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I was a struggling single parent the first time I heard the words, “You Have Breast Cancer.” It was July 12, 2011, my son’s second birthday. I would follow my doctor’s recommendations and have a mastectomy to remove the invasive cancer, followed by four rounds of chemotherapy.

As a result of my experience with breast cancer, I became a public speaker, educator, and advocate for breast health and early detection of breast cancer. I focus on groups that are often diagnosed a later stages, young adults; men; Hispanic and African American women.

Four years later, September 22, 2015, I again heard those words; I had Stage III breast cancer. Another surgery, more chemotherapy, and radiation would be my course. This time, I would take charge of the circumstances and use this breast cancer to help others.

Themo-Therapy! Each chemotherapy treatment has a theme to coincide with the day. I would ask others in my social network to participate with me. We would dress for the theme and find meaning, for ourselves and others, in the day. Theme 1: I Am My Kids’ Hero: Who is Yours? Theme 2: Hollywood Characters that Motivate and Inspire. I encouraged participants to dress and post pictures and give the reason why each was meaningful.

The third theme was not a dress up. It was an invitation to make a difference in the community around us. Each One, Reach One! I encouraged acts of kindness and service. There was a lot of activity in Huntington Beach. I also received posts of service from New York, Hawaii, Vienna, and Cambodia! I wanted to demonstrate the difference we can make when we are intentional, together.

2015 has been a year of challenges and blessings. I expect the same in 2016. After my first breast cancer diagnoses, I often shared that breast cancer was one of the best things to happen in my life. I did not imagine feeling the same way about the new diagnoses. Strangely, I would not change a thing. I see good coming from this and am honored to be a part of it.

Jacque Balbas-Ruddy
Huntington Beach, CA

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