CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - "Some of the biggest blessings come out of the darkest, scariest times." - Laura Renegar
After losing her mother to a third cancer diagnosis and battling a bleak diagnosis herself, Laura Renegar has been through those fearful experiences, but she will also tell you, "I am the luckiest girl in the world."
Renegar, from Matthews, spends a lot of her time helping other women and spreading awareness about breast cancer, so much so, that she's cut back on hours at work so that she can devote more time to people who are going through their own darkest, scariest times.
She says she never would have been able to help so many people if she wasn't diagnosed with cancer. "It's been amazing, great to say I've been there," when talking about her breast cancer history.
Her first encounter with breast cancer came when her mother fought three diagnosis' and lost her third battle at the age of 61 back in 1996.
In 2007, Laura participated in her first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in honor of her own mother. In 2008, she started her own team that grew to be one of the top teams in Charlotte.
"If you think one person can't make a difference, you're wrong" Laura said about her 2014 Primax Pink Warrior team.
Her team started with 12 walkers and exploded to 321 walkers in 2014. In total, they've raised about $225,000. "It's all about raising money for research," Laura says. "We've got to find a cure."
In 2011, she got the news. It was triple negative breast cancer. She also tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation. That combination was called the "dynamic duo." Laura says she was shocked by the diagnosis.
After chemotherapy and 6 surgeries, including a double mastectomy and reconstruction, there has been no evidence of disease for 4 years. She considers that part of her cancer story just "a blip on the radar" in comparison to what she's been
able to be a part of since then.
After her fifth surgery, Laura decided that she wanted to help people, not just an organization.
Laura believes that through cancer, "if you don't grow, or change, you missed the point."
She's used her bout with cancer to help other women through their own battles saying, "The more of your life you give away, the better it gets."
Every October, she helps turn Charlotte pink with Charlotte CREW and all year long she matches newly diagnosed women with survivors for emotional support through Reach for Recovery as Novant Health's coordinator. On top of that she runs a Triple Negative Breast Cancer support group.
She started the support group after finding out that many women feel all alone with the triple negative diagnosis. The group started with 12 women, and grew to 50, now it has over 100 women on the list and meets once a month.
The group has lost two members since the beginning, as triple negative breast cancer "does not have the best prognosis." Still, Laura says the point is to "love these girls through it."
She believes one of the most important things you can say or do when talking to someone going through cancer or any tough diagnosis is to validate their feelings.
Laura's work was rewarded last year when she was honored as one of Charlotte's Most Influential Women in 2014. She says the honor was surprising, "you're crazy!"
When she was at the event she remembers looking around at her fellow honorees and thinking, "how'd I get in this room?"
Through her journey, Laura says she's met some "fabulous people."
"Being able to do stuff for other people, being put in a place to help people, makes me really thankful."
When selected to be August's Survivor of the Month, she said she hoped that her story could just "help one woman go and get a mammogram or one woman get serious about doing self exams or having annual clinical breast exams… Ask your mom, friend, daughter if she's been checked."