A celebration of survival

Pink Tea Party at Columbia Ridge benefits local breast cancer charity, honors survivors

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"I just can't believe all the people who came out to support this cause. Battling cancer has been a challenging experience and I am just blown away by all this support."

-- Jennifer McDaniel

"When [McDaniel] first told me she had breast cancer, I never felt so helpless in my life."

-- Dianna Kretzschmar

“I just can’t believe all the people who came out to support this cause. Battling cancer has been a challenging experience and I am just blown away by all this support.”

— Jennifer McDaniel

“When [McDaniel] first told me she had breast cancer, I never felt so helpless in my life.”

— Dianna Kretzschmar

Breast cancer is beatable. There are scores of women who not only survive, but thrive after diagnosis and treatment.

Helping women get to this point is a big part of the mission behind Pink Lemonade Project, a Vancouver charity that supports them and their families during and after breast cancer.

It was founded by two Camas doctors who saw a need to help those struggling with the disease.

“Breast cancer is a family disease,” noted Leslie Stose, events and development director at Pink Lemonade Project. “It doesn’t only affect the women going through it.”

Stose was a keynote speaker during the Columbia Ridge Senior Living annual Pink Tea Party. Proceeds from the event, which was nearly $1,000, benefited the charity. It is the second year Ashima Ram, community outreach director at Columbia Ridge, and other staff members, have organized the event.

The dining room at Columbia Ridge featured a sea of pink, as scores of women from all walks of life enjoyed an afternoon of fellowship, testimonials and of course, pink lemonade. There was also a collection of raffle baskets, donated by area businesses. Verla Jonason, of Washougal, designed the place settings.

“Currently, there are no [formal] support groups for breast cancer in Clark County,” noted Stose. “So we need to be the support.”

Jennifer McDaniel, a Washougal City Councilwoman, is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It was her first time at the event, which occurred less than a week after her final chemotherapy treatment.

“I just can’t believe all the people who came out to support this cause,” McDaniel said, as she looked around the crowded room. “Battling cancer has been a challenging experience and I am just blown away by all this support.”

The next steps in McDaniel’s fight include surgery and radiation treatment.

“The advice I would give other women is to be ever-vigilant,” she said. “Get your annual exams and do self-exams as well. Don’t let it lapse for several years like I did.”

She added that her mother, aunt and grandmother all battled breast cancer.

“This diagnosis was unfortunate but not entirely unexpected,” McDaniel said.

Dianna Kretzschmar, a friend of McDaniel’s and director of admissions and marketing at Prestige Care and Rehabilitation in Camas, spoke at the Pink Tea Party in support of her longtime friend. She talked about McDaniel’s experience with chemotherapy and her “dogged determination” to beat cancer.

“When she first told me she had breast cancer, I never felt so helpless in my life,” she said. “On top of everything she does, she is also a caregiver to her mother-in-law with dementia. We had to figure out a way to support her.”

Friends jokingly discouraged Kretzschmar from making her longtime friend dinner to help out.

“They said, ‘Don’t do that, she’ll be dead within a week!’ Kretzschmar recalled.

She decided the best thing she could do to help McDaniel was to become an advocate herself.

“We all need to do something to combat breast cancer,” she said. “And the best thing we can do is make sure we all have a mammogram. That is the best way I can support Jennifer. I am terrified of it and have put it off for years. I’m 48 years old and I’m not going to do that anymore. Make a promise to these survivors. Honor their journey and get a mammogram.”

Allison Lublin, director of nursing at Prestige Care, is a nine year breast cancer survivor.

She was diagnosed at age 35. Within a week of learning she had breast cancer, Lublin underwent a mastectomy.

“Anyone who knows me knows I don’t mess around,” she said. “I had two young children and I had to be strong for them.”

She endured chemotherapy treatment after the surgery and describes it as, “The worst hangover you’ve ever had, multiplied by 10, all day, every day, for the duration of your chemotherapy.”

At first, she balked at reconstructive breast surgery.

“That was until I went out in public,” Lublin said. “People would look at me and whisper. After a year of wearing a prosthesis and having it float down the lazy river while I was swimming with my kids, I decided on reconstruction. Remember, a breast is just a breast. They can give you a new one. And when life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Adding a little vodka doesn’t hurt either.”

Courtney Wilkinson of Country Financial in Washougal has attended the tea party for two years.

“I think this is a cause that is near and dear to everyone’s heart,” she said. “I love hearing the stories and the testimonials. Being in the insurance business, I often see cancer from the other side. It is nice to see people who have overcome it.”

Sharon Freiwald, a financial planner, attended to support McDaniel.

“I have been watching what she has been going through and thought it was a way that I could help,” she said.

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