"It was like a huge hug. It was a like a relief. I found family, care, compassion and concern every time I went to The Pink House. Those doors were open, and people were there to help me."
May's Mission Moment was written by Alicia Roberts, CBF Volunteer
When she first heard about The Pink House, Vinita Simmons' initial reaction was, "Nope, I'm not going there." That was before she earned her counseling credentials. Before she understood how important self-care and support is for people who are going through breast cancer treatment. Vinita was diagnosed with stage 2 infiltrating ductal carcinoma on May 11, 2011. It was Mother's Day weekend, and she was pregnant with her third daughter. She had discovered a lump during a self-exam several months earlier, but because she was pregnant, her doctor thought it could just be a blocked milk duct. They waited to investigate. After her daughter was born, Vinita pushed her doctor to confirm the nature of the lump through testing. Her gut told her it was something to worry about, as her own mother had died at age 50 from breast cancer. She was right. The diagnosis and treatment six rounds of chemo, 33 rounds of radiation, and then surgery in between felt like doom at the time. She wasn't sure how she could manage two young children, a new baby and maintaining a healthy relationship with her husband. Now, she calls it her "aha moment." In 2016, she went back to school to pursue a career in counseling and ran her first half-marathon. She graduated in 2019, and now, as a licensed clinical mental health counselor, she helps children, teens, adults and couples who are struggling with a variety of issues. She holds a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling from Gordon Cromwell Theological Seminary, and she sees her new vocation as a way to share her personal relationship with God where needed. Her experience and skill as a counselor also have presented a way for her to give back to Carolina Breast Friends, where she now serves as a mentor to those who are newly diagnosed. Vinita remembers how overwhelmed she was feeling at the time she first walked through the door of The Pink House. She also remembers the comforting shoulders she found there on which to shed her tears. Paying that forward means so much to her. Says Vanita, "Nobody wants to be part of this club (of breast cancer survivors)... But I have this voice now. If this is what I had to go through, then so be it." Vinita also helped establish Carolina Breast Friends' Co-Survivor Connections program, where husbands, partners, family and other caregivers can find solace as well. "Everyone needs that outlet to just be. And men especially need it, Vinita explains. "I'm still healing, I'm still growing, I'm still evolving, and my husband is, too."