Michelle Urke

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When she found a lump on her breast at the age of 46, Michelle Urke assumed she was too young to have breast cancer. But, a friend her age had recently been diagnosed, and Michelle knew it was a possibility for her, too. Michelle’s doctor didn’t think it felt like cancer either, but ordered imaging to make sure. In November 2013, Michelle learned she had Stage II, HER2+ breast cancer. “My friend had her last chemo the day of my first one,” she says.

Michelle would go on to have a double mastectomy, a year of Herceptin and an oophorectomy. All throughout, she had the support of her family, her church and her colleagues. Still, there came a point when Michelle hit a real low. “You get through everything, and then it’s all over. You think you’re coping, but then you realize you aren’t coping anymore.”

Michelle Urke 3Hoping to help his wife, Michelle’s husband reached out to Pink Lemonade Project. Together, they registered for the Couple’s Retreat, one of four free retreats offered by Pink Lemonade Project to local breast cancer survivors. Each retreat is led by two licensed oncology social workers who provide opportunities for reflection and renewal in a safe, compassionate setting.

“We had an awesome group,” Michelle says of the Couple’s Retreat. “It was so helpful for the guys to be able to connect with each other.” Michelle has since attended the Survivor’s Retreat and the Long-Term Survivor’s Retreat as well.

Looking to give back, Michelle later signed up to become a Pink Peer through Pink Lemonade Project’s mentorship program. Mentors draw from their own experience of having breast cancer to support, and advocate for, mentees.

“Being a mentor has helped me in my own recovery,” says Michelle. “I feel better when I can take some of the fear away from a newly diagnosed woman, or listen to someone as they’re anticipating chemo or surgery. It helps me see how far I’ve come since my own diagnosis.”

Michelle also encourages survivors to attend Pink Lemonade Project’s other activities and programs. “Anytime you can get together with someone who’s going through what you’re going through, it’s so helpful. You realize [when it comes to breast cancer], this is all pretty normal.”

Michelle Urke

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