#SaveLefty Then, #PayOffLefty Now

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By Emma Young

“You can’t get rid of me that easy,” Rebecca Barnes said in a recent interview. Barnes’s accomplishments seem endless: Entrepreneur, Occoquan Woodbridge Lorton Volunteer Fire Department volunteer, Director of Give Back Prince William, Publisher of Prince William Living, and now Breast Cancer Survivor. “I don’t have a family history of breast cancer. I didn’t have a lump. I said to myself, ‘I have to get my annual mammogram,’ and never thought it would come to anything,” she said. In 2018, Barnes was diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer. That mammogram was key to its early detection.

“This disease is treatable. If you don’t catch it, though, it will kill you,” she said. Statistics prove her point. The National Cancer Institute’s SEER database shows the five-year relative survival rate for women with stage 0 or stage I breast cancer is close to 100%. Stage II’s five-year relative survival rate is ~93%, stage III is about ~72%, and metastatic, or stage IV, breast cancers are ~22%. “There are often many treatment options available for women with this stage of breast cancer,” said Deana Henry, BSN, RN-BC, OCN, CHPN, Oncology Patient Navigator at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.

Barnes made it a personal goal to publicize her story and commit 100 women to get their mammograms. Her team developed the #SaveLefty campaign. “We’ve had 132 women get their mammograms and check-ups who weren’t already scheduled. Four of them had cancer; one had ovarian cancer and three have breast cancer. All are in treatment,” Barnes said.

“Let’s get people into the doctor. It’s about self-care. You only get one body,” Barnes said.

First Comes Treatment, Then Come the Bills

What comes after treatment and hard-fought remission begins? For many undergoing treatment, despite medical insurance, it means facing bills. Barnes’s friends and colleagues rallied monetary support. Kristina Schnack Kotlus, a fellow cancer survivor and owner of PWCMoms, and Kristina Kjome Nohe, a blogger at bethegreysquirrel.com/, “wouldn’t take no for an answer,” said Barnes.

“No one should ever have to fight alone,” Schnack Kotlus wrote in an online interview. “Rebecca is such a pillar of our community, once we saw the need, we couldn’t help but get people involved.”  “The Kristinas,” as Barnes said, organized a #PayOffLefty GoFundMe campaign and a fundraising dinner at Okra’s Cajun Creole in Manassas. The efforts didn’t stop there, though.

Candles for a Cause

“Since our inception we had this fundraiser method for people in need,” said Deron Blevins, co-owner of Shining Sol Candle Company in Manassas. The company handcrafts soy wax candles and realized a special candle would help Barnes. “Rebecca helps to promote so many people, businesses, and events in the community. It can sometimes be a very thankless job, but someone like that is a deserving person,” Blevins said.

He created a lemon-scented candle, dyed it pink, and named it “Lefty Lemonade.” Next, Blevins crafted a purple candle based on their “number one selling scent,” sea salt and orchid. Patrick King of Imagine called that one “Prince William Giving” and created the labels for both candles. The candles may be purchased online or at the shop for $25 individually or $45 for the set Fifty percent of the profits will go to support fundraising efforts on Barnes’s behalf. “We always like to help using our candles when we can,” said Blevins.

Looking to the Future

“I’m doing ok,” said Barnes. “The hardest part is that when people hear ‘cancer-free’, they equate that with ‘back to normal,’ but it can take a year or more after treatment to get there,” she said.

“We’re stronger together, and people want to support each other,” said Schnack Kotlus.

“It feels good to have the community support. It’s why I live here, the good people,” Barnes said.

Candles for a Cause runs through the end of August.

 

Emma Young is a Montclair-based freelance writer.

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