FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as the Vera Bradley Breast Cancer Foundation turns the city pink, survivors share their stories.
Tina Conrad is both a breast cancer survivor and the daughter of a double breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at 37 and underwent chemotherapy, radiation therapy, reconstruction and a double mastectomy.
“It definitely changes things when you’re a young cancer patient obviously they want the most aggressive treatments because they want you to have the longest opportunity in life,” she said. .
Conrad’s mother Della, who has now been cancer free for 20 years, took her daughter’s diagnosis hard.
“She felt, like, a guilt associated with it and it really surfaced early in my diagnosis,” Conrad said. “We really had an open, honest and transparent conversation, and I said I can’t worry that you worry that I worry about you – we have to put all of our energy into getting well. . “
So they did.
“She was really all I needed as a mentor, cheerleader, mom, listening ear. Because she got it, she figured out what it was.
After her diagnosis, and with her mother’s example of “courage and grace through cancer and life,” Tina Conrad, a confirmed optimist, found something in herself.
“I found a new goal and really emphasized that I needed a legacy and that it was really important for me to make a difference in this world,” she said. “I had such a unique experience having my mom as a mentor to me, but I was really worried about all these other women who didn’t have anyone. So I really wanted to be that kind of inspiration and really help them. women throughout their journey. ”
This led her to launch a podcast, DJ Breast Cancer, in which she tells her story and invites survivors and those battling the disease to share their own stories. Each episode also offers a tip for helping someone on their own journey.
“Now I have invited hundreds of guests, I have 100 episodes and this has really been a meaningful way and a great way to give back to the community,” Conrad said. “I keep hope, but real. They’re going through tough times, and sometimes it’s just empathy. If I can help a person, it makes their trip a little lighter.
Conrad says she can’t stress enough the importance of a support system and encourages anyone battling cancer to seek one.
This year, she also published a collection of poems. The book is called “From C to C”, it is a journey through cancer and COVID. Conrad says she wants to help people feel like they’re not alone in the world.
“I started writing during my breast cancer diagnosis, honestly a few days after my diagnosis, and found that with COVID a lot of those feelings came back. Feelings of isolation, and you cannot leave your house, and you are afraid for your health. All of those triggers came back, and so one day I was walking and I heard that whisper to put them all in a book together.
All proceeds from book sales go to the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, which organizes events and fundraisers to raise funds for breast cancer research. Tina says events like Turn the Town Pink are important. Every ribbon you see downtown, in a neighborhood, or hung in a business is in honor or in memory of a loved one.
“The ribbons mean options, research and hope,” Conrad said. These ribbons are really a way to try to have more options and time with their families and really for the next generation that we have hope for.
Conrad and her husband also work for Vera Bradley. She has been there for 6 years and says it was important for her to find a company whose values match her own.
“It’s part of our culture to give back to breast cancer. Breast cancer is a priority. “
Throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Tina says awareness “is huge” and it starts with you. She encourages all women to get checked regularly and to always be aware of changes in their bodies.