Share your Story
Inspired to honor the memory of her mother, Carol, our founder, created Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer, The Bakes for Breast Cancer Bake Sale and is President of Bakes for Breast Cancer, Inc. We created this platform as a place to share your stories of courage and inspiration. Our hope that your words will inspire others and uplift the spirit of the community.
In 2011, we shared the memory of Colleen O’Farrell. A member of the Fox 25 News team, known for her indomitable spirit, she died from Triple Negative Breast Cancer at age 39.
Colleen lived with her husband Pete, and their two kids in western MA. When news of her illness broke, the surrounding commuity sprung into action, including children of the community. The story of what happened next was documented by freelance writer, Andrew Sullivan and published in the Community Advocate, 10/9/2009, excerpts noted below.
“Members of the 4H Horse and Hound, and Fox and Guinea Pig held a fundraiser to support Colleen O’Farrell’s Fight.” Attendance at the event totalled 500 people. Members of 4H supported the event by putting together baskets to raffle off
One Perfect Moment
One of the challenges of being a breast cancer survivor is the fear of recurrence. It’s a strange fear for me at this point, more than four years out from the end of my treatment. I don’t look like a cancer survivor anymore, and most days I don’t feel like one. Most of my coworkers don’t even know I have been through cancer, and I would think that it would surprise them, given that I am just 33 years old. My breast cancer is no longer a regular topic of conversation among my family and friends. It just seems further away each day.
For these reasons, I am blindsided by this terrible fear of recurrence twice a year – when it’s time for my annual mammogram, and then my annual MRI. Usually I can usually keep the thought of going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment again at bay, but at this time of year, it keeps me up at night. I wish I could put it out of my head. I wish the fear would diminish over time, but it hasn’t. – April
“2004&2005 I was diagnosed w/ bilateral breast cancer. I was treated w/ surgery & radiation. Without the encouragement of my husband & friends the battle would have been much more difficult. Even though I was an oncology nurse, it was still a daunty task. Volunteering w/ breast cancer patients has helped me to survive.
Yes I am a SURVIVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!” - Sally, Framingham
“I squeezed my Grandpa’s hand after every bout of chemo. Just that moment made me feel like everything was going to be alright.- Julie B , Brookline.
“My husband told me i was beautiful bald. Of course, i had been telling him that for years!” – Linda, Arlington
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats” - Voltaire
“My sixteen year old daughter wrote this song as a tribute to her aunt -a breast cancer survivor.
Hope this encourages somebody!” Jan
“As a novelist working on a story told through letters, I came to appreciate that in this age of text messages and email we’ve forgotten the importance of letters. But not until I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 did I understand that letters are gifts with the power to heal. Knowing someone took the time and care to hand-write a note was encouraging and uplifting. After coming home from radiation, I would read the cards lined up on my kitchen counter and know I wasn’t alone. Today I’m cancer-free, and I’m convinced those special letters helped speed my recovery. From my experiences, I started a charity called Girls Love Mail. The goal of Girls Love Mail is to encourage newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with the gift of a hand-written letter. It’s so simple. We don’t keep emails, but letters are sacred mementos that we save in decorative boxes. For me, starting Girls Love Mail was one of those AHA moments. And two and a half years into my story of survival, I still pull out my cards and know that I’m not alone” Gina
“Colleen O’Farrell – simply a gem
As Colleen’s sister I am compelled to write about her on this site. I have found it difficult to not just tell you how terribly I miss her. Or to write about how difficult it is to live without the only person, other than your parents, that you have known all of your life. She was the other half of me, the younger, far more energetic, better half of me.
Colleen feared nothing – from bike jumps and roller coasters as a kid, to white water rafting and sky diving as an adult – nothing stopped her. Even cancer couldn’t stop her the first two times it tried.
She was always determined – she must have thrown that baseball 1000 times a day to make her throw accurate – she must have felt really lousy sitting in class at Curry College during cancer treatments ensuring she graduated on time – which are just two examples of many. However, this level of determination barely compares to the complete devotion she had for her two children, Michael and Jacquelyn, and to giving them every opportunity to experience the best that life had to offer. In the very short time she had with them, she gave them all of her. In usual form Colleen wasted no time, in a short six years her family experienced Disney World, Cape Cod, Red Sox games, Patriot games, Herring Runs – some of the adventures I had never even heard of – I didn’t know where she found out about all of them – or found the time to fit them all in – she just never stopped.
Her spirit lives on very clearly in her children. Michael shares her dry, intelligent, slightly sarcastic, wit and if you are not paying close attention you might miss it. Jacquelyn shares Colleen’s complete enthusiasm for everything that happens throughout each and every day. And they are both very sweet children. Michael swapped books with the boy no one else would swap with “because he wouldn’t want that done to him” and Jackie worries when someone else’s birthday is approaching that she is sure to have a present to give.
Colleen would tell you the reason she left us all too soon was because it only took her 39 years to do what others take 80 years to accomplish. That may be true, but the world deserved more of what she had to give. Her children deserved the chance to experience her for a lot longer than they did. Pete is a great and dedicated dad who will raise two wonderful adults in Michael and Jacquelyn. And I will do my best to help keep the fun alive, but Colleen should be there hugging them at every finish line, ceremony, celebration, milestone, accomplishment, disappointment or heartbreak. That was what she lived for!
This hideous disease steals lives, but Colleen only wants you to celebrate – celebrate her life – celebrate your life. You can help to stop this tragic epidemic. All you have to do is find any reason, big or small, to go to dinner and celebrate, order a dessert and enjoy every bite of it. Colleen wouldn’t have it any other way.” Christine
I have stopped counting the years since my parents have passed away. They are frozen in time at the age of their passing. It wasn’t until I turned 42, the age my father was when he died that I for most likely the first time realized how truly young my parents were when they died and how much of life they were shortchanged!My sister and I grew up with both of our parents having long extended hospital stays. It was the way things were done in the 60’s and 70’s. It was our normal and we did not think anything of it. Nor did we think that our parents were going to die by being in the hospital for long periods of time since they always came home except for the day my father passed away in the hospital. I remember it well.It was a Sunday and I don’t remember who told us that when my mother got home from the hospital she had something to tell us. We went on playing that Sunday afternoon as if nothing had happened until my mother came home. Running to the door to great her, I knew something had happened. I was 9 years old and at that age and at that time in the 60’s you never would think of a parent’s mortality. I was not expecting her to tell us that our father had died and she had lost her husband, my grandfather a son, his sisters a brother.Were we innocent and naïve? Or was it the times? I don’t have the answer! We were children.But life changed quickly that Sunday afternoon for us. I remember my best friend calling to see if I was buying lunch or bringing lunch for school on Monday and that was the first time I said I was not going to school and told her of my father’s passing.The house was now a house of morning. Mirrors covered so we would not see our reflection. Wooden boxes to sit on for Shiva so we would feel the pain. My grandfather’s cries and groans as he lost his only son who was given the middle name of Oldwyne during his childhood so this sickly child would live a long life. He did not live a long life!The house filled was filled with people for the next week. Platters of food covered with yellow cellophane (to this day I can’t look at yellow cellophane) were arriving as well as so many fruit baskets. People were bringing my sister and me gifts; something I found hard to understand.My story will continue…Carol
Cancer was a secret word!
As I mentioned before, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s when someone was sick, they stayed in the hospital for extended periods of time. It was the norm for the time we grew up in. My mother and father always came home from the hospital no matter how long they were in the hospital for! Extended hospital stays was a stable in our household growing up.
Were we naive for not thinking about our parent’s illness as being terminal? Or were we just children being children and not thinking of a young parent’s mortality? Was it the time we were living in that we were naïve? Maybe we were just innocent!
Times were very different then. The television shows from the 60’s and 70’s were quite different from the television shows our children watch today! Back then if I remember correctly happy endings were common.
The word “cancer” was not a word used much in the 60’s and 70’s as it is today. Cancer was a secret word. Even if we heard the word cancer, we, as children would not have known what it meant. We would not have associated it as being a disease our mother would or could die from; after all we were only children who had already lost one parent, our father.
The chances that a women of in the 60’s and 70’s getting breast cancer were 1 in 20! My mother did get breast cancer and it was a secret. Carol
After a breast cancer diagnosis from her local oncologist, Jill arrived at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for a second opinion. During a time of uncertainty, Jill was comforted by the professional and compassionate staff at Dana-Farber. When Jill worries she’ll have to circle the garage for a parking spot, she is greeted by valet staff. When she is hungry during appointment-filled days, she goes to a snack station conveniently located on her clinical floor. And when Jill has questions, her physicians, surgeons and entire care team are there to support her through treatment. Dana-Farber is a special place that defines level of care by individual patient needs. Jill is confident that if it wasn’t for Dana-Farber, she wouldn’t feel as great as she does today.
Jill is a passionate baker and knows that desserts can make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. Creating delicious desserts lifts her spirits and carries her through long days of treatment. In honor of Jill and Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer, please visit a participating restaurant, supermarket, bakery or cafe and help raise money for breast cancer research and care one sweet at a time!
Enjoy Jill’s Best Biscotti recipe and celebrate Boston Bakes from your kitchen!
Jill’s Best Biscotti
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped almonds or dried apricots diced
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated, being sure to scrape down the sides as you go to ensure the ingredients are well mixed. Add the vanilla and the zest of the orange. Scrape the bowl down again. Add the flour and baking soda. Mix until just combined. Stir in the nuts.
Turn out dough on lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half and roll each half into a log. Place on greased baking sheet and slightly flatten with your hands. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes until just golden. Remove from oven, let cool about 25 minutes. Cut into 1″ slices. Place back on baking sheet and bake another 8-10 minutes. Let cool and serve.
My Story -Testing for the Breast Cancer Gene -Carol
Angelina Jolie decision to share her story about being tested for the breast cancer gene and undergoing a double mastectomy is major and will help so many men and women. It is incredible that as such a public figure, she was able to keep her story private until she wanted to share it with the world.
Shared it now is!
Since writing her story on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, every newspaper, news cast and social media is abuzz with her story. Her honesty and truthfulness will help many make a very tough decision.
Here is my story about how long it took me to be tested and what the magic words were for me.
I am not sure of the years anymore since they all blend together. When we first started fundraising for breast cancer in 1990, Dr. Judy Garber suggested to my sister and myself that we both get tested for the breast cancer gene since breast cancer ran in our family. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute had a study and it would not cost anything to do at that time.
My sister got tested and her test results were negative. This did not mean that I was negative. Even though my sister tested negative, I still could test positive for the breast cancer gene.
At that time, I could not get tested. I did not know what I would do with the results if I did test positive. I was being seen at the High Risk and Prevention Clinic at Dana-Farber once a year, by my gynecologist once a year and my primary care physician once a year. I felt being examined three times a year by three doctors was one way I could insure if I did develop breast cancer, it would be detected early along with having my mammograms and ultrasounds.
I will be honest since I have fiber cystic breasts, I did not or do now self-breast exams. I have so many lumps and bumps I would be living at Dr. Judy Garber’s office at Dana-Farber! Since I am proactive about my breast health, this course of action works best for me.
Several years ago, Dr. Garber said the magic words to me to convince me now was the time to get the genetic testing done. Do it for your daughter!
I started fundraising for breast cancer to help raise money for breast cancer research so I would see my daughter grow up something my mother did not get to do with her daughters when she passed away at 44 years old.
Now, my health insurance covered the testing something it had not done before. I was older and was set with my health insurance and other insurance policies I might need in my life, no fear of being denied a policy for test results. It was the right time for me to be tested for the breast cancer gene. I was doing it for my daughter. Magic words indeed!
My results were I did not carry the gene for breast cancer.
Sharing my story before did not matter. But now standing with Angelina Jolie and saying I was tested to seems to have so much more meaning.