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Gayle Norman Barry Overcoming Challenges

About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. While that fact sinks in, you think about the people in your life. Chances are you know someone who has had to deal with breast cancer or you may have fought this battle at some point in time. If you are ever diagnosed, at some point in your journey with breast cancer, you can reach out for support and include Thriving Pink on that list.


Thriving Pink is a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to helping those in Yolo County who have been impacted by breast cancer. Their services and resources help those facing breast cancer, and those who have conquered their cancer, to thrive with network of compassion and partnership.


As chair of the Mentoring Program and a board member, I am really passionate about giving back to help others through this difficult time in their life by sharing my story and doing my best to provide encouragement and support.


I grew up in Bozeman, Montana and I am still a partner in my family’s cattle and wheat ranch that was originally settled by my great grandfather. Yolo County with its focus on agriculture is a perfect fit for me.


I have my annual mammogram every year, yet found a painful lump in my breast nine months later. It was discovered that I have the most aggressive form of breast cancer (triple negative) that is harder to treat with a low survivor rate. Yet five years later, I am free of cancer and grateful I can help others navigate through the very individualized experience of breast cancer. Initially, I kept quiet about my diagnosis because I didn’t want to overstep or assume others would be open to hearing my story. Then I realized that there were others also going through a challenging and difficult journey, and I started to openly share my struggles and experiences. 


You can’t predict who gets cancer and who doesn’t or who suffers a more severe case and who doesn’t. Everyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer asks themselves why it happened to them.  And many times, there is no answer to that question.

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My diagnosis in the spring of 2017 forced me to take a hard look at my life and reassess my priorities. I decided to take a step back, focus more on my family, and fortunately, after I was done with chemo, radiation, and surgery, I was able to move to beautiful Yolo County. My family loves the area, and my daughter even volunteers for Thriving Pink after reading about the good work we do in the newspaper.  I felt that my family was more scared than I was.  I was determined to be brave for them—I have always been a fighter! I feel like a warrior that will beat breast cancer.


Want to know about Thriving Pink?

1. The most important part of Thriving Pink is the realization that no one is in this alone. There are other survivors always willing to reach out and lend a hand. I found chemo to be tiring and, from talking with others, realized that I needed to take it one step at a time and fight each battle as it comes. I feel stronger now and continually learn more every day. Everyone is different and may need different services or resources. Some may want to talk about their experience during the process, while others find it difficult talk about even 20 years later.


2. Whatever you need, Thriving Pink has it! Go outside for a walk with others? Check! Peer-to-peer mentoring? Check! Zoom meet ups? Check! A speaker series to keep up with experts in the field? Check! Financial resources for those in need? Check! There is even the Stitches of Love group who sew quilts and seat belt pillows for those who need them. Comfort bags? Check! Workshops, an annual retreat, and a spring gala? Check, check, and check! An emerging outreach in Spanish? Check again! Not bad for a local, volunteer-driven organization.


3. Five years from now, Thriving Pink strives to provide services and resources to an even larger group through expanded outreach. For now, they hope the Pink Gala and other programs offered by Thriving Pink will be a way to connect with the local community. Though the survival rate for breast cancer and the treatments offered are better than ever, the diagnosis still feels like devastating to those who hear it. Fortunately for those diagnosed in Yolo County there is a place to go to find a group of women who understand and are there to help in every way from the initial diagnosis throughout your entire journey. A strong base of support can have positive lifelong impacts.

This story and photo was developed in partnership with @KLJ Studios in Woodland.

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