Long-time friendship fosters breast cancer awareness, advice

Two friends partner for breast cancer awareness

TAMPA - The insight from a breast cancer survivor at breastcancermystory.org is like advice from a friend, rather than filled with scientific terms.  The writer's long-time friend is helping to support her effort with an awareness campaign.

"We've known each other since 8th grade," said Britta Wilk McKenna.  "We're not going to say how long that is, but it's been a long time."

Now McKenna runs her own non-profit in Chicago and her friend, Lisa Schalk's, family-owned toffee business has taken off in Tampa.

So these old friends are forming a new partnership.

"She's so inspirational, and doing such a great thing, and we really wanted to be a part of it," explained Schalk.

Schalk's company is packaging toffee in pink boxes for October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and for her good friend, who is a survivor.

"I had bleeding from the nipple and I kept pursuing things that it might be, and it turns out it was Ductal Carcinoma in situ," said McKenna.

The DCIS was diagnosed in December, 2010.  It's the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer that starts inside the milk ducts. 

In the midst of one mastectomy, four reconstructive surgeries and a lot of doubt, McKenna had an idea to make it easier for others.

"We Googled everything and we found very sterile definitions. T his is the disease, ok, I understand that and then I'd go deep down to find blogs about botched plastic surgeries.  And I didn't feel there was a safe place online to go," she said.

So McKenna built her own, from her own front porch.

"Interviews with doctors, questions to ask, personal blogs so that you can get some insight," she lists in a video on her website.

The insight on www.breastcancermystory.org is like advice from a friend.

"I did not know that you should order your prescription meds without the child-proof top because you have no upper body strength.  Well, nobody told me that," said McKenna.

When "Toffee to Go" www.toffeetogo.com sells a pink box of candy, Schalk will send 10-percent of the profit to McKenna's venture.  You'll find a card with her newly formed non-profit's website tucked inside.

"She's a very good ribbon tier," said McKenna.

"Thank you," said Schalk laughing.

That's what good friends do-- especially ones who know 30 years of friendship is rare.

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