BILLINGS — The entire Q2 News team welcomed about 150 brave breast cancer survivors and caregivers to the station’s studio for what's become an annual tradition going strong since 2009.
Many of those women consider themselves part of what they call the 'Pink Sisterhood', a group they didn’t ask to be part of but now is a big part of their life.
“Having grown up with no sister, I started using the phrase pink sisterhood when I was going through my own breast cancer journey. These women are my pink sisterhood,” said six-year breast cancer survivor Dee Oakland.
Ask any of the women at Q2’s annual Pink Breakfast what their superpower is and they’ll likely tell you they’re a survivor. Whether it’s 39 years like SunnieRay who got diagnosed back in 1984, or a few years like Denise or Sandy. Each has a distinct perspective on life.
“My advice for anybody that's diagnosed with cancer is talk to everybody that you can, and remember, you’re never alone. There's always somebody in your corner. Always," said 1.5-year survivor Sandy Pastian.
RELATED: Photo Gallery: 2023 Pink Breakfast
The words you are not alone mean a lot to anyone battling breast cancer, but to some they mean everything. Brenda Miller is a five-year survivor with cancer that’s metastasized to her brain and lungs, causing 22 brain tumors.
“I started having trouble breathing at work and I had fluid on my heart and my lungs, and they hospitalized me for six days and told me to get my affairs in order because I didn't have much time to live,” says Miller.
She doesn't know where her story goes next, but she does know she’s still surviving. It’s wrapping those fellow survivors in love that has Vicki Olson Johnson returning to the Q2 Pink Breakfast again and again. In fact, Olson Johnson has only missed two Q2 Pink Breakfasts.
“I think people saw in that first breakfast and those after how much bonding happens between women and men who’ve experienced this journey through cancer, and thank you for giving us this opportunity to be celebrated,” said Olson Johnson.
Olson Johnson was one of the first Pink Breakfast attendees.
"I was on the phone calling every survivor I could think of in the very first Pink Breakfast, and it was a very small group," Olson Johnson said. "We gathered around the desk afterward, because we all fit, and now we’re busting at the seams. You re-invent it every year to fit us all here. So it’s a big deal."
Attendees packed the studio in pink. This is fitting, as this year Q2 teamed up with a local nonprofit to give back.
"To see Pack it in Pink take off, to see KTVQ-2 take it on this year to say, ‘We’re going to raise money.’ It means so much because we’re giving back to the survivors in our community with this funding," said Olson Johnson. "To me, priceless."
Pack the Place in Pink is a Montana-based project that works to financially support breast cancer patients in Montana. At the time this article was written, donations from Pink Breakfast reached more than $12,000.
First-time attendees were thrilled to be surrounded by those who have walked a similar path.
"I'm a survivor of nine years now," said Kelly Ault, a middle school teacher in Columbus, on Friday. "It’s still scary every time you go in for your mammogram because you’re just worried you’re going to have it again."
Thankfully, survivors have a community of support behind them in Yellowstone County.
"Last year when I came, I was looking to meet other survivors to kind of help with my own personal support and to be able to smile and see everybody else smiling as well," said Athena Gorder, a breast cancer survivor, on Friday. "This year was exciting and meaningful for me because it’s a new outlook that, I may not have been here to enjoy this beautiful little thing. And I get to."
It's a breakfast that's so much more—and one we hope to continue for years to come.
"We need you to bring us together every year. That bonding that happens with survivors is something we never forget," Olson Johnson said. "We never let go of that connection, and this is a big deal. So we want to thank KTVQ-2 for embracing this year after year and growing it bigger.”
To all of our survivors, you are not alone, and the Q2 family loves you.
To learn more about Pink Week and Pink Breakfast, click here.