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In 1997, my grandmother lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 73. Since I was so young, most of my memories of her consist of how magnanimous she was, that she inspired my love of sewing, and the little blue pillow she carried around to make herself more comfortable.

For ten years she struggled with cancer. She tried all the options – surgery, radiation, chemotherapy – but it kept coming back. Through her strength and resilience, she showed me that cancer was part of her life but wasn’t who she was. Despite her pain, she was always kind and patient with the loud little children running around her. When six-year-old-me asked about what was happening to her, she took off her wig and showed me her balding head to make me laugh. She didn’t make me feel that she was sad or in pain, she just showed me she was happy for every second she had with me.

I remember after she passed away thinking that breast cancer was just how women died – that women would somehow catch this cancer that would slowly and somewhat painlessly end their life, because that’s what I saw with her. Over time I realized how strong she must have been to make it seem less painful and scary, and realized that some people do survive, she just wasn’t one of them.

leslieandgrandmotherI am happy to say now that I have the memory of an amazing woman who was strong enough to handle whatever came her way, and to inspire me to fight for other people who might have more of a chance that she did. I know several breast cancer survivors today and feel confident in the advances in medicine and technology that make being diagnosed with this disease not a death sentence.

For October, I am killing two birds with one stone by finally fulfilling my lifelong dream of having pink hair and using it as an excuse to raise money for this cause. I decided to join the Merritt Clubs Step Challenge to help raise money for The Red Devils. This organization is local to Baltimore and funds supportive services for breast cancer patients and their families. The object of the Step Challenge (if it’s not already obvious) is to take as many steps as possible in October. I am really bad at getting in my steps because I sit at a desk all day. Also, I am pretty lazy… But this is a great organization to have my donations really make an impact on people, plus this challenge would probably be good for my health too, I guess.

This challenge is running through all of October, and even though it has already started, you can still join! All you have to do it register and submit a screenshot of your month’s steps to by 11:59pm on October 31st. Not only do you get an excuse to be healthier and support a cause, you can also win prizes! They are insane, like two months of free membership, personal training sessions, Perkville points, etc. If you raise $150 you get an awesome free Merritt jacket, which I have already done because I NEEDED it!

Regardless of your reason for joining this challenge, or participating in any other events this month, October is just a great month to feel good about yourself for supporting local families who are struggling. (Plus, everything everywhere is colored pink, which in my opinion, is amazing and how it should be always.) I got myself a pair of devil horns from the club Welcome Desk and I am wearing them everywhere I go this month to show off my spirit. Those horns, coupled with my pink hair, really weirded out the checkout person at the grocery store so I feel like it’s going to be a great month.

I have no idea if my grandmother would have liked the fact that I turned my hair pink, but while my hair isn’t a wig like hers, it makes me feel a little bit closer to her knowing we both had artificial hair because of her cancer. I have the memory of a strong woman behind me to remind me that, with or without the commanding presence of my bright hair, I can handle anything that comes at me with grace and be a better person for it.

To make a general donation to the Step Challenge, go to You may also see the Welcome Desk at any club to make a donation or purchase your devil horns for a $5 minimum donation.