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Celebrate Life - Celebrate YOU

This is the speech I was so honored to give at Red Bank Regional High School at the opening ceremonies of Relay For Life. Unfortunatly my phone crapped out for the last 90 seconds so that part is in brackets below - it's just the ending. Read on - check the you tube video out and as always, please share.

"My cancer story begins in May 2007, smack in the middle of my life. I was a 38 year old mom of two young boys aged 9 and 11. I worked in the design offices of an internationally known fashion company. I had a loving husband, an SUV, a big dog, and a home not too far from the beach. I had a supportive family, good friends, and many obligations. I had plenty of joy, pain, laughter, and frustrations in every area of my life, as do most married working moms. My life was complex. My cups were full. Then I found a lump in my right breast. Shortly thereafter came the diagnosis that would forever change my life...Breast cancer - stage II A.

It was at this time I first heard of Relay For Life. I was walking around like a zombie. I really hadn't processed the fact that I was sick. I mean, I felt fine, I looked fine, How could I possibly have cancer?

My neighbor rang our bell one afternoon and dropped off some luminaria bags for our kids to decorate. She explained that she and her family did Relay every year and this year they would be including my name as one they would be honoring. I was very touched, and a little confused. I really didn't understand what Relay was all about. The cancer community was one that I hadn't unpacked my bags to reside in yet.

However, once I had fully moved into Cancertown I began taking every opportunity to reach out and help newly diagnosed women by working with Hadassah's Check It Out early detection program, volunteering for the Living Beyond Breast Cancer organization and writing for Cure Diva. I formed Team Kinky Boobs for the Point Pleasant Making Strides walks and also published a book called, Does This Outfit Make Me Look Bald? How a Fashionista Fought Breast Cancer With Style.

I surrounded myself with women who, like me, had been in the trenches. So when my friend Roni, who was battling ovarian cancer, asked me to attend a Relay For Life fundraiser for her team, Cozzi's Crab Shack, I did so happily.

My family and I came out to support her a few weeks later right here at Red Bank Regional and I must say, for all of the volunteering and interacting I had done up to that point THIS right here...THIS evening was one of the most life affirming, empowering events I had ever experienced. I was awed. It was an emotional and magical night. One that myself and my family cherish to this day.

This was a community effort that brought together the finest doctors, support groups, friends, neighbors, and survivors .... all from our little corner of New Jersey.

We walked. We lifted each other up and gave each other hope. We shone as brightly into the evening as the luminarias bearing our names.

And just because having cancer wasn't enough fun the first time around, I was diagnosed again in 2012.

As in 2007 I caught it very early, due to the diligence of both myself and my medical team, but by this time my regiment had become an army. In addition to the support of my husband and now teenage sons I had a network of survivors that I could call on day or night, many of whom are here with us right now.

I also had a stellar team of local doctors that many of you may know; my breast surgeons, Dr. Camal and Dr. Adams, my plastic surgeons, Dr. Taylor and Dr. Griffith, and my oncologist, Dr. Nahum.

I am now a gold plated card carrying cancer survivor and indeed, each time I interact with newly diagnosed women I tell them about Relay For Life. I encourage them to come out and join all the other survivors. Cancer is, by nature, a very isolating disease and by attending Relay I promise them a life changing experience, one in which they won't ever forget. One night that they will be honored, uplifted and supported by their community, their doctors, and other survivors. { I assure them, on THIS night they will never feel alone. Experiencing Relay For Life gave me the confidence to move forward as a survivor, author, blogger, and inspirational speaker.

So tonight, whether this is your first time here or you are a regular attendee, take a moment and look around. Revel in your fierceness and the strength of those around you. Share your war stories and know that you are supported. You are an important member of our community of incredibly awesome, amazing survivors. Celebrate life. Celebrate YOU!" }

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