It was like walking into another world. There were 600+ women, all decked out in bright pink everything – tutus, knee socks, yoga pants, face paint – you name it and someone was wearing it! The energy in the lobby of the Westin Hotel in downtown Chicago was young and refreshing. Surprisingly, I felt at ease. Because lets be honest – how many times are you thrown into a group with that many women where you don’t immediately start feeling intimidated or threatened, or self-righteous to overcompensate for those pesky little insecurities? As a woman, I’m very well aware of how vicious our minds can be, despite whether or not we willingly want to “go there”.
But not here.
This was a place of comfort and support. A place where young women from all over the world had chosen to congregate with the unified hope of raising awareness surrounding breast and ovarian health. Bright Pink, a national non-profit organization, was the mastermind behind this year’s annual Fab Fest in downtown Chicago. Lindsay Avner and Giuliana Rancic had, once again, teamed up to chat about the importance of being proactive at an early age in detecting breast and ovarian cancer. There were break out rooms for yoga, boot camps and aerobics. There were vendors from all over town giving wellness exams, massages, skin treatments and goodies. And as my pal, Diana, put it, Lindsay and Giuliana held the worlds largest “feel up”.
Side Note: doing a self-breast exam when you don’t have breast tissue to begin with is awkward enough – but having what seemed at the time like a very intense stare down contest with a camera man from Giuliana and Bill (mid-feel, I might add) takes the cake. It was in that very moment when confusion set in, as I couldn’t help but wonder why they weren’t serving mimosas at this gig. My next thought, naturally, was ‘When’s brunch’? The day was perfect. I had my BRCA babes at my side along with 600 other women who were ready and willing to take matters into their own hands when it comes to preventing the big C.
Though the majority of the day was fun and fab-u-lous, there were two women in particular whose stories brought the entire room to tears. Sarah and Adrienne were the very well deserving winners of this year’s “FAB-U-WISH”, put on so graciously by G and the Bright Pink team, as these two incredible women shared very similar stories. Sarah and Adrienne were both diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant – Sarah being 26 and Adrienne being 31. After battling thru chemo, a mastectomy, breast reconstruction and giving birth to their healthy babies, these women were finally able to meet at Fab Fest in Chicago for the first time. Their story was absolutely incredible. The girls and I were lucky enough to meet them and congratulate them on their victory over cancer, when surprisingly, they thank US for sharing our stories about choosing to become previvors. They said if it could happen to them at such a young age, it could have happened to us. Suffice to say, it put a very real perspective on our prophylactic decisions as all three of us took a moment to soak in what was happening. I will never forget that moment. Ever.
On a lighter note, I did get to meet Giuliana! Oh Lord, help us all! I began my day as Creepy McCreepstopher. I couldn’t seem to put my stupid phone down to stop taking pictures when she walked into the room. I’ve been fascinated with this wonderful human being for years. I’m mildly obsessed with E! News so her reality show, Giuliana and Bill, only seemed like an appropriate addition to my DVR. Upon discovering she had breast cancer, my sister, Heather, started watching her show. Heather was 38 at the time and didn’t know of many women her age that had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She’d talk to me about an episode and I would run home and watch it and think, “If Giuliana can do this, so can my sister. And so can I”. Granted, I didn’t actually have breast cancer, but being BRCA2 positive only meant the inevitable, as it was probably just a matter of time. Seeing someone as young as Giuliana tackle breast cancer and a mastectomy the way she did gave me hope. It gave me hope that my sister was going to be fine. It gave me hope that a mastectomy didn’t have to have that 1980’s, machete to the chest, stereotype attached to it.
My point is this…
This can be a lonely part of the population to be in when nobody talks about it. But Giuliana did. She put everything out there for everyone to see and I truly couldn’t be more thankful for her willingness to be so open.
Giuliana – THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! You’ve not only inspired me to be more vocal about being proactive, but you’ve inspired my friends, as well. Meeting you was something I will never forget! The Bright Pink girls from TEXAS were so honored to be there. You asked me to share my blog so you could retweet it, so this one’s just for you, lady! Hopefully this can help other women going thru the same struggles. ❤
Here are some pictures from our fab-u-lous time in Chi Town. I can’t wait for next year!