Krewe du YaYas Keeping Abreast Foundation, Inc






Bonnie Bell
2001 - My husband and I were working hard; busy with two daughters in college and one son in high school. I was working as a nurse, trying to keep up with family responsibilities. One of the case managers working on my unit was promoting healthy checkups. I was behind on my mammogram so I scheduled it, and I was called back for a biopsy the next week, something about a spot that looked suspicious. I then went in alone for the results.

The physician reviewing my results asked if I had brought anyone in with me? I said no, why? She said the results came back as cancer. She kept talking, but my mind was spinning.

I was thinking of my sister who had been diagnosed with glioblastoma six months prior, had surgery, radiation and she was starting chemo treatments. I couldn't have cancer, too! I had to tell my family, but wait a minute ... I have no family history. I�m healthy. I have done all the right things. And I am a nurse! I am the one who takes care of cancer patients! I was thinking of my time that I volunteered as a nurse at Camp Bluebird (camp for adult cancer survivors) and I took my sister as a camper. It was great for her to meet other cancer survivors, some going through treatment, others had beat their type of cancer. There were no other campers with the type of cancer she had but the support and love given to her was a blessing. I was even thinking about talking with my sister about the different types of cancer. She knew she had the bad type (really thought all cancer was bad) and her prognosis was poor but she was going to fight as much as she could.

Then as the doctor is still talking to me, my mind went blank. What seemed like hours were only minutes and I had to focus. First thing I did when I left the doctor's office was call my husband. Next, I scheduled surgery, which was every hard to pick a surgeon since I worked with them every day. The physician I chose looked at my biopsy results and said I was lucky because I had a treatable, curable type of cancer. So I had a partial mastectomy and lymph node dissection. The node came back positive so I started chemo, then radiation, then more chemo, and then started on a five-year hormone drug treatment. Not only could I not work through the red devil chemo because I was so very sick, but sadly, my sister passed away after my first round. When my hair started falling out, I finally decided to just have my son shave my head. I remember I wore a wig once, but having a bald head gave me an opportunity to tell others my story and promote breast health awareness.

It is amazing how many women I have met that have had breast cancer but don't talk about it!!! Some want to forget while others are very private about it. For me, it was a long journey but it was just something I went through and definitely changed my outlook on life. If my story can help just one person, that would be wonderful. With the support of my family, friends and people I met along the way, I got through it. I have learned that recovery doesn't happen in a day, a week or even a year; that each day is a gift and finding ways to celebrate the beauty in life is magical. I am very vocal about having survived breast cancer; telling my story to most anyone who will listen. The importance of mammograms is definitely the highpoint of my speech. My goal has been to reach out to others going through their own recovery and hopefully inspire them to succeed in their journey. I have been blessed to be a member of the Krewe du YaYas and have truly learned from my sisters to live, laugh and love.


Mandie Bignell
It was November 2007. I was 32 years old and in my second trimester carrying my second child. I was on a family vacation in Disney World when I discovered a lump. When I got home I went to my OB and had thought I drank to much caffeine, but after a mammogram and a biopsy I heard the worst possible news...YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER!!!

My first high risk doctor told me to terminate my pregnancy, but instead, I fought harder; guided by my amazing oncologist and my new high risk OB who told me we are going to beat this. I underwent four rounds of chemo.

On April 21st, 2008 my beautiful miracle Conner Jayden Bignell was born healthy at 7lbs 6oz. After having him, I faced 12 more rounds of chemo.

I was given a clean bill of health in July 2008 and in March 2009 I had reconstruction. I am so blessed to have joined this amazing Krewe and sisterhood that we have. I have met some of the strongest women on the planet and have formed lifelong friendships!


Cherri Eman

I was a healthy 32 year old when I got the dreaded and shocking news, "You have breast cancer." Not only did I have breast cancer, but I had one of the most aggressive and rare forms, Triple Negative. Unlike other breast cancers which feed off hormones, it is still unknown as to what drives Triple Negative to grow. My world was turned upside down just like that. Over the next 4 months I underwent chemotherapy while still maintaining to work as an ultrasound technologist.

With my age and how aggressive the cancer was, I opted for a double mastectomy with delayed reconstruction. I then had 33 treatments of radiation to give myself the best odds of keeping the cancer away for good.

It has been almost three years since my battle began, and I am amazed every day on how far I have come! Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for God and my friends and family who helped me through the most difficult time in my life. I am so blessed to be back to my normal self and to be a mommy to the sweetest little six-year-old boy.

I am a proud member of the Krewe du YaYas and am honored to be a part of our Keeping Abreast Foundation that continues to make a huge impact on women in our community in need.

Since I am an ultrasound technician and have been through this battle, I make every effort to help women I come in contact with who may have to walk down the path that I had to. I share my personal experiences with them and offer my friendship and can never have enough prayers!

"Cancer changes us, there's no doubt about that. But it's up to us to decide what that change will mean in our lives, and who we will become as a result" - Britta Arago


Sondra Massraf

My 45th Birthday Surprise

I was driving in the car with my mother one summer afternoon and she noticed a visibly large lump in my chest at the top of my right breast, “ what is that?” she asked. “ oh nothing” I replied, “I’ve been meaning to go and get it checked out, but I haven’t had time.” I have always had very fiber cystic breasts and I naturally assumed it was just that. She asked me when was the last time I had a mammogram (A mammogram? OUCH!) Hmm, It’s been a while (In fact, it had been 3 years). I told her I would call later. She put the phone in my hand and said “ Call now!” That call saved my life.

I had a mammogram immediately followed by an ultrasound which resulted in a biopsy that was positive for breast cancer. The following week I had a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy which thankfully (the lymph nodes) was negative. After surgery recovery I began a “ dense dose” radiation treatment which was 32 doses in 16 weeks, a first for Pensacola I am proud to say. I felt like I needed to do something to remind women out there how important it is to have your yearly mammogram so I did an episode of WEAR TV 3 Buddy Check with my friend Katherine Daniels about breast cancer radiation treatments and actually showed viewers the radiation process with Dr. Gerald Lowery.

Radiation treatment was exhausting. Every day for 16 days straight, it really wears your body down. When I completed that treatment I took 10 days off and relaxed on a cruise to Mexico with a group of my closest friends, then I started chemo therapy, and did another interview with Channel 3. This time we walked viewers thru an actual Chemotherapy session with my team at Sacred Heart Cancer Center MD Anderson. I did 8 rounds of Chemo, I got sicker than I ever thought was humanly possible, (wound up in the hospital twice because I pushed myself to hard) my hair fell out, my gums bled and swelled up, my feet hurt, in fact every bone in my body hurt, BUT- I AM ALIVE!!! Almost 8 years later I am happy to report I have a clean bill of health – 100% cancer free. I was so fortunate to have amazing family and friends that supported me, but I know not everyone is that lucky. Being a YAYA means so much to me because of their mission to help women. I hope you understand that you are never alone, that you are stronger than you think, and that there is hope.

I wish you all the best on your journey. Sondra


Jennifer Morris’ story...

On June 3, 2014 during my scheduled mammogram, the nurse told me that she could feel a lump on my right breast. They decided to follow up by doing an ultrasound the next day, and biopsy the lump during the ultrasound. I was not really worried or concerned much because I had been doing my mammograms and I have no breast cancer history in my family. On June 6, 2014, I was called back for my results. The doctor came into the room where my husband and I sat with a nurse navigator. He walked into the room, and basically blurted out that my results had come back positive for breast cancer. He then began to explain the findings. He told us that I had invasive ductal carcinoma, and that this type of breast cancer was the most common. He then left us with the nurse navigator who had already scheduled all of my upcoming appointments with the oncologist and the surgeon.

This was all very surreal. The first few hours were spent talking to my parents and trying to figure out how to tell our three young children that Mommy had breast cancer. My husband Kevin was not ready to tell them, and felt that we should wait, but I just could not keep this from them. So we went home and sat them down and explained to them exactly what we already knew from the results. My oldest son Zachary said “ my math teacher had that same cancer, and she is just fine now.” He immediately went into the big brother mode.

The other two just sat there and they finally began to ask questions. Of course, we didn’t have too many answers for them at that time because we had not met with the oncologist.

The next week was a series of doctors’ appointments. The first appointment was with the surgeon who explained about the different options available to me. He wanted to meet with us again once we had our appointment with the oncologist. June 10, 2014 was my first appointment with Tarek Eldawy, MD. He told me that I had invasive ductal carcinoma grade 3 and he staged me at stage 1. He also set me up for a PET scan, so we could be sure that the cancer was not showing up anywhere else. The very next week I had my port placed and received my 1st dose of chemotherapy the very next day. I had 15 rounds of chemotherapy since my cancer was a fast and aggressively growing cancer. We met again with the surgeon and I decided that I wanted to have a double mastectomy. I also had the genetic testing done to see if I was carrying the BRAC gene. They found that I was not carrying the gene, and was considered to be Triple Negative Breast Cancer. During my chemotherapy, I did lose all of my hair, but I did not let that bring me down. I just put on a bandana and went along with my day. I continued to work as long as I wasn’t sick from the chemo.

I had my first surgery to remove my breasts 2 weeks after my last chemotherapy on November 12, 2014. The initial pathology report revealed that I was completely cancer free. My recovery from the initial surgery was a very painful recovery. I went back to the surgeon for my postoperative report and the final pathology report also revealed that ALL of my tissue was indeed cancer free. I was so blessed to have my friends and family with me every step of the way. I did have the tissue expanders put in place during my first surgery to help with the reconstruction of my breasts. After several months of expanding the tissue, I had my final surgery on February 18, 2015.

In July 2014, I was accepted as a new member into the Krewe du YaYas. I am blessed to be a part of such an amazing group of women. I have met so many survivors during this journey!! My YaYa Sistahs are always there for me with a hug and a smile. I am so thankful to be a part of these amazing women.

One thing that I had never really thought about is when does one consider themselves to be a “Survivor?” This was a question that I wasn’t really prepared to answer so early in my treatment and recovery. I decided that I wanted to be considered a survivor from the point of my initial diagnosis. The decision for me was a personal one for sure. A cancer diagnosis is very overwhelming. The diagnosis weakens our physical strength, and shakes our spiritual foundation. It also takes away your independence and sense of well-being. Each cancer journey is unique and everyone deals with it differently. I am thankful to have the chance at life again, and I intend to live it to the fullest.

June 6, 2015 will be ONE year as a survivor and I am ready to have many, many more!


Lisa Jo Walborn
13 yr Cancer Vixen (not victim)

Journal entry 5Jan 2002 - Another long night- uncomfortable most of the day but feel better after shower. The pain isn't muscle but nerve discomfort..really strange feeling. Dr. Dan (hubby) prescribed chocolate ice cream... Tomorrow will be a good day because we will make it one... Each time I look at myself, I'm less upset with how I "look"...time, as always, will help heal not only the tissue but the soul behind it..

“ Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.” - Eleanor Roosevelt


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