Kat’s Personal Message
Kats Ribbon of Hope – Kat’s Personal statement
“You can’t skip chapters, that is not how life works, You have to read every line, meet every character. You won’t enjoy all of it. Some chapters will make you cry for weeks. You will read things that you don’t want to read, you will have moments when you don’t want the pages to end. But you have to keep going, stories keep the world revolving, Live yours don’t miss out.” -unknown
Since my initial diagnosis of breast cancer ten years ago, I have learned that LIFE happens despite your plans. And that life continues to happen around you regardless of the unbearable burden presented or the unpredictability of the future. And, despite the challenges you are faced with, strength and courage emerge so that you are able to face your battles with bravery, grace and courage. Throughout my life, my mother has referred to me as her butterfly – a representation of evolution, adversity, and beauty – all things that I have manifested to a higher degree as a result of my breast cancer diagnosis in 2013. Its significance was so powerful to me that when my husband, sister and I started Kat’s Ribbon of Hope in the midst of my breast cancer battle, we unanimously agreed that the butterfly would be the best reflection of our foundation’s intentions. We set forth to help find a cure, raise awareness and have a direct impact on women and men who battle breast cancer.
My story began in the summer of 2013 when at 32 years old, I discovered a lump on my right breast through self-examination and shortly thereafter received the devastating diagnosis – Stage 1 Breast Cancer. I was a young mother in the prime of my life suddenly filled with panic and fear. Quickly, I pivoted to fight mode. And I realized, that with the support of my family and my medical network, my wings would carry me to fight my fight despite the challenges I would undoubtedly encounter. My choice for treatment included a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy [Adriamycin Taxol, also known as the “Red Devil”] and then a daily cocktail of Tamoxifen that would be my constant reminder of my diagnosis for years to come. I fought and I prevailed! My perspective changed as I shifted my focus to the gift of life and on me and my family. I found peace and comfort in being an advocate for breast cancer warriors both personally and through my foundation. And I delved into being healthy – through nutrition and fitness. I was in the best shape of my life – happy, healthy, working, thriving and LIVING.
Fast forward to summer 2021, nine years to the day of my original diagnosis when, after another self-examination, I received the news – Breast Cancer AGAIN – Stage 2 this time. I was shocked, hurt, in denial, and riddled with fear. I thought I was doing everything right, but once again – LIFE happens and God had a different plan for me. I shifted to warrior mode and I immediately began my fight which included 16 rounds of Chemotherapy [FEC-T which was equally aggressive as my previous treatment], followed by Axillary Lymph node surgery, removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes and culminating with six weeks of radiation. Oh and of course…the medications I would have to take daily indefinitely.
My life has been filled with trials, tribulations and triumphs. It has been enriched with tears and laughter. And during my breast cancer journey my husband, our son, my family and friends were there for me to hold my hand while I cut my hair, distract me with lunches and shopping, wipe my tears, and to help me be the best mom to my son who struggled with his own insecurities related to my destiny. The blessings I uncovered along the way and through Kat’s Ribbon of Hope are immeasurable. I met so many beautiful and unforgettable women. I became an advocate for Breast Cancer. I expanded my medical network. And I became a member of the “sorority of sisterhood” – breast cancer survivors.
As I said, each day is a gift and I work hard every day to be the best version of myself for me, my family, my husband and my pride and joy – my son. I strive to set a good example for everyone around me and I always look to the future with Hope. I have good days and bad moments. And I channel my experience during those moments along with my faith in God, so that I can continue to spread my wings, inspire and help those who are battling Breast Cancer.
Kat’s Ribbon of Hope is one of my proudest accomplishments. The privilege to help women and support researchers and doctors is a priceless gift. It is with the greatest humility that I can tell you that through the mission of Kat’s Ribbon of Hope to help save lives through research, raising awareness for early detection and assisting women who do not have the means to be proactive in their fight, we have raised over $1.5 million since our inception in October of 2013 and we have directly supported over 3000 women in the great New York area.
I HOPE that one day we will have a cure. Until then my HOPE is that Kat’s Ribbon of Hope, with your support, will continue to make a difference in the lives of many women.
– Katerina Dinas Raptis
A butterfly is a symbol of beauty, free spirit and change.
Throughout my life, my mother has called me her butterfly, a picture of grace, beauty, and impact in so many facets of everyone’s lives. I was always busy with family and friends and making plans for my life. She often told me, “be careful not to plan too far ahead because you never know what life will bring you”. A little over year ago, my life changed its course and I realized then how valuable my mother’s advice was. I learned very quickly that LIFE happens when you’re busy making other plans.
During the summer of 2013, after finding a lump on my breast through self- examination, I learned I had breast cancer. In that moment, my life stopped. At 32 my nightmare began. I was scared and I felt alone. I realized however, I was not alone and that so many women of all walks of life received this news every day.
I was blessed in so many ways. I had my family by my side – my husband, my two-year old son, my parents and siblings, cousins and friends – to love and support me and to make me laugh. It is because of them and my strong faith in God that I was able to hail victory over this emotional roller coaster this past year. They lifted me up when I needed it most and assured me everything would be OK.
I had access to a medical network that provided me with care, support, and guidance. I often wondered about women who do not have the means to obtain medical care and who do not have family and friends to hold them up. Where do they go? What do they do?
The journey led me to doctors, surgeons, nutritionists and other medical experts. I also relied on family and friends who held my hand during doctor’s appointments, throughout my surgeries and as I battled through chemo. They made me laugh and took care of my son. They cooked and washed my hair for me (while I still had some). And on those days after chemo when I had the energy, they treated me to lunch and some retail therapy. The nurses at the hospital became my friends. All of these people were my network – my network of angels. And the women who sat next to me during chemo – they were my sorority of sisters and we found comfort in each other knowing we were in this together.
Each day, I looked forward to getting back to ‘normal’. As time passed, I met more women like me and began to wonder if this was the norm. I observed women on the subway, in the supermarket and at the gym doing regular ‘life’ things and wondered ‘did they go through this?’ ‘Are they going through this?’ During the days of the last year, I found myself focused on how I can help the women battling breast cancer who were not as blessed as I was. Women who were JUST LIKE ME but who did not have the means for medical care and a support network of family and friends.
On my 33rd birthday, I had my last treatment of Adriamycin, otherwise knows as ‘the red devil’ of chemo. Taxol chemo was next. This was 6 months after my diagnosis and so far I had undergone a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. In my solace, my family and friends lifted me up with a surprise lunch in NYC. Their love gave me unbelievable strength. I felt I could do anything after that day. Since that day, I have spent countless hours thinking about how I can help women who are not lucky like me. After careful planning and tons of excitement and energy, my husband, sister and I started the Kat’s Ribbon of Hope Foundation to help save lives by supporting breast cancer research, raising awareness for early detection and assisting women who do not have the means to be proactive in their fight.
Throughout my battle, I tried my best to smile every day – for me, my son, my husband, and my family. I realized that I too gave them the strength to be positive and look to the future with Hope. Still today, on my darkest days, I remind myself of the beautiful blessings life has to offer and that my cancer reinvented me as a new woman – a new butterfly. I conquered cancer and adapted to a new me. I am stronger now both inside and out. And I need to take the lessons of the last year to spread my wings and do something to help other women.
I pray one day we will find a cure. Until then, my HOPE is that Kat’s Ribbon of Hope will make the difference in the lives of many women.
– Katerina Dinas Raptis