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Drink Pink Courageous Faces: Meet Local Breast Cancer Survivor, Melissa Burns

On October 10, 2018, the 10th Annual Drink Pink for a cause will take place at Bernard’s in Ridgefield. This event supports Ann’s Place while putting a spotlight on local breast cancer patients and survivors.

The photo you see here is one of Kristen Jensen’s “Courageous Faces”. This and many other photos of cancer survivors and those in the midst of treatment will blanket the walls of Bernard’s on October 10 telling a story of life, struggle, friendship, and hope.

Here, we couple the many Courageous Faces with their unique stories. We thank each and every one of these ladies for sharing their difficult journey with us.

Melissa Burns

Hometown: Granby, Connecticut. Moved to Guilford and now resides in Atlanta.

Occupation: Documentary Filmmaker, Cancer? Seriously? 

Tell me about when you first learned you had breast cancer 

When I first learned I had breast cancer, it was Christmas time and I was 32 years old.  I had been married for three years and I had a 1.5-year-old daughter named Riley.  I was also 19 weeks pregnant with my 2nd daughter.  I found the lump myself in the shower and mentioned it at my next OB appointment.  After an ultrasound and a biopsy, I received a call asking me to come into the surgeon's office that afternoon. It was when they asked me to bring my husband, that I knew it was cancer.

I was the first woman to be treated at Yale with breast cancer while pregnant.  I underwent a single mastectomy and 4 rounds of chemo while pregnant.  I gave birth to my baby girl 6 six early, resumed treatment for 4 more rounds and then had a tram flap reconstruction.

Who did you turn to for support and how was that person or organization supportive?

I was very fortunate to have many family members that gave up the time to help me. The most amazing was that I was living in Guilford, CT at the time and was embraced by the entire community. The people of Guilford organized meals, they raised money for the cause in my honor and they were there for whatever my family and I needed. I truly believe it was where I needed to be to go through this battle.  I never felt alone in my fight and the amazing part was that I had only lived there for 2 years.

Tell me about something someone said or did that helped you through your most difficult days

I think what helped me the most was having people help me through the first days after each chemo - but when I had my energy back they left us alone so we could try to resume normal family life.  Our house was a revolving door of family and friends, but they knew when to just let my husband and daughter (s) and I be.

The other thing that helped after my 2nd daughter was born was allowing a home health aid from the VNA come in during the bewitching hour.  This allowed me a much-needed break and for some alone time with my husband.

The hardest thing to learn was to accept help.  As women, we are accustomed to being the caregiver and it is difficult to ask and accept care for ourselves.

Do you look at life differently pre/post breast cancer diagnosis?

It is hard to say if I look at life differently now.  I think I may have in the beginning, but I never thought it was going to take my life. It was just an illness I had to fight.  I am now a 12 1/2 year survivor and I am so grateful that my life was spared.  It has allowed me to watch my beautiful girls grow up.  I try never to take that for granted.

What message do you have for others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer?

My message to others would be to listen to their bodies and advocate for themselves.  It is important to have a great team of doctors that you not only trust but that listen to you.  Don't forget to ask for help, even post-treatment.  I have seen many issues come up for women after they have won the fight and are trying to resume their "normal" lives.  Seek counseling, a support group, physical therapy - anything that you need to help you move on.

Drink Pink for a cause will take place at Bernard's in Ridgefield (20 West Lane) on Wednesday, October 10 from 6 to 8pm. There is no need to RSVP! Just show up ($20 at the door benefits Ann's Place) for an unforgettable night. There will be nibbles (courtesy of 109 Cheese), pink cocktails, live music, and fantastic raffle prizes! 

Support Ann's Place, Melissa, and all of our Drink Pink Courageous Faces by visiting their Crowdrise fundraising page here.

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