Barbie Simpson of Simpson Sheet Metal
Barbie and her team at Simpson Sheet Metal are so inspired by the women in our community.. They are excited to present to you this month's honoree for Women Inspiring Women.
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“I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife. I am a friend, a pilot, an entrepreneur, and a fighter. I am strong, I am confident, I am loving, and I am giving. My name is Tara Jasper, I am many things, I am a cancer survivor, but my cancer does not define me.”
Today, Friday October 1st, marks the first day of breast cancer awareness month. We begin by honoring cancer survivor, Tara Jasper. Tara beat breast cancer that could have been prevented with genetic testing. It’s more important now than ever before for women to stay on top of their screenings.
Catwalk For a Cure - Cancer Doesn’t Stop So Neither Can We! (Photo Will Bucquoy/Catwalk For A Cure)
“As a nurse we have the opportunity to heal the mind, soul, heart and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel. I beat cancer 8 years ago and I have held the hands and cared for those who fight the same fight. I am a mother, daughter and friend. I share my life adventures with my amazing partner, Patrick. I have a love for and passion for my calling in the medical field and I pray for the continued strength of those who do what I do. I am a nurse leader at Kaiser Santa Rosa and with the help of many hard working health professionals I am leading the efforts to get Sonoma County vaccinated! My name is Carol Larson, I am a cancer survivor, but my cancer does not define me!”
“I am a business owner, I am an artist, I am a firefighter, I have written and published 2 children’s books, I founded a non-profit, Heartizens.org. Many of the words I include in my metal arts pieces: ‘Positive’, ‘Blessed’, ‘Resilient’, ‘Strong’, ‘Grateful’, and other words of inspiration strike a particular chord within each of us. For me, the word ‘Embrace’ means an act of accepting or supporting something willingly or enthusiastically. To deny things as they are is simply to deny life. I want to live. I can confidently say that I am now cancer free and, if perhaps a cancer cell shows up down the road, I will again embrace it and know I am OK. My name is Jendala Utsch , I am a cancer survivor, but my diagnosis does not define me.”
I am a schoolteacher of 41 years (now retired). I’ve been an entrepreneur. I’ve traveled the world over. One of my best friends is my mother (she turns 102 next month). I am strong. I am loving. I am giving. I am compassionate. I am a forever student of the world. I take each day, one at a time. TODAY IS MY 72nd BIRTHDAY and to celebrate I’ll be spending the day at the spa! I am a two-time cancer survivor, I am many things, but my cancer does not define me!”
The tattoo Jenica and her close friends have inscribed on their arms read: “Nevertheless, She Persisted.” She goes on to say: “I am a mom of two boys, a wife, a sister, a daughter. I am a prosecutor and professional bad-ass. I play beer league softball. I am a radical empath and advocate for the underdog. I am an open book, I live big and I speak my mind. I am passionate, engaged and ambitious and I don’t mind learning. I am strong but I welcome meaningful and sincere support. I’ve undergone 13 surgeries and 16 rounds of chemo. I am a complex PTSD survivor. I will share my story with anyone who needs to hear it. I am 5 years cancer free. I am many things, but my cancer does not define who I am.”
“I said goodbye to breast cancer 23 years ago, but in March of this year I found a lump. Choosing double mastectomy, my body later rejected new implants. I am now preparing for reconstructive surgery using my own tissue. I am grateful to those who have shared their experiences with me and I find healing and inspiration in the opportunity to share mine with others. Soon I will launch a product line of pre-surgery care kits for women undergoing surgery. My daughter, (my everything) has provided me with the level of love, care and support that is beyond all measure. When I was asked to describe myself, she said: “tell them you are reliable, you are kind, you are compassionate and adventurous, you are beautiful, but tell them mostly, you are a fighter and a survivor.” I am many things, I beat cancer once and I will beat cancer again, but know this, I am not defined by my cancer.”
“I didn’t find a lump. I noticed a weird shape. My tumor was hard to feel because it was flat, like an elongated pancake. Luckily, I had a mammogram before any cells were found in my lymph nodes. That is the ongoing hope. The cancer experience taught me that you have to live in the silver linings of the storm. My cancer helped me focus on and appreciate the present. There is a sticker in my car that says; “NO BAD DAYS” and that is how I choose to live my life. My name is Ginger, but I see myself more as a Mary Ann. I love the outdoors and gardening. I lose myself in the work and in that I feel free. I am a mom of three. A sister, a daughter, a wife, a realtor, an aunt, a kind and gentle soul. A soul dancer and lover of life. My name is Ginger Susner. I am a triple negative survivor. I am many things, but know this, my cancer does not define me.”
“I wanted to take this photo to show more women that we are not defined by our breasts. When I look in the mirror, I love how I look and frankly, I love who I am. I was diagnosed nearly 5 years ago, purely out of the blue, with no history of breast cancer in my family. I received 16 rounds of chemo and 36 of radiation and a double mastectomy. They tell you; “…you are going to have new breasts.” But, the reality is for so many women who go through radiation is that their body rejects the spacers and implants. After three tries, I was ready to move on. I asked my Doctor to sew me up tight! I am a single mother of 2. I am a floral designer, a lover of art and the arts. I am strong. I am confident. I am a survivor, I am blessed, I am grateful and I am happy. I wanted to show the world the way I look and be proud. My name is Gina Gallisa, I am a breast cancer survivor, but I am not defined by my cancer.”
“I’ve never had breast cancer. But my mother died from cancer, my (warrior-survivor) sister, diagnosed with breast cancer and I tested genetically, 99.9% likely to develop cancer. So, I made the decision that I was not going to be a victim of this evil disease. It’s been 6 years since my Oophorectomy, hysterectomy and double mastectomy preventative surgeries that I am convinced, absolutely, saved my life. I am a wife, a daughter, sister. I am loving and brave. I love hiking and cooking and reading. I celebrate life everyday. I am a retired business development manager and I now work at Starlet Bridal and Prom purely for the joy it gives me. My name is Shannen Dettman, I am many things, but I will not be defined by a diagnosis of cancer.
“Every day I wake up with hair and I don’t have to puke, is a great day. 24 years ago, I beat breast cancer. It reappeared 10 years ago, and I beat cancer again. I understand, firsthand what my cancer patients are going through. I’m in my 52nd year as an RN and I have experienced hundreds of breast cancer survivors through my work, at Sutter Hospital and in peer counseling and organizing survivors for Catwalk for A Cure. I’ve experienced the chemo. The bone marrow transplant and radiation. The difficulty with treatment is that cancer patients don’t feel sick from breast cancer, it’s the treatment that makes you feel like shit! What I say to the newly diagnosed is: make your plan, get it organized, trust your care team and plan a vacation after. I love to travel. I’m from New Zealand originally and my plan is to travel back at my first opportunity. My friends would describe me as kind, strong, determined, compassionate and dedicated. My name is Linda Kerse, I am a two-time breast cancer survivor, but my breast cancer does not define me.”
“Chemotherapy is just fucking awful. I am not saying this for your pity. I’m just so over this, because it could have been prevented if I had been diagnosed earlier. My body is a complete mess trying to manage through the treatments, my mind is busy and determined to finish this journey. I am so damn ready to pull it all back together and make this year a distant memory. It could be worse, I know this!! No one should have to endure this hideous journey. Early detection is everything. Please get tested. Ask for a sonagram too. Get anything that is bothering you checked out and push those doctors!!! (ps: It’s more than just losing your hair). Pictured with me is Lord Sandwich. At 80 lbs. and as high as doorknobs, he is the famous golden doodle ‘Socks for Sandwich’ mascot who helps us with new socks donations for families in need. Many thousands of pairs of socks have found their way onto the feet of those in need. I am a Winery co-founder, I am a wife, I am an entrepreneur, I am a fighter. I am surrounded by many friends and supporters. I am grateful. My name is Ali Smith Story. I am battling breast cancer. I am many things, but my cancer does not define me!”
“OH SHIT!” Those are the words you will hear escape from your lips when you discover a lump in your breast. I was going through a period of depression prior to discovering the lump, but then, the diagnosis was awakening. I woke up the next day ready to face cancer and in a weird way, I was happy! Cancer has caused me to refocus on my life, waking up each day feeling grateful. Diagnosed shortly before the pandemic I am now cancer free thanks to a lumpectomy and a lifestyle change centered on self-care that includes: no sugar, no alcohol and a fitness regimen. I have found that it is extremely important to listen to your body. I’ve got my barefoot sailing license which means I can charter and sail any boat. I am a mother, a daughter and a sister. I am a cook, a gardener and I love family. I want to sail the world as the ocean brings me peace and rocks me to my soul in a beautiful way. My name is Carrie Gibbs, I am a cancer survivor, but my cancer does not define me.”
“With the right music, you either forget everything or remember everything. For me, I just
close my eyes and let the music set me free. I’ve been an RN for 47 years. I’ve provided care to many and as a two-time cancer survivor, I understand, firsthand the fight and the journey. I retired 8 years ago, but still volunteer my time as nurse specialist. I am an activist, a fighter, I fight for women’s rights and the rights of all human beings on this planet. My kids would describe me as loving, caring, an easy going person who loves the outdoors. I am an extrovert, a dandelion not an orchid, a world traveler and lover of music especially the opera. Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. My name is Gail Simons. I am a two time cancer survivor. I am many things but I am not defined by my cancer.
“My dad is a breast cancer survivor; my mom is too. When my father found a lump in his breast I decided to get genetically tested and discovered that I had a 99% chance of developing cancer too. For me, having three daughters, it was an easy decision to make to have the prophylactic surgeries necessary to prevent cancer from controlling my life. I won’t lie, it’s not an easy experience, but I love life, I love my family and I have many goals and dreams for my future that I plan to keep. I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a daughter, I am a sister, and I am a friend. I am a survivor, I am resilient, I am a fighter, and I am an advocate for others. My name is Kelly Wood, I am many things, But I am NOT defined by cancer.”
“ I’m so healthy, I work out, I could never get cancer!” These were my first thoughts when they found the lump. Still, in disbelief, we went back for a second look and then, biopsy. Thanks to frequent testing and screening, I caught it very early at stage zero breast cancer. My surgery was almost immediate after diagnosis and within 4 days of surgery, I participated in my first ‘Catwalk for A Cure’ in October. On Christmas Eve, after the completion of 33 radiation treatments and in keeping with tradition amongst cancer patients, I rang the bell in the treatment center. My advice? get tested and screened often and do not delay your healthcare. I love my life as a tutor for children. The thought of a child having a better future because I spent time reading with them makes my heart glow with joy. I am determined, I am relentless, I am strong, and I am a survivor. My name is Patricia Steele, I am many things, but I am not defined by this disease.”
“I guess some would say I’m living on borrowed time. I like to think I’m living on sunshine. 18 months ago, my doctor told me I had 3 months to live and that I should get my affairs in order, but do any of us really know when our expiration date is? For me now, it’s more about quality of time than quantity of time. We all get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget to look up and say hi to a friend, share a smile with a stranger or commit a random act of kindness. I am living happier now than ever before and if I could offer any advice to those with cancer, it’s this; speak up! You’ve got to fight for yourself, trust yourself, trust your body, build a game plan, and trust your team. I’ve been fighting cancer for 3 years, non-stop. I don’t know how long I’ve got, but I know I’m going to make the most of every single minute. I am a loving mother, I earned my master’s degree and I am a teacher of speech for kids with special needs. I am fun, I am energetic, I am sunshine. I tell people I love them every chance I get! I love this line in a poem a random stranger wrote for me: “…seeds of abundant joy are sprawling out of the daisies of your smiles.” My name is Kim Head, I am many things, but I am not defined by this disease.”
“Being diagnosed with breast cancer forces you to assume the role of Wonder Woman, not only for yourself but for those around you. While a cancer diagnosis will scare the hell out of you, people aren’t sure how to behave around you, so you put your fear of dying aside to comfort those around you. I was already going through a low point in life prior to my diagnosis, but my cancer helped me decide I wanted to live. My goal became to heal and normalize my body as soon as possible, so I could move on. I am a mother, a daughter, I am spiritual and a lover of life. I am grateful, I am a fighter, I am a survivor, a traveler and reluctant Wonder Woman! After 11 surgeries and countless other treatments, I am cancer free and living my best life. My name is Tracy Maples, I am many things, but I am definitely NOT defined by my cancer!”
“Scars. You can’t see them, but there are scars. The deeper the cut, the deeper the meaning. The scars against my skin are now considered sacred. The emotional scars, now sacrosanct. We are all born naked and vulnerable …raw. What happens to us after that is what we make of it. Cancer changed the course of my life. The healing requires repairing yourself physically, rehabilitating yourself spiritually and remaking yourself intellectually. I see my two cancer experiences as a gift that has taught me to live passionately and care deeply for myself and for others. I am an educator, I am an advocate, I am a dancer, I am a lover of life. I am fun, I am loyal, I am honest, I am a world traveler. I am a two-time cancer survivor. My name is Nina Schultz, I am many things, but my cancer does not define who I am.”
”I’m just an ordinary joe who was going along about my life when cancer came along. The first time was in 2014. Doing my routine mamo. a lump was found early on the left side that was contained in the duct. No problem, cured with a lumpectomy and radiation. I kept up my routine mamos, then 4 years later, abnormalities were found on the right side. This time it was much worse. I describe myself as strong and able to take care of myself. I laughed when the nurse practitioner said; “…you’re gonna need help!” She was right. I have endured the surgeries, the chemo. and the radiation. I did it with the help of my team and the support of my family. I advise every woman to get regular screening. Early detection is key in this fight. I work in the medical field. My husband calls me a hero. I am a sister, a wife, a dog owner, and to quote from Maya Angelou, “I’m a woman, phenomenally, phenomenal woman, that’s me.” My name is Vilona Sample, I am a two-time cancer survivor, I am many things, but my cancer does not define me.”
“Nurses. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending, to rise strong. I’ve been an OR and trauma nurse for 44 years. It’s safe to say I’ve seen just about everything. Nursing can be hard. It’s heartache and tears. It’s working long shifts on tired feet. But it’s rewarding. We are the caregivers and the lifesavers. So, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself in 2014, I knew what was coming. The surgeries, the Chemo, all of it. What I wasn’t prepared for is that the chemo takes some of your memory and recall ability. When you are a nurse you know that everyday you will touch a life or a life will touch yours. I am an optimist, I am a caregiver, I am generous, I am calm and I am collected. I am a wife, a mom, I am a traveler … I am a nurse. I am a cancer survivor, my name is Louise, I am many things, but my cancer does not define me.”
“My story sounds like a bad country western song: ‘Lost my job, lost my home, lost my friend, lost my fiance’ lost my dog’ … Oh! And yeah, they cut my boobs off! But hey, I’m the “can do it” girl. If something needs to get done, I know I need to do it. The saying: “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice” fits for who I am. After 5 surgeries and 25 rounds of radiation, I spent a lot of time crying and a lot of time cussing, because it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost a piece of yourself along the way and don’t quite know how to get that girl back. But, my daughter is everything to me and I need to be here for her and also for my mom who turns 80 this year. My daughter would describe me as strong, resilient, loving, and caring. I am a doer, I am a cancer survivor. My name is Jannette Gallegos, I am many things, but I am not defined by cancer.”
“I believe in getting back on the horse after you’ve been bucked off. I believe in fighting for our kids, in not letting our darkest times define us, and in coming out the other side a total rock star. I believe in grit, resilience, and the power of making lemonade out of exceedingly sour lemons — whatever those lemons may be.
So, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34, my first thought was how to tell my six-year-old daughter without scaring her. As it turns out, explaining cancer is only the beginning. Treatment is long and can be confusing, scary, and isolating for kids. I am the author, illustrator, and founder of Mighty&Bright, a series of children’s books and visual calendars which help families through hard things like cancer, divorce, pandemic and other major changes. Every woman in my family has had breast cancer and my message to others is you must advocate for yourself, push for early detection, it will save your life. I know that in your hardest moments, you just want it to be over. But I also know that going through rough times — each and every miserable day — makes us stronger, teaches us lessons, and helps us be better role models for our children.
When you go through a personal disaster like a major illness, or divorce, you can choose one of three options: let it make you bitter; go into denial and keep quiet; or grab it by the reins and choose to include and inspire your kids with your life. I hope you choose the third door. My name is Sara Osler, I am a cancer survivor, I am many things, but my cancer does not define me.”
“I don’t want to close my eyes, I don’t want to fall asleep, cause I’d miss you, baby and I don’t want to miss a thing.” Aerosmith’s song lyrics tell my story. My daughter is my everything. I need to be here to see her grow-up, to go to college, to follow her passion for art, to get married, to have children of her own. I don’t like to give up and you certainly can’t tell me that I can’t do something. That will only strengthen my resolve. Job number one for me is, I am a mom. I have a biology degree and work in the environmental health sector. My daughter and I share a mutual love for live music, especially bands like Aerosmith, Pink, Alanis Morissette, Sarah Mclachlan, and Chris Isaak. My daughter describes me as funny, intelligent, creative, beautiful, caring, tough and resilient. I had the surgeries, the chemo and the radiation and I am now cancer free for 13 years. My name is Darla Bello Pimlott, I am many things, but I am not defined by cancer. "
“CHEMO-BRAIN” is real. Everything is in your brain, but it won’t come out. Feeling disorganized and finding it difficult to find the right words there exists an overwhelming fogginess. But knowing this quote: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle” helps to get you through. Diagnosed at 33 years old, I am now part of the best club that no one wants to be a part of. Thankfully, Sutter hospital gave me the opportunity to take 13 months off to fight this disease and now, 2 years later, I am cancer free. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister. I am an LVN, I love to play softball and I am a voracious reader. My amazing husband says that I am compassionate, thoughtful, and loving. My sister says that I am resilient and kind. My mom says that I am full of grace. I say that I am a bad-ass ball of paradoxes and contradictions. My name is Linsey Voight, I am a cancer survivor, but my cancer does not define me.”
“Get busy living or get busy dying.” This quote from one of my favorite movies really says it all for me. I’ve always loved animals, and so the work I do for Dogwood Animal Rescue has brought me back to life. Dogwood Animal Rescue is unique in that it is foster-based, meaning animals are not held in a shelter but cared for in the homes of our volunteers until adopted. I have several animals myself and would make a horrible foster mom, because I would want to keep every single one of them. So, I contribute by raising funds through selling merchandise. Serious illness is not new to me as I have suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lyme disease and severe migraines. What I have learned is that you must manage your illness and push for the care, testing and support you need to make it through. I am a 4 year cancer survivor. I am a mom, a wife, I am passionate and loving. I love animals and love the work I do to support Dogwood Animal Rescue. My name is Lynnette Fulkerth, I am many things, but I am not defined by my cancer.
“One in eight American women will end up with this hideous disease. 40,000 a year will die. It’s breast cancer awareness month, and with that you will hear “save the tata’s” and “save second base” and while this might help bring some awareness, my feeling is that it reduces breast cancer it to a joke. When my doctor used the words “cancer” and then within a minute said another terrifying word: “mastectomy”, was I thinking about breasts or whether I could keep my nipples? Was I thinking about saving “second base”? No, I was thinking about staying alive. I am more than the parts that a knife cut away. I am a woman, an entire human being. I felt whole, but then cancer happened. And that is why I fight. I fight for my sisters who share this horrible experience, who understand that you never adjust to a torn body part. I fight for the women (and sometimes men), who choose radical surgery to stay alive and for some, for whom even that isn’t a choice that is available. So, I ask you, now in this month of October, to do more than just wear a pink ribbon, I ask you to ask yourself this: “One in eight, what if it is someone I love. What if it is me?” One in eight, your friends, your family, your children, what would you do to keep them alive? I ask you to please join me and the legions who fight this fight by supporting the many that suffer from this disease. And I ask you, please, get tested, advocate for your health and never stop fighting, your life just might depend on it!” My name is Suzanne Agasi, I am a fighter, a breast cancer survivor, a businesswoman. I am many things, but I am not defined by this disease.”
“Two years ago, my world got "real" when I sat down in a room with my Dr, my Mom and my aunt to hear the words, "The biopsy came back positive for cancer". I used to refer to this moment as surreal, when my world got turned upside down, but what had actually happened was my world got turned right side up. I was put in the unique position of choosing life or death....the question was posed, and I had to actually think about it.....like really think about it in a very "real" way. Do I want to live in this world that I was losing faith in, or do I want to fight to be in it, so I can inspire others to do the same? I chose to fight, I chose to laugh, I chose to seek out joy and be present in the teeniest tiniest of moments, and to appreciate life for the gift that it is. It kinda felt like waking up from a cocoon of despair and choosing to take flight. I woke up! Not everyone gets that choice, so in honor of them, I cannot take for granted a single day that I get to put my bare feet in the sand, smell the flowers on a stroll, tell my peeps that I love them, and play "local tourist" with Gigi, my beloved dog, who has helped me through every step of this new chapter in my life. The world is hurting and it's hard to not hurt with it, but I am reminded that every day is a choice, and I will choose to live it while laughing for as long as I am given the option. Please, please get your mammograms! Early detection is absolutely key to saving lives!!! I’m a circus clown, a dog mom, a beautiful weirdo, an artist, a lover of life........cancer does not define me.”
My name is not important, but my story is.
I am a private person. It makes me uncomfortable to talk about my cancer experiences and honestly, it’s easier to deal with the treatments when there is not so much attention focused on me. But I also think that if my story could help one other person who is going through this, it’s worth it. My story: I was diagnosed with cancer, I had the surgeries, the radiation treatments, the chemo. and the medications. With each there is a whole host of side effects. The experience can be miserable, it can be crippling and dis-heartening and can change your life forever. So, I’ll simply say this; in the words of Frida Kahlo: “I think that little by little, I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.” Early detection is so very important to the treatment of this disease, but equally important is how you deal with the aftershocks of the treatment. The medication can bring on bouts of depression and anxiety. Every itch, every twitch and every minor ache will make you think cancer has returned. For me, my husband, my family and my friends became my rock, my medical team became my lifeline and my active role in managing my case became my means for survival. I am often inspired by Frida Kahlo which is why her likeness adorns my scars and her words become mine when she says: “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” I am a wife, a mother, a daughter a friend. I am caring, I am independent, I am strong and I am empathetic. I am a cancer survivor, but my cancer does not define me.”