The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that the five-year survival rate after diagnosis for people with stage 4 breast cancer is 22 percent.
Michelle Moss faced statistics like this and worse when she received the diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer in May 2017. She inherently knew the odds and reality of her situation as a result of her career as a nurse and surgery center practice administrator. She could not hide in the shelter of ignorance like many cancer patients.
“I flat out refused to let it win,” said Moss. “I found humor anywhere I could. When my hair started to fall out, I dyed it pink. When only four pink hairs were left on the front of my head, I laughed harder and channeled my inner muppet.”
Moss is a mother to a nine-year-old son, Ian, and when diagnosed, a newlywed. Ian attends school in Sebastian and swims with local swim team, Bolt Aquatics.
With the support and advocacy of her oncologist, Moss battled the cancer with chemotherapy first. In October 2017, her chemotherapy was stopped, and she underwent a bilateral mastectomy. During her surgery, on a hunch, the surgeon inspected her lymph nodes under her arm, finding twenty-two infected needing to be removed. After complications arose from the chemotherapy, she received radiation from November 2017 to March 2018.
With chemotherapy and radiation complete, she went to an appointment with her oncologist on June 20th. At her appointment, she learned the amazing news that her tests showed no signs of the cancer. The findings were validated again at a later visit.
Unlike many women struggling with breast cancer, Moss was fortunate to have the insurance and means to afford treatment. Moss discovered a local nonprofit, Friends in Pink, is dedicated to providing financial assistance to individuals who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are uninsured or underinsured.
"Did you know that the average breast cancer medical expenses exceed $350,000.00 on the Treasure Coast?’ asked Mark Barnes, Friends in Pink Event and Office Coordinator. “Donation will help cover the medical expenses of those suffering with breast cancer who have inadequate or no health insurance. Friends in Pink, now in its 12th year, is the Treasure Coast’s largest charitable provider of this type of assistance. Working together with supporters, like you, is vital to our continued assistance of local breast cancer patients."
In celebration of her health and experience, Moss partnered with Bolt Aquatics to transform its home swim meet on October 27th at the North County Aquatic Center into an opportunity to help Friends in Pink.
“We turned the pool pink!” said Coach Bill Bolton. “Michelle is an amazing woman, a fantastic mother and an inspiration. I am so excited that we could help raise funds for such a worthy cause while recognizing Michelle.”
Since the team could not literally turn the pool water pink, they sold pink swim caps and other merchandise to raise money for Friends in Pink. At the end of the day, the team raised over $700 and 150 came out to the meet.
“Seeing all the pink capped heads bobbing in the pool and swimming in the races was amazing and a great way to raise awareness about breast cancer and uninsured patients,” said Moss.