That morning allowed me to take one more step in moving beyond my experience with breast cancer. I was excited to bring my daughter with me the second year. What I didn't realize was that the event would begin to define a partnership for us over the next six years.

Ari loved her first Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer event, and her small and incredibly energetic body moved effortlessly through the various poses. While the meditative moments were probably challenging for her, she enjoyed it and soon began taking a children’s yoga class in our neighborhood. We also began using yogic breathing techniques together whenever she was anxious or stressed. Although Ari’s yoga practice is now relegated to the annual Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer event (she prefers soccer, softball and other sports), she’s learned so much from participating in the event. It's also turned her into a successful fundraiser.

A few years ago, Ari decided to raise funds for LBBC by creating a fundraising team for her Bat Mitzvah project. Though she would probably describe herself as somewhat shy and not a natural fundraiser, she raised $3000 for LBBC that year. She also created her own team, Team Dreams, and brought about 25 people to the event. Last year Ari and I partnered together to raise money for her team and raised about $5000. We spent the morning on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, surrounded by her friends and many of their moms. It was amazing to see the young girls moving and stretching their bodies to Jennifer’s calm and inspiring meditations, holding graceful poses while we, the moms, tried hard to keep up! It was wonderful to see them take in the calm and focus that comes with the practice of yoga, especially in their otherwise insanely hectic lives. It was also moving to see this group of teenagers surrounded by breast cancer survivors.

That first Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer event gave me the opportunity to share with my daughter the importance of deep breathing to quiet the mind and create an inner peace, even for a moment. As she reminds me, it wasn’t always helpful or even possible to do this, especially during a temper tantrum! But now it’s not unusual for her to come to me when I’m feeling particularly stressed or anxious and say: “Mom, just take some deep breaths and focus. You’ll feel better if you do.”

I am filled with joy every year, when we walk up the steps of the Art Museum for our morning of yoga. The event, in and of itself, has given us a wonderful, shared experience. Beyond that, Ari has learned some important things from Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer: to strive to be fully present in each moment, to be grateful for the wonders of her body, and all it has to offer, to be in community with others whose lives have all been touched in some way by breast cancer, and to give back to an organization that has given so much to me and to our family.

Want to join this amazing event? Visit the event website and get involved by forming a fundraising team. Like Ari & Dorel, you can help us reach our goal of raising $200,000 for women affected by breast cancer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

From Survivor to Thriver

This post was written by Edie Weinstein, who attended last year's event.

In early 2009, I reconnected with a friend whom I haven't spoken with for 30 years. He introduced me to his wife Andi Morris. A Center City Philadelphia area Realtor, Andi is also a two time breast cancer survivor, who shares, “I was diagnosed when I was 37 and then when I was 43, I was re-diagnosed.”

With the initial diagnosis, she was frightened and shocked. With the second diagnosis, came anger, “because I was working so hard to get beyond breast cancer.” Andi has a full, rich life that includes travel, returning to work and volunteering for an amazing organization called Living Beyond Breast Cancer. She is also an active board member for the organization.

I came face to face with this thriver, (my definition: someone who has surpassed survivor mode and reaches out to help others because of his or her own experience) when I joined a group of 200+ brave souls who gathered on the steps of Philadelphia Museum of Art, on May 17, 2009. This same structure made famous by the pounding feet and upraised arms of Rocky was the holy ground for a gentler endeavor; the 7th Annual Yoga Unites For Living Beyond Breast Cancer. More than $100,000 was raised on a day that carried wind gusts which threatened to blow us into the Schuylkill River!

When I arrived at the event, the gray clouds loomed ominously and the steps were already puddled and slippery. As I stood from the next-to-top tier of the steps and gazed downward, I looked with delight at the rainbow sea of mats and people gathered. All ages, body sizes, levels of yoga-expertise, some familiar faces from the yoga community (which I have come to know has some of the biggest hearts in the world) some new companions in the mission to support survivors in re-creating their of choice and chance, we were becoming.

As for Andi? Her team of friends surrounded her during the yoga event, coyly calling themselves “Andi's Girls,” a double entendre' in reference to her reconstructed breasts.
To help ensure that others keep laughing in the midst of their own challenges while they live with and beyond breast cancer, please visit the Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer website. Form a fundraising team to help us reach our new goal of raising $200K for women affected by breast cancer!

Edie Weinstein is a free-lance journalist, speaker, social worker, Bliss Mistress, PR Goddess, Joy Coach and Cosmic Concierge, as well as an interfaith minister. Her website is