BEATING BREAST CANCER – AND FINDING THE LIGHT
Help Elizabeth’s organization, I’mpact One Breast Cancer Foundation, win Nonprofit of the year in Arizona Foothills Magazine by voting once daily through May 26.
AZ Foothills will award a $100,000 media sponsor package to the Nonprofit of the Year competition winner.
The breast cancer diagnosis had been hard enough. With three young children under the age of 6, Elizabeth Ayers-Cluff fought hard against the disease that was threatening her life. After her year-and-a-half battle, she was looking forward to getting back to herself, to replacing the curves that had once defined her silhouette. But then the doctors discovered over-radiation had left a hole in her chest. They sent her home from what was supposed to have been the start of reconstructive surgery with an ace bandage wrapped around her beleaguered chest. Feeling deformed and defeated, depression set in. Looking back now, she says that while those dark days were incredibly hard, they eventually led to a place of light, a place where she can help other breast cancer patients facing their own difficult times.
BEATING BREAST CANCER AND LIGHTING THE WAY
A few years after her recovery, Elizabeth established her own breast cancer foundation, I’mpact One, “dedicated to improving the quality of life for female breast cancer fighters.” The idea for I’mpact One sprang from her own frustrating, arduous journey through reconstruction, a process that required painful skin grafts and several surgeries to rebuild her chest wall. Along that journey, she said, “I was too sick and my kids were too little for me to even think about going to the boutiques to get prosthetics, bras, whatever I needed. So I went without – I would just wear big shirts to cover up. That started so much of the depression.”
After she made it through the worst of the challenges, she started learning what products were out there to help women feel better about themselves during their recovery and reconstruction. Then a chance conversation at an orthopedic supply company sparked an idea. She was there with her daughter Maya, who has battled lifelong disabilities and was being fitted for a back brace.
Elizabeth noticed the mastectomy products section, and she asked the prosthetic fitter what happened to prosthetics that were returned or were no longer needed. “She said they didn’t have a place to take them, and I found myself saying, ‘I’ll take them.’ From there I started collecting products and finding women who needed them by word of mouth. I continued on, building this big case of donated supplies, and I established a relationship with the American Cancer Society who would refer patients my way. Eventually I realized it was growing so much I should make it official, and started I’mpact One,” said Elizabeth.
SENDING LOVE & HOPE
I’mpact One provides the products women need (such as wigs, prosthetics, gently used bras and post-surgery supplies) as well as those that lift their spirits, which occasionally include Living Lockets donated by Origami Owl. Once patients send in an application, I’mpact One packs the requested items in a beautiful, customized gift box, along with a gorgeously designed card that delivers positive affirmations to the patients. “We make these boxes as beautiful as if they were coming from a high-end clothing store, and we fill them not only with the products they need, but with lots of love. We want these women to feel happy, supported and feminine again.”
Fulfilling patients’ wish lists brings Elizabeth happiness, but what really gives her that “live sparkly” joy is connecting with the women I’mpact One is serving. She takes phone calls day and night, offering a listening ear and shoulder to cry on for countless women. She shares her own experiences and fills them with hope and support.
“I just talked to a woman today who has the BRCA gene,” said Elizabeth. “She was just diagnosed. She’s only in her 30s and has a long road ahead with a mastectomy, chemo, hair loss, everything. She’s not in a place where she can fork out $200 for a wig when she needs to start chemo on Friday. So I told her I’d be on this journey with her. That we could provide the wigs, the tank tops and the softies (they put those in their tank tops as they’re recovering to feel like they’re still put together). People don’t realize that it’s not really about losing the breasts—it’s about feeling psychologically amputated after a mastectomy. I just don’t want any other lady to feel the way I did.”
And that’s what’s inspiring about Elizabeth—she has taken her own hard road and is making the way brighter for others. As a Force For Good in our community, all of us at Origami Owl would like to shine a light on the great work Elizabeth is doing. Because breast cancer, like so many difficult things in life, shouldn’t be something any of us goes alone. And Elizabeth is making sure these women are surrounded by the support they need.
To help provide support and learn more about I’mpact One, visit www.impactone.pink.
SHARE THE STORY