Woman Says 'Suck It, Cancer' With Her Own Clothing Line


In November 2014, Lisa Vanbeek was diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer. Vanbeek, then 37, was blindsided — she had no family history of cancer, had never considered the possibility of a diagnosis and was unsure of what to do first.

So, Vanbeek, a clothing designer, decided to make funny T-shirts emblazoned with the message, “Suck it, cancer” for her friends and family to keep them smiling during the difficult time. Pictures of the shirts then began making the rounds on social media, and people began asking her where they could buy one.

Seeing how strongly the shirts resonated with people, Vanbeek saw an opportunity to turn the enterprise into a fundraising effort.

“Going through this process, I was really overcome by the reality of how much money goes into cancer treatments, screenings, etc., in addition to other everyday expenses like paying for the gas to get to treatments,” Vanbeek, who lives in Pueblo, Colorado, told The Mighty. “Making clothing is what I know how to do, so I decided to turn that into a way to help people who may not have the money for treatment.”

Vanbeek officially launched “Suck It, Cancer,” her sassy new clothing line, in February 2015. Designed to support and invigorate people living with cancer, the clothing features phrases like, “Hey Cancer, you messed with the wrong girls,” and “Sometimes, you just gotta be a badass.” A percentage of every sale Vanbeek makes goes toward She4Life and Cowgirls & Cocktails, grassroot nonprofit organizations that financially support women who have cancer.

Vanbeek, right, with a friend modeling her clothing line. Photo from the Suck It Cancer Facebook page

Now, the clothing is sold online, at sporting events and, as of August 2015, in a retail store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Vanbeek says one of her favorite outcomes from starting this company has been the stories and emotional reactions she gets from strangers all over the country.

“People have come up to me crying,” she told The Mighty. “To have people get that emotional was unbelievable to me. On the other side, I see people get so happy and excited about it. It started as just making T-shirts, but it’s turned into an attitude.”

Vanbeek completed her final radiation treatment on August 11, 2015. Now, she’s focusing on getting her brand into more retail stores and building her online presence. In turn, she wants to continue to raise money for organizations that help people afford treatment. She also wants to keep people smiling.

But, most important, she wants to inspire people who are living with cancer to keep fighting.

“[I hope] it gives someone a little extra oomph, that kickstart to rally against it and not be taken down by it,” Vanbeek told The Mighty. “If that shirt can make them feel that way for five minutes out of their day, that’s the most important thing.”

Take a look at some designs from Vanbeek’s “Suck It, Cancer” clothing line below.

From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page

Hear more about Vanbeek’s story in the video below.

To learn more about Vanbeek’s story and check out her awesome clothing line, visit the Suck It, Cancer website and Facebook page.




Woman With Cancer Shuts Down Fake ‘Awareness’ Campaign With One Tweet


The “Hold a Coke With Your Boobs Challenge,” a social media campaign encouraging men and women to share photos of themselves holding a can of coke between their breasts to raise breast cancer awareness, surfaced on Facebook. Hundreds of people participated in the challenge and shared photos of themselves to social media. But soon after it took off, the breast cancer “awareness” campaign was revealed to be a hoax started by Danny Frost, a talent scout for an adult entertainment company, and model Gemma Jaxx, according to Elite Daily. The pair allegedly started the challenge to make fun of campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Many people voiced their concerns over the distasteful prank on social media, among them Aimee Fletcher, a 32-year-old who was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 months ago and was recently diagnosed with bone metastasis, BuzzFeed News reported.

After hearing about the fake challenge while at a funeral for a friend who had died from breast cancer, Fletcher decided to post her own take on the campaign:

Breast cancer is not fun and sexy,” Fletcher told BuzzFeed. “The treatment is grueling… It’s not glamorous and why people decide to take photos of the part of the body that breast cancer destroys is beyond me.”

To learn more about Fletcher’s story, visit her blog.

h/t HuffPost Impact

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How This Woman's 'Boob Picture' May Help Save Lives


Lisa Royle never thought she’d share a “boob picture” on Facebook, but now, her photo may help save others’ lives.

The 42-year-old mother from Manchester, England, posted the picture below last week to let others see the subtle symptom that helped her detect her breast cancer. In the picture, Royle highlights the small dimples that tipped her off.

Ok so I never thought I'd post a boob picture on Facebook but I thought I would before it gets chopped off next week....

Posted by Lisa Royle on Monday, May 11, 2015


“Very subtle dimples underneath that could easily be missed when we’re all rushing round getting ready in a morning,” Royle wrote on Facebook on May 11. “Please take time to look at your boobs. It could save you’re [sic] life.”

In just over a week, her photo was shared more than 64,000 times from her Facebook page.

After visiting a doctor, Royle was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer, according to Manchester Evening News. On Monday, she underwent a mastectomy, the outlet reported, and is now in recovery. Next, she’ll receive radiation and chemotherapy.

h/t Yahoo Health


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I Made This for a Friend’s Mom Who Had Cancer. Her Response Made Me Cry.

I was in eighth grade. It was a beautiful May morning. I was in second period, Social Studies. I sat in a group of people who were all my friends. Some I met just that year, but one I had known for what felt like forever.

He was a great kid (and still is). I think of him as less of a friend, and more like a brother I never got the privilege of having. His name is Nick, and his family had become my second family. One of his family members that I was closest with was his mother. Karen. God, how I loved her and her family, just as my own.

On this May morning in Social Studies, I heard something weird. Nick was at his desk, whispering for me to come over there. Because I knew him so well, I thought, Oh, he’s just going to burp in my ear or something, and I believe I spoke something similar for him to hear aloud.

I was wrong – so very wrong.

His tone changed. His face tensed up. He wasn’t going to burp in my ear. He demanded that I came over to his desk. I did, and when he said to come closer, I got scared. I held my breath. He slowly and quietly uttered the words:

“My mom has cancer.”

It hit me like a rock. I could barely get the words together enough to ask two questions: 1) What kind? 2) How bad? He gave me the best description he could. He said, “It’s bad… breast cancer…” and that was about the extent of the conversation, besides my closing statement: “I am praying for you – give her my best.”

I walked, with the wind taken from my sails, back to my desk, sat down, and began to think – trying to hold down the tears. I wanted to cry so very, VERY badly. I felt helpless. I couldn’t do anything at that moment, and that broke my heart.

I went home that day, right after school, and immediately got to work on making a card for her. I knew a simple “folded-a-paper-in-half” card was not going to suffice. I whipped out my giant drawing pad, and sketched the first word that came to mind: “HOPE.” I went on to fill the large paper with words that struck me as positive and encouraging. Each word was written in pink, the color for breast cancer.

The very next day, I brought it back to school, rolled up, with a love-filled long letter, and handed it to Nick. All I said was, “Give this to your mom.” Then I left him my phone number, so he could message me to tell me if she liked it or whatever. That night, my phone goes off with a two-paged message from him, telling me all about how much she loved it, and how dear she kept it to her heart.

I bawled my eyes out. Reading that message made me feel so good – so glad that I was able to bring her even the smallest ray of sunshine during such a dark time in her life. I never had a feeling like I did there. Over the coming weeks, I talked a lot with Nick, and his cousin, so that I could get updates.

One Saturday morning, I got a text with a picture attachment. The message read: “Here’s my mom going in for her first surgery. She’s holding your sign. She loves it. She takes it everywhere.” Yet again, I started crying. Then another message came through a few hours later.

That message also had a picture attachment. The words below it read: “Here’s my mom – out of surgery, and recovering. She is standing by your sign, and she still hasn’t stopped saying how much she loves it… Thank you!” Here we go again, here comes the water works…

Time passed, and I never stopped asking, praying and wondering. The text messages became sparse, and I had to make do with what I could. One day, late in the afternoon, I got a message saying that Karen kept the sign I made for her, hung on the wall above her bed, and that she continues adoring it always.

Recently, I messaged Karen to ask how she was doing, and I got the marvelous news that she is cancer-free now, and has been for a little while.

I reminded her that I love her, and think of her often. We spoke of memories, and how we need to get together again soon.

I always knew she could do it… I believe my doubt was in whether or not I could handle it. I am blessed to see her recover so well.

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The Quote That Pulled Me Through the Fear and Sadness of My Diagnosis


When I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in April 2013, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Not only did I mourn my lost breast but I was terrified of dying. Survival rates for people like me were 86 percent, which might seem good on the surface. But what about the 14 out of 100 people who don’t pull through?

I became depressed and weepy, filled with anxiety. I began getting heart palpitations and had trouble sleeping. I often woke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, hoping this was a nightmare. But the pain on the left side of my chest told me it wasn’t.

But then something changed my way of thinking. I reached a turning point and its name was Danielle.

danielle scarface

At first, I hid my diagnosis from the Facebook community, as though my cancer were shameful, embarrassing and somehow my fault. Then I realized how foolish this was and “outed” myself on social media. The outpouring of support was overwhelming. Friends from across the street and across the world in Australia, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands reached out to me and upheld me.

After my slightly cryptic post which said something about “especially in the coming months,” Danielle sent a Facebook message, asking what I meant. I told her. This began an exchange of emotionally-fortifying notes which transformed me from feeling like a victim to a kick-ass warrior. Like Danielle.

danielle jill rosell photography
Courtesy of Jill Rosell Photography

You see, less than two years earlier, in June 2011, Danielle suffered a catastrophic fall while rock-climbing in Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison. She plummeted nearly 300 feet and broke her ankles, femur, pelvis and her back in two places.

After six surgeries and three and a half months in Denver Health Medical Center, she was paralyzed from the chest down. This might have devastated other people, but not Danielle.

My family happened to be traveling in Colorado a few weeks after Danielle’s accident and we visited her. The daughter of our friend, Jim, we’d known Danielle since she was a little girl. We weren’t prepared for what we saw in the Denver hospital.

There Danielle was, beaming her amazing 1,000-watt smile. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she was grateful to be alive, finding joy in the new gelato flavors that came to Denver Health every Wednesday, encouraging our 11-year-old son to play with her electric hospital bed.

I was floored.

Fast-forward 18 months and Danielle was mono-skiing with the doctors and therapists who saved her life.

A month later came my cancer diagnosis. Every time I felt sad or worried. I tried to think of Danielle. Her Facebook page was brimming with inspirational quotes like Nietzsche’s “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

When I told Danielle that this quote kept me going, she countered with, “I’m sure you will go through a period of grief, but I’m glad they found your cancer. You are going to be okay. Now you are in the club of super-strong people who conquered something like this! Sometimes I feel like this accident is the best thing that happened to me.”

Imagine a young woman, not even 30, finding a positive in being paralyzed.

And here I was, being all woe is me because I lost a breast.

When Danielle started a blog, I followed it feverishly. “My surgeon said this had been a record-breaking fall and I had survived the unsurviveable,” she wrote. In her June 12, 2014 entry, she celebrated “three years of extended life.” What a great way to perceive it.

Right then and there, in the throes of chemotherapy, I decided to stop being consumed by fears of recurrence and to get on with the business of living. Like Danielle did.

cancer diagnosis the mighty

Since her near-fatal accident, Danielle has learned hand-cycling, adaptive skiing (courtesy of a scholarship from Oregon Adaptive Sports), and tried her hand at horseback riding and kayaking. Plus she’s learned to drive a car with hand controls.

Instead of being despondent when she was turned down by physical therapy schools across the U.S. (they felt the demands of PT would prove to be too much even for someone with her impressive upper-body strength), she edited her dreams when the University of Puget Sound said she’d be a perfect candidate for their occupational therapy program.

This May, with her first year of OT studies behind her, Danielle will go on a four-day camp out ride in Moab to test-drive her customized ReActive Adaptations handcycle courtesy of her winning GoHawkeye’s Great Adaptive Outdoor Adventure Contest.

Absolutely nothing stops Danielle, and in the wake of my cancer odyssey, I vowed not to let anything stop me either. I’m currently cancer-free and hope to stay that way.

When I told Danielle that she would be the crux of this piece, she was humbled. “It really means a lot to me that I helped you through that time,” she said. “We are all interconnected and we can lift each other up!”

The Mighty is asking the following: Can you describe the moment someone changed the way you think about a disability or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected]ghty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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New Film Combines Fiction and Reality to Paint an Honest Picture of Breast Cancer


A Woman Like Me” follows Alex Sichel as she learns to live with the reality of her terminal breast cancer. Sichel passed away in June 2014, but her perspective on life is beautifully rendered in the film, which she co-directed with Elizabeth Giamatti.

SCENE 43 still selects RS

Sichel initially saw the project as a fictional movie with a character facing a diagnosis identical to hers, Giamatti told The Mighty. Sichel had doubts about the authenticity of fiction because she wanted to create a deeply personal movie. As the team began filming in 2012, the structure of the film took shape. “A Woman Like Me” subsequently blends Sichel’s experiences with the story of a fictional woman, Anna Seashell, who copes with the same diagnosis.

Anna acts as an outlet for Sichel to express her opinions and discuss topics relevant to her life, such as parenting, death and faith. In one scene, Anna recklessly abandons her diet — she wants to enjoy rich food and wine in the time she has left.

SCENE 4 still selects RS 5

Anna’s sassy character adds humor and levity to the movie and her scenes are beautifully intercut with footage of Sichel’s life.

“When you can’t change your circumstances you can still change your emotional and spiritual response,” Giamatti told The Mighty. “It’s human nature to want to change your situation, [Sichel] was trying hard to reverse the course of her illness and find a way to live somewhat peacefully with it.”

Liz & Alex on set

Cancer can be a taboo subject. “We’re all so scared of it,” Giamatti said. “[Sichel] took a raw subject and tried to transform it.”

“A Woman Like Me” does not shy away from the graphic realities of medical treatments or the morbidity that comes with a terminal diagnosis; the camera follows Sichel to chemotherapy treatments and doctor’s visits.

Alex directing-Edit

Although the film revolves around cancer, Giamatti told The Mighty she hopes the movie can “resonate with an audience that’s not just people who have cancer or chronic illnesses.”

“It’s a movie about the imagination and how to cope with difficult situations,” she said.

“A Woman Like Me” debuted at SXSW March 16th. Watch the trailer here.

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