A little background on me.... the biggest challenge of my life has definitely been fighting Stage IV breast cancer for the last 9 years. I was originally diagnosed back in 2003 at age 30. At times I have been able to incorporate the cancer in my daily life pretty much oblivious to most everyone. We have been able to continue building our family and doing the things we love with our friends and family. We have been blessed with great employers who have become a part of our extended family. Leaving my employer, Seaboard, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was such a big part of my life. But, I am so thankful to be able to keep those relationships going even though I am no longer there.
We have also periodically been challenged with a new tumor, a new location, or a new diagnosis. The past two years has become a little more serious with the cancer finally traveling outside my lungs to my brachial plexus (neck), rib, brain, spine and spinal fluid. For the first time I developed symptoms. This was definitely something new for me. I had an unknown constant pain in my right shoulder blade that eventually spread down my right arm. We spent a year going to many doctors appointments, trying lots of different medications, different treatments, surgery, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, and more. You name it and we tried it. Finally a very small tumor was found on my brachial plexus (aka the base of the right side of my neck). It was so hard to believe that something so small could wreak so much havoc. But boy did it!
This small neck tumor started the spread. First to the brain. We treated two brain tumors successfully with radiation. We are currently also treating the spinal tumors and the tumors inside the spinal fluid, called leptomeningeal disease. I am definitely in more of a constant battle mode. My days of "blending" in are probably over.
The symptoms I currently have are definitely the most debilitating I have ever had. Basically I am dizzy, have balance problems, slightly blurred vision, slight loss of motor function in my right leg and arm, loss of taste buds, and constant tingling pain and numbness in my right arm and leg. This is unfortunately a 24x7 thing. The worse part is not feeling comfortable driving. So I don't go anywhere without a driver. This definitely limits your independence.
With all that being said and all I have been going through I really wanted to use my experience to help others. Late last year an idea came to me as I was packing up my Thirty-One zip-top utility bag to take to treatment. I call it THE BELIEVE PROJECT because I have to keep believing that we will win!
THE BELIEVE PROJECT provides zip top utility bags from Thirty-One filled with items that I have found helpful during my own breast cancer journey.
We are giving them to other patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer at the KU Cancer Center. So far we have given them approximately 200 bags to hand out to help someone recently diagnosed in just a little way. Believe me in that little surprises like this really make your day!
The bags are all different colors and designs. They are each embroidered with BELIEVE and the pink breast cancer ribbon. A big thank you to Natalie Jordan, my friend and Thirty-One Consultant, for helping me with this labor of love. I hope we can keep it going. It means so much to know that in the face of such a dreaded diagnosis we can help put a quick smile on someone's face and provide some products to make their lives and treatment better.
We have completed the process and gotten our not-for-profit status approved. Now we are seeking Corporate donations to help supplement the generosity from friends and family. The total cost per bag with all supplies is approximately $60 depending on which items go in the bags. The bag with embroidery is $40 and supplies are $20.
At this time we are seeking monetary donations, in any amount, to sponsor a bag with supplies. Checks can be made payable to The Believe Project and mailed to 16141 S Raintree Dr., Olathe KS 66062. All donations are tax deductible. I would be glad to provide our 501C3 letter.
If you have an organization looking for a cause to sponsor we would love to have you on board. If you already have a group raising funds for cancer related things but want a more targeted donation we would love to have you join us with The Believe Project.
Thank you for your consideration in helping with our little project. I personally know how much this will mean to these fighters. And I cannot wait to walk into the Cancer Center and see BELIEVE bags everywhere! I know firsthand how hard this can be. Keep fighting...you can do this! We wish you all be best!
Thank you in advance for your support. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Debra Lewis, Founder
The Believe Project, Inc.