Monday was bittersweet for Rhonda Howell.
It was her second year in a row participating in Pink in Pinehurst Day, an annual celebration of breast cancer survivors held at The Spa at Pinehurst.
The day of pampering at the end of each October gives women the chance to relax and rejuvenate with either a complimentary massage or facial. This year, 85 women enjoyed the treat.
Last year, Rhonda shared the day with her friend, Abby Cameron, a fellow breast cancer survivor she met through a mutual friend.
The two connected immediately when they met in 2015, shortly after Rhonda received news her cancer was back. This time, she was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer.
“Statistics gave me 2 to 3 years to live and I had a son who was 3, he’s now 4,” Rhonda said. “It was obviously devastating to me.”
But Rhonda’s devastation turned into hope when she met Abby, who had been battling the disease on and off for nearly 15 years.
“I was just in awe of her,” she said. “She was an awesome person.”
The friends got a reprieve from their worries during last year’s Pink in Pinehurst Day, indulging in a well-deserved day of self-care complete with spa treatments, lunch and a little shopping.
“We had so much fun,” Rhoda said. “Unfortunately, Abby passed away about a month ago, but up until she died we talked about how much we enjoyed the event and how we couldn’t wait to go back to Pinehurst.
“It’s one of my favorite memories of us together.”
When Rhonda was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 at the age of 34, she had a double mastectomy, underwent four rounds of IV chemotherapy and received 35 radiation treatments. This go-round, she’s been able to take an oral chemo that has fewer side effects.
“Most people don’t even know I have cancer,” Rhonda said. “They are coming out with some really amazing stuff.”
Last week, after 15 months on the oral chemo, Rhonda’s scan came back stable – a welcome piece of good news.
An unwavering friendship
Diane Authement, Christine Hughes, Meg Lindenberger, Carol Collins and Sally Bold Frick took in the crisp fall temperatures Monday from a table located on The Spa veranda. After being pampered, they ordered lunch and gathered round to share stories and laughs.
Their friendship continues to thrive even though their cancer is long gone.
“We all had breast cancer around the same time and we’ve all helped each other along,” Meg said.
Life gets in the way of getting together often, so they look forward to their annual reunion.
“This is once a year and it’s very special,” Meg said.
“It’s a celebration for us each year,” Diane added.
For Christine, this day was even more meaningful than most – it was the first time she’d ever talked to another breast cancer survivor about her scars.
“I had a double mastectomy in August 2014 and I’ve always thought of myself as flat and fabulous,” she said. “Getting to share our scars and talk to them about it was amazing. Where else can that happen?”
A meaningful work day
Beverly McLaughlin is one of the first faces that greets guests when they enter The Spa at Pinehurst. Her warmth and enthusiasm comes across to each person who walks through the day.
She looks forward to Pink in Pinehurst Day as it means more to her than many know. Beverly’s mother died at the age of 43 after battling breast cancer, so she can relate to the challenges the women face.
“I really enjoy hearing their stories,” Beverly said. “They are all so appreciative and excited about this day.”
For Beverly, breast cancer awareness is a constant goal. She wears a pin bearing a pink ribbon with wings every day and had a special patch added to her riding vest for when she goes out on her motorcycle.
For Kerry Snyder Husted, Monday was a way to give back.
A former oncology administrator, she’s opening a unique shop in Southern Pines soon. Knickers, at 165 E. New Hampshire Ave., will feature an array of intimate apparel, including breast care forms and breast care bras for women who have been through mastectomies.
On Monday, she had a table set up with information and samples of her products. Kerry will offer free fittings as well as private appointments.
“It’s all about getting the right fit and offering the right product,” she said. “This is my passion; I’m excited to fill a need in our community.”
The Spa at Pinehurst is donating 10 percent of proceeds from local appointments held on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during October to FirstHealth’s Cancer Care Fund.
“I wanted to take it one step further, so our breast cancer awareness day has evolved into a month,” said Branden Fein, Director of The Spa at Pinehurst. “We wanted to find another way to give back to our community and support patients with all types of cancer.”