Focused on a Cure – Nonprofit makes portraits for breast cancer survivors
By Shavonne Potts
KANNAPOLIS ó When Renda Ayscue’s older sister, Rhonda, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, the world changed. Rhonda, a single mother, was about to discover the love one sister, friend and a community would show.
Renda, an assistant photographer at Irresistible Portraits in Kannapolis enlisted owner Karen Goforth to help raise funds for Rhonda’s treatments.
Together Goforth and Ayscue have created a nonprofit, Focused on a Cure, which has helped spread the word about breast cancer.
The women started the nonprofit as a way to help Rhonda, but the more they became involved in the lives of the women they met along the way, “the more we felt it was something we had to do,” Goforth said.
Ayscue realized through her sister’s fight against breast cancer they could be there for others.
Ayscue never knew how breast cancer could impact a family until it happened to her sister. She thought Rhonda would not be able to handle it, Ayscue admits.
Ayscue was proved wrong.
“She never complained. She taught me about what she’s made of,” Ayscue said.
Her sister had a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy treatments.
“It (mammogram) may be for five minutes, but it saved her life,” Ayscue said.
Her sister went for a mammogram before age 40, which is the typical age doctors recommend.
Rhonda had one at 37 and would later have a biopsy. She was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.
“If she had waited until 40, she would not be alive,” Ayscue said.
Rhonda is cancer free today.
“She’s so much stronger,” Goforth said.
One day Rhonda was leaving her oncologist proudly walking back to her car, bald head and all.
A woman going in stopped her to say how inspiring she was just watching Rhonda boldly walk back to her car.
The two women became friends. The woman later met Goforth and Ayscue, at first not realizing the connection.
Goforth had always gone on mission trips and participated in community fundraisers. The idea had always been with her to start her own nonprofit.
“I’ve always wanted to do something. I never thought about breast cancer until her sister was diagnosed,” Goforth said.
The women began taking pictures of the breast cancer survivors they met. They also encouraged them to tell their story of survival. The portraits and stories were put together in a traveling exhibit. The exhibit has been featured at Carolina Mall, the Concord Library and several other locations throughout Cabarrus County.
Many of the survivors also were the subject of a documentary the organization created. Focused on a Cure has created T-shirts, bottled water and stationery with their logo emblazoned in two shades of pink. They held a fundraiser, Piggin’ Out for Pink, in August to support the NorthEast Foundation’s Breast Health Program. They raised $10,000. There were more than 200 volunteers, survivors and their families in attendance at the fundraiser.
Three friends Goforth met underwent breast cancer diagnoses and treatment at different points in their lives.
“They call themselves the Spit Sisters,” she said.
The women couldn’t make a blood pact because of treatment, but instead spit on their thumbs, promising to be there for each other.
“It brings it into the light,” Ayscue said of the exhibit.
Ayscue and Goforth both say seeing the exhibit made some people think twice about how they take care of themselves.
“We tried to portray each portrait to reflect their stories,” Goforth said.
The women featured 15 women in their traveling exhibit.
Along with the women who’ve been inspired, some husbands urged their wives to get mammograms after attending Focused on a Cure fundraisers.
“It was nurturing and helpful for all of them to come together to say we made it,” Goforth said.
One man in his 60s who attended a fundraiser told of his fight with breast cancer. He has been a voice for the small number of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My heart was opened up. You are almost transformed as a person,” Goforth said.
“You take the good with the bad and work it for God’s glory,” Ayscue said.
Goforth and Ayscue are hoping to up their fundraising goal of $10,000 to $15,000 and to interview and photograph 20 breast cancer survivors.
The money raised for next year’s Piggin’ Out for Pink event will support the Cabarrus Health Alliance’s mammogram program, which offers mammograms to older women with limited income.
“We want to do bigger and better,” Goforth said.
Goforth said they would love to see a Focused on a Cure support group.
For now, the women are planning next year’s big fundraiser.
For more information about Focused on a Cure, visit www.irresistibleportraits.com or focusedonacure.blogspot.com.