TROY — Battling cancer is an emotional and scary time for the patient and their families, and one local woman had the chance to talk about her experiences in this month’s edition of Glamour.
Heather Salazar, the executive director of Pink Ribbon Girls, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31 when she and her husband had four children, ages 10, seven, four and three.
She and four other women from around the United States talked to the magazine about their experiences and struggles with breast cancer, with Salazar’s story focused mainly on her daughters and her family.
“It was getting through it and being scared,” she said. “Now that I’m 11 years out, it’s a little different, but I just wanted to be here to watch my children grow up.”
Her daughters, 15-year-old Cara and 14-year-old Lexi, were photographed with their mother. Salazar said she and her husband adopted Lexi as a baby when Lexi’s biological mother, Alexis Preston, was battling breast cancer and eventually passed away at the age of 23.
“We talked about how breast cancer isn’t always pink or pretty,” she said. “In my story we talked a lot about Lexi’s mom, what that was like and how I now have two daughters who have to worry about breast cancer, African-American and Caucasian, who have to worry about breast cancer at a young age.”
Salazar said she met photographer Christine Benjamin nine years ago at a conference for women with breast cancer, and that the Salazar family’s story is what motivated Benjamin to choose them for an interview and photo.
“The photographer had breast cancer and we had talked and connected via Facebook and she loved our story and that’s how it got started with Christine Benjamin,” she said.
Salazar and her daughters spent four days in New York City, which she said her girls loved. She said the three of them were treated wonderfully while they were there, and she was grateful for the opportunity to give the exposure to Pink Ribbon Girls in a national magazine.
“Our goal is to serve more and more people,” she said. “We have people contacting us, ‘are you in Indiana?’ ‘are you here?’ and we’re just not yet, so our goal is to expand and reach as many people as possible.”
PRG is a non-profit organization which serves women with breast cancer and as recently as September, all women’s reproductive cancers, including ovarian, uterine and cervical cancer.
“We offer free direct services, such as meals for the entire family that are healthy, three meals per week, transportation to treatment, house cleaning and peer support,” Salazar said.
From her experience with her own battle and from her role at PRG, Salazar advises women battling breast cancer to be their own advocate and ask for help.
“I also think there are a lot of people who aren’t their own advocates, to get second opinions and figure things out for themselves” she said. “It’s a very hard and difficult time when you’re first diagnosed… It’s a humbling experience, but so many people do want to help.”
Salazar expressed her gratitude to the businesses and donors to help PRG. To donate, volunteer or see all of PRG’s events, visit their website at www.pinkribbongirls.org.
Reach Allison C. Gallagher at [email protected] or on Twitter @Troydailynews.