In a world where Kardashians are the gold standard of celebrity; where Oscar Pistorius, one of the world’s most admired athletes, is tried on murder charges; our world seems sorely in need of heroes. Yet often heroes seem to be in short supply.
People like Barbie Ritzco, the Warrior Queen, who has deeply touched me and the thousands who have seen her photo and story go viral. Barbie is a marine who didn’t let a lump in her breast stop her from deploying with her squadron to Afghanistan. Who ran the marine marathon during radiation having just finished chemo and a double mastectomy.
Barbie’s inner resources seem to be even stronger than her physical strength. After her treatment, she took her experience and leadership skills and applied them to the cancer community. Embracing the power of her will and newly tattooed flat chest, she used her own strength to help other women learn to tap into theirs. I can’t describe the impact it had on me to read Barbie’s words about her participation in the Scar Project:
Sometimes heroes are born; sometimes they’re made. Barbie is both. Barbie made a choice to put herself on the line fighting battles for our country. She didn’t choose this one.
But the language of cancer is the language of battle. And no one would be is better equipped to fight breast cancer than a US marine.
If fight and fortitude were all you need to beat cancer, Barbie Ritzco would be running another marathon right now. Instead she is battling a recurrence that put her in the hospital fighting for her life.
That is how breast cancer looks when you peel off the pink ribbons.
And how it’s made other women into heroes.
Some choose to take their stories public, using their own experiences in their own ways to inform and inspire others.
Susan Neibur, a rocket scientist and young mother touched so many lives in her way-too-short lifetime, leaving behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.
Lisa Adams writes so poignantly that sometimes her pain almost reads like poetry.
Jody Schoger hasn’t wavered in her commitment as an activist, advocate and community builder for women with breast cancer.
Telling their truths which teach all of us; moving forward with their lives while living with the disease they know will end them –in my book, those are heroes.
Whether public or private, having advanced cancer is ultimately a lonely battle. Despite marches, money raised, and miles of pin ribbon, outcomes have not changed – 40,000 women a year die of it.
And because cancer is so capricious and cruel, recurrences can happen to anyone.
Many women on the front lines don’t have resources and support systems like Barbie, Lisa, Susan or Jody. That’s why it’s important that there is now a place online specifically for them to find information, comfort and community; and to bring much needed awareness to advanced breast cancer..
Formed by Novartis and several advocacy organizations coming together, the mission of Count Us, Know Us, Join Us is to recognize those living with advanced breast cancer, their caregivers, supporters, friends, and family members; and to reinforce that they do count
Which is sometimes the best and only gift we can give to the heroes among us. Letting them know how much they matter.
I am PROUD to say Barbie Ritzco is my first cousin and she is one of my Heroes. I don’t have the words to describe how amazing she is. To put her life on the line for this country and all it stands for is above and beyond what any of us would expect, but it is what she did. To have the courage, foresight, compassion and fortitude.to create a place where women could come together and celebrate their bodies the way they wish was incredible. The Flat and Fabulous is a stroke of genius and it was co-founded by Barbie. I am more proud than I could possibly express. Her Grandfather and I pray for her day and night, I ask you to do the same.