Going Beyond the Pink for Women with Breast Cancer
Founded by Kara Kenan and Joy Wade, this Wilmington nonprofit offers breast health education and support before, during or after a cancer diagnosis.
“I never say cancer is a gift,” says Kara Kenan, a writer and college teacher. “It’s hell.”
In 2013 Kenan was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day before her hysterectomy, her friend, Joy Wade, invited Kenan to go paddle boarding. Anxious about her surgery, Kenan faced a flood of emotions. “It was really hard,” she admits. But from the encouragement of Wade, Kenan says she found the strength and power to not only paddleboard but also to face her battle with cancer.
Tears well up in both women’s eyes as Kenan tells me how from then on they knew they wanted to work together to help others with breast cancer.
In June 2017 the two women founded Going Beyond the Pink, a nonprofit community center offering comprehensive education, financial assistance and resources on breast health before, during, and after a cancer diagnosis.
With a shared passion of educating the community about breast health and breast cancer and providing life-changing post-diagnosis resources, Going Beyond the Pink opened its doors in September and has quickly established itself as an integral part of the breast cancer community.
More Than Pink
I walk in the rowhouse-style building at 4018 Shipyard Boulevard in Wilmington and Kenan greets me enthusiastically in the lobby that’s also used for their educational classes. The calming gray-blue wall color reflects their name as Kenan says they didn’t want it to be all about pink.
Down the short hall Kenan points out framed black-and-white photos that display moving images from a local photographer documenting women undergoing breast cancer treatments. Past the office, the Resource Room houses numerous donated wigs, bras and prosthetics free to cancer patients.
Serving six counties, the nonprofit is funded mainly by donations and its partnership with Pink Trash. In turn, this supports its financial assistance program that provides funds for a cancer patient’s medical needs regardless of their insurance status.
“We may run the organization, but it’s the community that’s funding it,” Kenan says. “We’re serving them.”
Supporting with Knowledge
When Kenan was undergoing treatment she knew there was an abundance of resources available but didn’t know where to start.
“A lot of people don’t seek help because they’re overwhelmed or scared,” she explains.
Going Beyond the Pink not only connects patients with local resources and community experts, but also offers its own support. Specifically, Kenan developed Thrive, a program that offers traditional, alternative and supplemental wellness and survivorship curriculum to nourish the mind, body and spirit.
Wade, who has been involved in the breast cancer community for 10 years, also developed a program called Your Breasts: What’s Normal? What’s Not? that helps women and men be their own breast health advocates.
A former second-grade teacher and the program manager, Wade is a Southern belle through and through, so I’m stunned for half a second when she asks me with a big smile: “Do you want to see my boobs?”
Before I can respond she jumps from her chair and returns with two synthetic MammaCare breasts – half spheres made of clear material with various-sized lumps inside – which she uses during her breast health class. In a fun, interactive, hour-long PowerPoint class, Wade teaches women and men visual and tactile skills in performing a proper self-exam, signs and symptoms to be aware of and how to spot changes in breast tissue. The class, also available in Spanish, is geared for high schoolers to senior citizens. She also posts Tata Tuesday videos on their Facebook page to provide quick tips on self-exams. For now Wade is the only one who teaches the program. But she plans to recruit volunteer advocates to teach the class in other counties and eventually around the nation.
She says, “It’s important to save lives, and I’ll do whatever I need to do.”
Finding Hope and Healing
I quickly realize that Kenan and Wade’s energy, passion and empathy is the source of hope and healing for those who come to Going Beyond the Pink.
“It’s a scary place to be,” Kenan says about having breast cancer. “Even with an amazing support system, like one’s family, it’s nice to have people who have been there.”
The nonprofit organization does not have set office hours, but visitors can schedule to meet with Kenan or Wade any time of day for a bra fitting, to go over financial assistance or just to talk. Wade mentions how one woman came for a bra fitting, which only takes about 10 minutes, and stayed for an hour to share her struggles and victories.
“People will come in and feel broken and not beautiful,” Wade says. By the time they leave, “they feel whole again,” Kenan adds.
Life Beyond Cancer
Kenan has been cancer free for five years – a big milestone that her family plans to celebrate with a trip to Italy this year. From it she says she’s learned to make the most of every day and value all gifts.
“You love deeper,” she says. “There’s this other life that springs up when you get through it.”
That “other life” is exactly what Going Beyond the Pink is all about.
Want to learn more about breast health or need breast cancer support?
For more information, visit www.goingbeyondthepink.org or call (910) 465-6286 or (910) 620-9871.