Survivors celebrate life after breast cancer
October 8, 2008 · Updated 5:59 PM
It was a windy day in June and Barbara Purdom struggled to hold down her feathery pink boa.
Wrapped in a robe, she walked out on the dock in her bare feet. The six-year breast cancer survivor dropped her robe and wearing nothing but the boa, lowered herself onto a pink flamingo paddle boat adrift Lake Sammamish.
“It’s a celebration of life,” the Federal Way resident said of the Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation’s 7th calendar that features 12 volunteers — all breast cancer survivors, including herself on the pink flamingo.
Last Thursday, the featured survivors gathered at Parkplace Books in Kirkland to celebrate the foundation’s 7th calendar kick off. The nonprofit organization provides volunteers to help people recently diagnosed with breast cancer and give them encouragement and hope.
Purdom, who is featured in the calendar for the month of July, was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer six years ago after a mammogram revealed a lump.
“I bawled for a while,” she recalled. “A year before, the lump wasn’t there. If I hadn’t of had the mammogram, I wouldn’t have known.”
Then came the chemotherapy and radiation, followed by a lumpectomy.
“Then you just come out on the other end,” she said.
She has posed for the calendar for her fifth year in a row to show women that there’s life after breast cancer. Also, it’s to let women know they’re still beautiful.
“Some people think that losing a breast takes away their beauty. I think you gain more inner beauty. What’s to be afraid of? You can go out and do anything after breast cancer.”
Purdom found out about the Angel Care foundation one day after radiation when she saw a flier in her doctor’s office.
Since then, she has helped nearly 10 women with breast cancer go through the same thing she went through. Purdom spoke of one 86-year-old woman she accompanied to the women’s first breast cancer surgery.
“People asked, ‘is this your granddaughter?’ and she said, ‘No, this is my angel.’”
Issaquah resident Pamela Travis is the angel for the month of May, featured in a garden “green Earth” pose. This was her sixth time in the calendar.
Travis was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 30s and since then has had four reoccurrences, which is very rare.
The first time, she had radiation and a lumpectomy on her left breast. Subsequent recurrences of breast cancer called for the removal of both of her breasts. Each time, she found the lump during a breast self examination (BSE).
“I strongly advocate that women do a regular BSE.”
She’s helped more than a dozen women since volunteering for Angel Care.
“It’s really worthwhile having somebody who’s gone through the same thing as you.”
When she was first diagnosed, she had to search for someone who could help her.
“It’s a scary thing to go through. When you’re diagnosed, when you’re younger, it’s more earth shattering,” she said. She had two young kids at the time.
Last year, Travis had planned to have the photo shoot for the calendar at her home, so her husband, Doug, painted the doorsteps with a new white coat.
“It was a cheap excuse to get the stairs painted, “ he laughed, adding that they ended up shooting at a different location. This year was her nicest pose, he said, “it was like she was popping out of the woods.”
Pamela Travis said she wants people diagnosed with breast cancer to realize that the diagnosis is not a death sentence and it has made her see life differently.
Redmond resident and 15-year breast cancer survivor Jan Harris founded the Angel Care Foundation in 1997 to provide one-on-one emotional care to the newly diagnosed across the Puget Sound (and Idaho).
The calendars, which tastefully feature survivors wearing nothing much other than angel wings and cost $15, are to inspire breast cancer survivors, Harris said.
“You won’t see scars, except for the man (Bruce Young of Beaux Arts Village). You can’t tell who’s had a lumpectomy or mastectomy. It’s to tell people to get out, live life and have fun doing it,” said Harris, who is also featured in the calendar for the month of June.
75-year-old Bobbie DeCoster, of Kenmore, a 15-year breast cancer survivor, has been featured in the calendar for the month of December since the very first one.
She recalled the first photo shoot, which was taken at her home in the middle of July. Her former husband didn’t know what she was up to and look puzzled when she crawled into the attic and came down with Christmas paraphernalia.
This year, DeCoster was featured in a 1965 cherry red Ford Mustang convertible, quite fitting for the hair-in-the-wind kind of gal she is.
She was living in China as a teacher when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. She had come home for New Year’s break, when her daughter informed her that there was a postcard in the mail reminding DeCoster of her mammogram.
“How lucky was I to come home at that time and get a mammogram?” She said.
When she found out she had breast cancer she was mad and scared that she was going to die. She had a lumpectomy and endured 35 rounds of radiation treatment.
Now, she can tell women, “Hey, I had cancer 15 years ago. You have a long time to look forward to,” she said.