Linda Young, 54, went through four rounds of chemotherapy, 30 rounds of radiation, and had a mastectomy after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. Three years later, she is cancer-free and runs the non-profit Living Life in Pink to help those diagnosed with breast cancer. Photo by: Courtesy photo
October 20, 2017 12:09:11 PM
On June 14, 2014, Linda Young woke up as "just another single mom" starting her day -- but she didn't realize that day would be the one to change her life forever.
It was the day the 51-year-old Starkville resident was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. She had found a lump in her breast days before and opted to complete her yearly mammogram ahead of schedule.
"Cancer just has no respect," Young said. "I was always proactive. I got my mammograms regularly, I did self-exams often and I had no family history of breast cancer, but there I was (with) breast cancer."
Wanting a second opinion, Young traveled to her home state of North Carolina and visited the Wake Forest Baptist Hospital Cancer Center, which was where she received her final diagnosis: Stage 3 breast cancer.
After four rounds of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and 30 rounds of radiation, Young was cancer-free in December 2014. As a result, her non-profit Living Life in Pink was born in hopes to shed a positive light on the greatest trial she ever faced.
The biggest priority, Young said, was for Living Life in Pink to provide resources to those going through cancer treatments or for those who survived. The resources she had access to in the Starkville area, Young said, paled in comparison to what she had access to while being treated in North Carolina.
"I got free wigs, free head scarves and toboggans," Young said. "All of my resources there were free, and for whatever reason, I just couldn't find those services (in Starkville)."
Originally, Young funded everything Living Life in Pink provided, whether it was personal mentoring services for survivors or "Survivor Kits" that she gave out in the community.
Survivor Kits, Young said, started out after she filled her pink backpack with hospital essentials: a filing folder to organize medical bills, a journal to write thoughts and experiences during treatment, a scarf or toboggan and other pink knick-knacks to add some personality.
"I just wanted to do something for the other women," Young said. "I don't know why things happen, but they do anyway. All I know is that we were chosen, and we are all little warriors."
Young spent her own money to fund the organization. Over the last two years, she said she spent about $4,000. Using her own money was difficult, she said, but she never second-guessed herself -- she wanted to help other survivors however she could.
Her work paid off. Living Life in Pink was recently granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, which could greatly benefit the group by providing grant-funding opportunities, she said.
In addition to mentoring services, Young also organizes an annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk each October. Last year, Young said, over 100 people attended, but she hopes to increase attendance to 125 at the third annual walk on Sunday Oct. 29 at Peter's Rock.
Although the end goal is to grow the event to a "breast cancer parade," Young said she will accept growth in all forms.
"Everyone says October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but for the survivors, every month is Breast Cancer month," Young said. "So I just want to make a statement and spread that knowledge. I don't want the walk to be just a walk."
Joe Hawkins, Young's Pastor at Peter's Rock Temple Church of God, said he has never met anyone as dedicated to one cause as Young is to spreading breast cancer awareness.
"She's just a go-getter," Hawkins said. "Nothing defeats her, but instead, she defeats everything. She's using her experiences to make an impact in not only the local assembly at Peter's Rock, but also in the community."
By the end of 2018, Young said she hopes to open an area where survivors who battled any cancer can come. Even if it starts as just a room to rent, she added, a place to host a monthly support group or occasional pink parties is the next step as Living Life in Pink grows.
For now, Young will continue to wear her pink earrings, pink watch and breast cancer awareness glasses each day in commemoration of her own battle.
"I'm a fighter," she said.
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