It was a year ago that our corporate sponsor, White House | Black Market, partnered with us for a call-out to honor and highlight 25 inspiring women who are living beyond breast cancer. All 25 women were dolled up for an expense-paid photo shoot and then featured in White House | Black Market’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month catalog.
Wonder how the experience changed the women over the last year? Let’s hear Valerie Miller’s story:
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28 can be terrifying. Of course, I was quite scared when I was first given the news, but I knew I would have a strong support group and resources to get me through it. As an active breast cancer advocate, I had learned of Living Beyond Breast Cancer years before I was even diagnosed – through a coworker who was a young survivor. Little did I know that just a few years later, I too would be a young breast cancer survivor looking for an organization that would provide support, information, and a connection to fellow young survivors. Through LBBC, I also found Young Survival Coalition, an organization that is dedicated to women under 45 who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
The past year of my life has passed by in a blur. A year where life was cherished, celebrated, and all too frequently, mourned. It was a year where I lost my mother, who was my best friend. A month after my mom passed, I lost a very close friend who was just three months shy of her 30th birthday, an inspiring young woman who was key to my “successful” breast cancer journey, and who quickly became a dear friend. A few short months later, we lost two of the beautiful women whom I got to meet through the White House | Black Market photo shoot.
I will never forget the day I received the phone call from LBBC telling me that I was selected for a special White House| Black Market photo shoot and advertising campaign. Of course, it was a moment to be happy, but that happiness was clouded by what was going on around me. I was in the waiting room at New York Presbyterian hospital in the 5th hour of a 10-plus-hour-day. My mother was undergoing a very serious, very risky surgery to combat her stage IV colon cancer. I knew, however, that my mother would be so proud to hear that I was selected for the photo shoot when she awoke.
In the weeks following the advertising campaign publication, the strangest thing happened…. People started contacting me telling me they saw my face in the window of their local WHBM, or in their catalog they had just received in the mail! I was quite vocal with those close to me about my experience, but I was hearing from people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in some time. This was all very uplifting, but the best part of the experience was seeing my mother’s face light up with pride when she saw the ad in Elle Magazine. “Valerie, you are in Elle magazine!! Do you know what an accomplishment this is?” She was still in the hospital, and she made my father keep the magazine opened to the ad at the bottom of her bed so she could proudly display her daughter to all the nurses, doctors, and other assorted hospital staff.
My breast cancer journey has had its ups and downs. I have met some beautiful friends on the journey, but I have lost some along the way. I have had wonderful experiences – being selected for national ad campaigns, speaking at hospitals on behalf of survivors, etc. Each day, I am reminded that I have an obligation to be a positive voice and source of support for others diagnosed with breast cancer. I am thankful to LBBC and White House Black Market for helping me fulfill this desire to support others. I’m hopeful that during the coming year, I can continue to have an impact on other people’s lives and make my mother proud.
To hear more about Valerie’s personal journey with breast cancer, visit our website for her short video on a young woman’s perspective of being diagnosed with breast cancer.