Meet the Models, SoCal: Laurie Ruiz

By Caroline O'Donnell | January 9, 2023

After a strange feeling under her armpit prompted a doctors appointment, Laurie Ruiz was sent for a mammogram and ultrasound, quickly followed by a needle biopsy. Her self-discovery paid off in that Laurie’s cancer was caught early- stage 1, estrogen positive breast cancer. She remembers her doctor saying, ““if you’re to get breast cancer, this is the best kind.”

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Meet the Models, SoCal: Tanja Cebula

By Caroline O'Donnell | January 4, 2023

While 2001 was an especially trying year for most Americans, Tanja Cebula had an added layer of hardship. Shortly after 9/11, on her twin boys’ 6th birthday, Tanja found out she had HER 2 positive estrogen receptor negative breast cancer. A mammogram at 40 revealed benign calcifications that were initially thought to be because of breast feeding, but a later ultrasound and biopsy would reveal cancer. She notes that she cancelled the appointment twice and feels grateful she finally showed up to her third reschedule. It would end up saving her life.

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Meet the Models, SoCal: Laura Gromis

By Caroline O'Donnell | December 28, 2022

For Laura Gromis, family has been at the center of her life for as long as she can remember. She grew up with her grandparents right down the street, so when her maternal grandmother, Dawn, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 55, it came as a shock. Receiving a single mastectomy and hormone therapy, the cancer went into remission, only to return later, requiring a second mastectomy and further treatment. It was at this time that Laura’s grandparents came to live with her family full time. The time spent together strengthened the family’s bond even further: “they were our only close family, so to us they were everything.”

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Meet the Models, SoCal: Colleen Rivers

By Caroline O'Donnell | December 26, 2022

For Colleen Rivers, breast cancer has “impacted every aspect” of her life. When she was 15 years old, her mother, age 49 at the time, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. The months preceding her diagnosis, Colleen’s mother had severe back pain, lung fluid and was short of breath. Calcifications in her breast, found through a mammogram, were not known to doctors at the time as precursors for breast cancer. She would go on to have 9 months of chemo: “In retrospect, I think we all knew she was going to die, but she did chemo for 9 months and we are talking like 1995 chemo, so she was really sick.” While her siblings were away at college, Colleen took on the primary role of helping her mother through the illness. While she notes that she “was so grateful I got to do that for her,” it meant Colleen witnessed her mother actively dying. Diagnosed in August of 1995, her mother passed the following May.

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Meet The Models, SoCal: Amy Westland

By Caroline O'Donnell | December 26, 2022

It’s a testament to Amy Westland’s character that when asked about her breast cancer experience she launches into how her journey could serve others. For nearly five minutes she recalls all the people she has connected with after they have been diagnosed. Noting all those who stepped up during her treatment, she hopes to help others by decreasing their fear and increasing their knowledge around what questions to ask and how to be best prepared for treatment.

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