Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pink Sunshine

Hello family and friends!

I have lots of pictures to post. I hope to have them up later in the week. You see this has been a busy week. With October being breast cancer awareness month, I have been very involved raising money for the cause and getting the word out about prevention and early detection.

Tuesday I had the pleasure of speaking to Pep Moms. I got to share with them about 5 of the many amazing Godincidences that I experienced after my diagnosis. I felt like I had come full circle since they had so welcomed and encouraged me right after my diagnosis at the winter retreat last February. There was terrific girl named Crystal I have come to know from Mercy Health Systems that went over everything they needed to know about monthly exams and prevention. They gave me a standing ovation celebrating the end of my treatments which warmed my heart very much.

On Thursday I attended a Pink Ribbon Celebration dinner put on by Mercy. I served as a volunteer, decorating a table with my friend Whitney and sister Mitzi. I made some placemats out of scrapbook material and we used an inspiration theme. I left an inspirational book for each to take home. Throughout the night I got to meet with a room full of breast cancer survivors and their medical caregivers. I sat next to a woman named Martha who was a 35 year survivor and the sister of the survivor who had inspired the event. I got lots of hugs from the nurses I have come to know and one of my doctors who has been such an encouragement to me. It was a special night that I won't soon forget.

On Friday several terrific students at coop presented me with a poster they had made just for me. Everyone at coop had signed it. It was something they had come up with and made on their own. I am constantly amazed by the faith and the prayers of young people I meet there. The sign and all of its personal messages were absolutely beautiful and it will always be something I treasure.

The timing of the sign was the perfect send off for the next big event which topped off the week, the Race for the Cure. Our God is Bigger Than Cancer Team ended up being about 50 people strong! It was made up of family, friends from Pep Moms, from coop, from church as well as two courageous fellow survivors and their families. Adding together registration fees and donations, we raised about $3000 toward the cure for breast cancer! Yeah!!! It was such a joy to walk with them all. There were over 12,000 people present. It was a sea of pink.

Right before the finish line my friend Amanda snapped a picture and then I was separated from all the other walkers down a "survivor" lane. There the entire UT vols basketball and track teams were on hand and gave me high fives as I crossed the finish line. Other young people passed out a rose to the survivors. As I got to the very end a youth leader from my church working as a volunteer handed me a second rose. That was such a pleasant surprise. I had to cry, but it was tears of such happiness. It may have been a overcast but Race for the Cure was indeed the "happy day in the sun" I had looked forward to. Thank so much to everyone on the team who made it all possible and all the supporters who prayed for us and donated.

On grocery store labels, on shirts I see, at all the events I have been to it is pink, pink everywhere. It does my heart good. it gives me hope that a cure is not so far away and that if not me perhaps my daughters will someday see a day without breast cancer. Lots of love,


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Update on the Avon Walk


Several of you have been asking for details on how Brooke Estrada's Avon Walk for breast cancer went last June. I have received a letter from her detailing all the wonderful things that happened during her preparation for the walk and over the course of that weekend. I am excited to share it with you. Enjoy!

My Avon Walk with God by Brooke Estrada

Inspiration is Just around the Corner

Several months before the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer took place in Colorado on June 27th and 28th, I was experiencing a severe lack of motivation. First, my walking partner from last year announced that she would be unable to participate in this year’s walk. To make matters worse, the poor economy had affected most of my friends and family very negatively. Several sponsors from last year were now unemployed, which discouraged me from asking for their support this year.
As you can imagine, I became discouraged with the whole situation; I was without a partner for the walk and almost everyone I knew was broke. For weeks, I was doing a lot of soul-searching in order to re-ignite my passion for fighting breast cancer; it seemed my flame had gone out.

Then, in February of this year – with the help of my weekly women’s bible study – I realized that I was looking inward for something that could only be found upward. I had been looking at this year’s Avon Walk as a duty instead of a labor of love, but the love that I possessed within myself was so limited. So, I decided to pray for God to give me His heart and help me love others the way he does. As long as I was doing this for God’s people with love in my heart, I could shine the light of Jesus Christ into the lives of those who had been directly impacted by breast cancer, giving them new hope.

With that, I started searching for an inspiring t-shirt that I could wear as I trained, so that everyone would know what I was doing and why. It proved very frustrating to find a faith-based t-shirt with the right message. I’ve seen my share of “inspirational” mottos throughout these breast cancer rallies, but none of them really spoke of the hope and strength that only comes from God. Slogans like “I Fight like A Girl”, “Think Pink” “Hope” and “Cancer Sucks” were cute yet lacking originality and depth. After several mind-numbing hours of searching, I stumbled upon the perfect t-shirt. Upon it was written, “GOD – So Much Bigger than Cancer”. It said the exact message I was trying to bring to the people: no matter what kind of hardship you are enduring, God is in control and He will bring you through it.

I excitedly followed the link to what I thought would be an online super-store where I could indulge in all of my Jesus-freak paraphernalia, but instead it was a blog written by a woman recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Her name is Kerry Osborne and since the day I discovered her uplifting t-shirt, I have followed her amazing breast cancer journey through her online diary. After reading all of Kerry’s blog entries that day I decided to write her an e-mail, expressing my thanks and support for her mission. I was so moved by her courage through Christ; it both humbled and inspired me. If a person amidst the battle for their life could stare adversity in the face and say “God is bigger than you”, then I could certainly do the same! God had sent me a message through Kerry: “He is Bigger than Cancer” and it was now my turn to pass it on.

Defeating Doubt with Faith

Days went by and turned into weeks and as the weeks passed I could feel myself slipping again. I was short of sponsors and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with the money to participate in the Avon Walk. I continued to train and solicit my friends and family for donations, but I was so uncomfortable about asking people to spare money they likely didn’t have for a cause they probably didn’t care about. I started to pray; asking God if He really wanted me to go to Colorado. He didn’t say anything. So then I started wondering if this was God’s will or mine? For weeks and weeks God was quiet about the walk and I kept asking him if this was the right think to do. With 4 weeks before the event, I had resolved that if God really wanted me to go on this walk in Colorado, He would allow me to raise $720 more in order to reach my minimum goal. Two days later I spoke to my dear friend Deana Campbell, who informed me that she and her husband Steve decided to donate the remaining $720! I was flabbergasted! Deana and Steve had already donated $500 earlier that year which meant that they had contributed nearly 70% of my total needed funds. However, even with the minimum fundraising goal being met, I was still having doubts. For those remaining 4 weeks, I searched God’s Word and found great reassurance recited this prayer, daily: “Father God, I don’t know what you have planned for the Avon Walk. I just pray that whatever happens, it will bring glory to you. While I am in Colorado, please show me someone who needs to hear from you. Fill me with your Spirit that I may have words of love and encouragement for them; entrust me to be your hands and feet”. I didn’t know what would happen after that, I just knew I had to keep on praying and believing that great things would happen.

“Somewhere, Somebody Needs a Reason to Believe” – Britt Nicole

I arrived in Denver on Thursday, June 25th and stayed the night with my friends Yvette and Phil. The next morning, Yvette dropped me off downtown to catch a shuttle to Keystone, where the event would begin, some 90 miles from Denver. As I waited for the bus, a smiling woman with 2 braids and a silly sun-hat approached me and asked if I was waiting for the Avon shuttle too. Her name was Amy; a weather forecaster in the Air National Guard, who was walking in honor of her grandmother; a breast cancer survivor. We boarded the bus when it arrived and talked almost the entire ride to Keystone. Once we got off the bus, we were like old friends on a weekend adventure. We checked in at the event and into our respective hotels, before meeting up for an early dinner at a steakhouse located in her hotel. After dinner, it was too late to walk around outside, but too early too sleep. We hung out in her hotel room, sitting on opposite ends of a small couch, talking about how the paths of our youth had brought us to our current, respective lifestyles.
When the time had come to explain how I ended up in Las Vegas where I currently reside, the words just started falling out of my mouth. I began telling Amy about my gradual slip into spiritual darkness in my early twenties. I told her that I’d managed to claw myself back onto my feet, but it wasn’t until I established a sold foundation of faith in Jesus Christ that my life began to take on real purpose. I then started telling Amy about my new life in Christ. I could feel the energy in the room rise, as my tale transitioned from one of desperation and hopelessness, to the account of my re-birth. I spoke of the many amazing things God had done in my life and how I have come to love Him so deeply.

I didn’t realize it, but I had been sharing my testimony for the first time, nonetheless to a woman I scarcely knew. When I looked across the couch at Amy’s face, I was surprised to see her eyes streaming with tears but her face was filled with joy. She said, “I feel like this trip has nothing to do with breast cancer; I think I was supposed to find you.” Amy went on to describe her own spiritual emptiness to me. She admitted that she had always been a “very cerebral” person, needing an explanation for everything. Even though, she couldn’t explain God, she knew he existed. I remembered something my friend Teresa said, “I don’t want a God I can explain because that would make him so small”. Amy confessed that although she had not endured severe hardships in her life like some and had been blessed many times over, she always felt something was missing in her life. I remembered having that same “God-shaped hole” before I came to know Christ and really understood where she was coming from. We conversed late into the night and at the end of our long chat, she expressed how unburdened she felt; no longer a slave to her anger and past hurts. Amy said, “Meeting and talking with you has been an answer to a prayer I never spoke”. I know it’s because God knows our hearts; He knows every prayer before we speak it. I am so humbled that God used me to answer that prayer and I am thankful that he answered my prayer for that weekend, too.

Amy and I walked the whole 26.2 miles side-by-side; it was definitely a weekend that we will both remember for years to come. We still keep in touch and I am ecstatic to announce that she is actively pursuing her relationship with Jesus! Amen!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cyber Cancer Connections

Hello dear family and friends!

The last few months I have begun connecting with cancer patients all over America. This has been a huge blessing to me. I follow the blogs of several other women who have been impacted by cancer. They are all ages and stages and their words have been a tremendous encouragement to me. Some of those sites I am now listing on my blog page.

Through the Tshirt ministry, I have also become aware of 5 children battling cancer. I follow their caringbridge sites faithfully. I am involved right now in doing care packages for two of them and grieving the loss of one of them who just died yesterday. Her name was Sammie. She was a young girl I never met who lived on the other side of the country, yet her story has touched me deeply. I know she is in heaven now and I feel such sadness for her family.

I cannot tell you how often I have read posts from the other women survivors or the families of these children battling cancer and just cried. Cancer is so cruel.

I pray for all of these cyber cancer connections daily. Even though they are people I have never met I am constantly amazed by their strong faith and their courage in the face of adversity. God bless them all. Lots of love,


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Getting Involved & Being One Busy Pipe!

Now that my treatments are two weeks behind me I am now really looking forward to passing on all the many blessings that so many of you out there have given to me.

I pray daily for 8 other breast cancer patients that I know or have connected with online. Two of them were in the hospital last week and I was able to check in with the physician about one and visit the other. It has meant a great deal to me cheering on these women who are a few months in their treatment behind me.

Last Wednesday night Laura, Leslie and I went to a breast cancer tree lighting ceremony at St Mary's, the hospital where I was diagnosed. They gave me a special ornament with my name on it and placed a single jewel on it indicating my 1st year as a cancer survivor. I met another woman there who had 28 jewels on her ornament. That was such an encouragement to me. Laura and Leslie placed my ornament on the tree in the hospital lobby. The ornament was one among hundreds in honor of the survivors diagnosed at that hospital who were in the audience or who had passed on. The first physician I saw after my initial diagnosis spoke. She talked about how many of her patients have told her that oddly enough they now see their breast cancer as a blessing. It had opened their eyes to a new clarity about life, a new appreciation. It made me smile. I can't honestly say I see all of this as a blessing but I can truly say I have seen many good things come from it. There was a brief ceremony. Laura won a door prize. It was flower arrangement in a pink vase with the breast cancer symbol on it. You should have seen her face when she presented it to me. Precious. After a brief ceremony, we went outside to see a second Christmas tree atop the hospital lit all in pink. They even had a fountain outside the hospital flowing with pink water.

St Mary's is hosting a banquet at the end of the month to celebrate survivors and raise $ for a cure. I have joined a committee to decorate tables for the event. Many of you will remember Julie, the wonderful nurse who reached out to me the day of my biopsy and helped me give out so many shirts. Early on in my chemo I would give her info about another cancer support group but it never seemed to meet the first few months within my diagnosis. I told her at the time how much I missed not participating in a group like that. Julie is now starting a support group that she says was inspired by me called Mercy's Women of Courage and Healing. She has asked me and a few other women to come and give our testimonials at the event. It is also at the end of the month.

And of course there is the Race for the Cure on October 24th. When I started the team I was hoping to have about 10-20 people join me on the big day. My team is now up to almost 30 people! We have raised close to $300 in donations and about $1000 overall if you consider our registration fees. Who-hoooo!!

And so my post breast cancer life is keeping me busy in some wonderful ways. I hope all of you that have prayed and supported me and my family these past 10 months can read this and smile knowing that your goodness is being passed on.

If you'd like to join our Race for the Cure team, make a donation to it or just check out our team page, here is a link.

If you are a local survivor and would like more info about events coming up in the Knoxville area, please email me or post your information under comments.

Many of you remember my post about being a pipe (giver) versus a pot (taker). It is such a joy to feel the blessings flow through me onto others. So many of them started out there with each of you. So lots of love to all my pipes out there,