When two-time breast cancer survivor Rita Thomas woke up on her 56th birthday last month, the last thing she had in mind was to get a present.
"Instead of thinking about what kind of gifts I would get on my birthday or who wanted to take me to dinner, I just started getting all these ideas about breast cancer awareness lunch," she said.
With only a month to plan, the 13-year-old survivor called her friend and five-year-old survivor, Karen Lester, to put the plan into action.
"I sat down in my bed and immediately started writing Karen, saying," You think we can do that? She said, "I think we can," Thomas recalled.
The two saw the vision come to life on Saturday when they held their first annual Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon, not just to give something back, but also a platform for survivors to celebrate life, share their journey, and to inform others about the terrible disease.
Lester said about two years ago, they made T-shirts, collected some women and took pictures. Thomas was moved to do something this year.
"That was Rita's vision, which God has told her," Lester said. "And I just took it and ran with it, and it was so great that everyone we asked said yes, everyone donated."
Thomas said that lunch was born out of a need to support breast cancer patients and survivors to get in the area.
"We do not really have a place where women can get together and feed anyone else, love each other, encourage each other," she said.
"Karen and I want to honor the women of Marshall, Texas, who have breast cancer," Thomas said. "We wanted to do something where people know there is a network, they are not alone in this matter."
Those who shared their testimonies on Saturday were the 27-year-old Marshall mother and breast cancer survivors Tempestt Olivia Ventura, 45-year-old survivor and music teacher Mary Lou Taylor; and dr. Carol Hicks, a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Wiley College, who is in the middle of a fight. Keynote speaker was Hallsville resident and mother of four, Sharon Ventimiglia.
The Gospel Singing Sibling Group, The Turner Sisters, inspired guests sing a special tribute "Lord, you were, pull me through" and 1
"We have strength, strength and hope in the room," Thomas said as she looked at the more than a dozen women who were either survivors or currently in combat.
"We do not present our face of grief, but we present the face of hope," she said. "There is something to be said about what you are going through, what gives others hope, that will be faced with what awaits you."
The coordinators thanked all those who made the day special by donating their time and services
really does not have to pay anything, but the food, and then caterer donated his time; The photographer donated his time, "said Thomas, the photographer was Dale W. Smith and the caterer was her husband Tony Thomas.
The decorator, Cecilia & CeCe" Turner, of Elaborate Designs, also donated her services , Tamanka Hill Donated Cupcakes
"Everyone we called was called & # 39; Yes & # 39 ;," Thomas said.
She said that they were allowed to book the Elks Lodge after they got so much interest from people saw the announcement on Facebook.
"We first had the fire station, they could only hold 55 people, our response on Facebook was overwhelming, people said I wanted to come, I was like God, you gave me that vision, so what are we going to do, because we run out of space. "
She said a lady had asked her if she had ever considered Elks Lodge and things had developed from there
" It's amazing how we are worlds apart but we are experiencing the same things, "Thomas said of those affected by the disease.
Therefore, their vision for a support group is important.
"People know there are other people who go through the same thing and we do not talk about it, that's our vision for this kind of group," Thomas said. "I'm so excited to see the number of people coming today because we really want to continue that."
All program participants thanked the coordinators for allowing them to share their journey.
"This monday I'll meet the radiation machine for the first time and then I'll go through radiation for the next six weeks," Hicks said. "I have prayers from the South of Texas, I have them in Tennessee, I have many prayer warriors, especially here in Marshall, to help me get through this."
"I was just lucky that the chemo collapsed so badly is, "she said, thanking her support
Taylor, a 45-year-old survivor, was diagnosed when her daughter was 9 years old. On Saturday, she praised God for allowing her to share her story in the presence of her family – her daughter, her granddaughter and her newborn great-grandson – who represent three generations.
"I'm in tears right now, but I'm going to try to get through, it's been a beautiful 45 years," Taylor said. "I am so thankful that I have seen the insight of self-examination, so I survived."
She said she was only 29 years old when she felt a hard knot the size of a marble, which led to her diagnosis and death
"I'm just so thankful for sharing this opportunity to share my story," Taylor said. "I want you to know that self-examination is the key. We have to know our bodies. "
" I'm a breast cancer survivor and I'm very proud to say that because I've been blessed for 45 years, "she added." I'm so thankful. I just love life.
Ventimiglia, who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 34 in November 2016, said her struggle reveals her purpose in life.
"During my journey, I set up my own organization," Team Venti " , she said. "I pretty much designed my own design, designed my own logo, and made wings because it's a protective gel for me – many people think of breast cancer as death, but for me my organization is hope."
"Almost all of my earnings Ventimiglia said,
So far, the organization has given families more than $ 2,000 to help them through their breast cancer fight.
"The thing is, I've always said: & # 39; What's my intention? ", Ventimiglia shared in." I went to school, Wiley, for criminal justice. "
But," That's my intention – to campaign for people who have cancer, one vote to be and let people know that it's alright, "said Ventimiglia
She said her journey had even led her to sell life insurance now, and she has hit so many other breast cancer survivors along the way and even has the chance to get a cancer policy as an insurance agent to help others.
"All my journey, I called it on Facebook to let people know It's okay to go through things that it's not the end of the world," said Ventimiglia. "And for me to be here, my whole attitude is different, I smile, 24/7, I made Chemo laugh, so I deal with things."
"I am grateful and grateful to be here because some people did not make it, "she said, noting that she was grateful for the moment to ring the famous bell in May 2017.
" God has given me the opportunity to help others Ventimiglia said,
"I only recommend to everyone here," she said
. She advised people to give up, no matter which one Process they are in.
"I am a living testimony. It gets better. God will turn your test into a testimony, "said Ventimiglia as she concluded with the Bible verse: Ecclesiastes 9:11.
Thomas thanked Lester for walking side by side with her to make lunch a reality 19659003] "She has been so busy working on it," said Thomas, a professor at Jarvis Christian College, "I do not know anybody I'd rather share this trip with and have something with than Karen Lester because she's such a person Honey is. We worked together on this. "
" She is my inspiration. It inspires me, "Lester said of Thomas, her former college professor.