As told to Britt Julious
I started Tickled Pink for my cousin Carrie Kenney, who passed away from breast cancer back in February of 2004. That’s why we have the event in February. She was diagnosed with her first bout of breast cancer when she was 27 and passed at 34.
[Her death] just left a huge void in my life. She was my cousin, my best friend. We grew up together. She was a year older than I was, and for as long as I can remember, she was a part of my life. My goal was to honor her, make sure people didn’t forget her, and make sure this didn’t happen to other people.
When she found out she had cancer, it was almost [like] she was ashamed. Why should you be ashamed of anything? [Back then], I think that it was shameful. It’s okay to talk about things. Up until recently, we didn’t. I think the more well-rounded and educated we are, the sooner you can treat [cancer]. It’s such a well-needed change.
There was nobody there for me when I went through this with Carrie. I’ve become an advocate to help people. [People] reach out to me and ask, “Who do you know? Who do you talk to?” I’m not a survivor in the sense of having the disease, but I’m a survivor in the sense of being with someone who has gone through the disease, so you make a lot of connections. I’m no expert, but I understand more than the person who’s never had to deal with [cancer]. I know the different types. I know the various stages.
Next year’s our 15th anniversary. In the beginning, [I created Tickled Pink] for me to feel better. It was for me to remember her, even if [other people] didn’t know her. And somehow it’s grown. We try to keep the momentum going and keep Tickled Pink alive and to [let people] know [the event is] not one and done, because breast cancer is not one and done. Neither is ovarian cancer.
You get tired of the pink ribbon, the blue ribbon, the green ribbon. At the end of the day, we just need a cure, and that cure will help all of us. That’s really the end goal. If you had told me I’d be running this for 14 years, [I’d think you were] crazy.