I have just boarded a plane to Denver after a layover in Dallas. Funny, because it’s a faster drive from my hometown Santa Fe, N.M., to my neighboring Rocky Mountain state. I’ve used this travel time to read more about metastatic breast cancer and some of the survivors and Warrior women I’ll have the privilege to meet. So often I write once our events are over, but I wanted to document the feelings I have leading up to this massive campaign. I have yet to meet women whose stories I know will change my life. I’ve yet to be introduced to my new friends, my tribe in pink who are More Than Pink, my sisterhood prepared to Unleash THEIR Warrior.
As I sit with a pink file in my lap, powder pink nails with a SGK ribbon and hair the color of a strawberry milkshake woven into my own blonde, I meditate on the fact these women are scared, yet they have risen above fear; they activated their warrior gene to fight cells that have betrayed their bodies. I sit in reverence and prayer that with my hard-won Warrior spirit, I will be able to impart some wisdom, hope, grace and an “Always Believe” approach to their battle as we shake the ropes together to Unleash the Warrior in us all.
Oct. 2: Unleash Your Warrior launch day
I set my alarm for 6:13 a.m. to the sound of Warrior’s entrance music, which just blared from across the room. That jam caused me to run as fast as he did to turn it down not because it startled me, but because there are neighbors in the next hotel room who might not be early morning fans. I hadn’t been asleep when his music hit; I had been lying in the dark thinking of the blessings I have been given in the messages my husband gave me to carry forward as his legacy.
This entire campaign is founded on the words Warrior wrote, shared and lived. When he assigned our Warrior Family Creed to his Warrior Girls, we could have never have known it would one day be the battle cry for so many.
Waking up today I am scared. I have agreed to don his mask, which to me is sacred. I am going to walk into the middle of his hallowed ground – the ring – and speak on live television his words to the WWE Universe. I am going to make new friends with women who have battled for their very lives. My goal today is to help inspire others to support the fight against metastatic breast cancer because although women are living longer, there has yet to be a cure for such a vicious disease. I am scared, but it will not stop me. I, too, have in me a spirit my husband fell in love with. I will approach the day as he would demand. I will embody our creed which dictates we all “Live Strong, Act Bold, Be Brave.” I’ll remember “nothing is too hard to do” because I “Always Believe.”
The introduction to our brave survivors immediately after having my face painted, combining two iconic logos – SGK’s ribbon inside Warrior’s mask – was epic. As I predicted, these brave women were immediate kindred spirits.
Sherrie Goldstein glowed from her seat while being pampered by WWE’s Glam Squad. Sherrie is the sort of woman you want to be with no matter the circumstance. The conspiratorial glint in her eye made me want to put her in my pocket and take her home to meet all my friends! Dianne Primavera embodied my favorite phrase, “dynamite comes in small packages!” This fiery redhead was up to every adventure and made clear nothing would (or ever had) slow her down. There are people you’d want in your corner when fighting, and Ms. Dianne is a lady I’d want in mine! The beautiful Julie Zaveral brought it all back around to the importance of our gathering with her story of survival.
Being in the presence of such brave women made me strong to appear on Raw and present them with their specially designed replica WWE Championship titles! Sherrie, Dianne, Julie and I spent the afternoon chatting, laughing, and even dancing as we Unleashed Our Warriors!
WWE Superstars clamored to meet our guests as show time approached. They cheered Seth, then Dean, booed Brawn, laughed along with the crowd and found our WWE Universe as delightful as I always do. There was a nervous moment before entering the ring that evaporated as soon as the crowd began to cheer these local heroes; these brave survivors. As I called out their names one by one, I inhaled deeply and exhaled a prayer. As we shook pink ropes, I asked heavenly Warriors to help us raise the dollars it takes to find a cure.
Oct. 3: SmackDown LIVE Unleashes Warriors
I can’t say I slept after Raw. Too much adrenaline but I’m not tired, only excited to meet our next survivors and watch their transformation and hear their stories. Arriving at Denver’s Pepsi Center, there is a feeling of camaraderie and team spirit as we battle metastatic breast cancer.
I have been overwhelmed in my thoughts pondering Julie’s story the day before, her candor about the losses she’s felt battling such an ugly opponent. When she spoke of her fiancé and how he had remained when so many others flee in the face of sickness racked my heart with a sense of injustice. Never once was Julie complaining; only matter of factly listing struggles faced beyond the disease. I stated a single fact back to my new Warrior pal. She may indeed be lucky her future husband had stood so strong beside her, but he was lucky (and obviously smart), too. He sought and supported a true Warrior woman and would make vows to a partner who would tag team through the tough stuff through life.
Rochelle McKenzie’s bright pink lips were my first impression of her. This dynamo was sizzle and spice from the start! She sat backstage with me recounting her story. The shock of finding a lump in her breast at only 30, and the days, weeks and months that followed. Rochelle chose right away to take on this fight with the ferocity of a woman planning to survive! A young mother with her little Warrior girl depending on her mom’s valiant battle, Rochelle didn’t take breast cancer lying down. She bravely shaved her own head and explained to her daughter, “I’m still me” in response to that little voice declaring, “You look scary.” Holding the replica WWE Championship title over her head on SmackDown LIVE, a word other than “scary” came to mind: Victorious!
Michelle Segura grabbed my heart the moment we met with her declaration, “I’m the one who gets the coffee for other people … not the center of attention.” I leveled my eyes and promised, “That’s about to change.” We squired her back to the WWE Glam Squad where she had her first set of eyelashes applied and the prettiest peach palette of sparkles. When I saw her, I grabbed her with a squeeze, telling her of her beauty inside and out and warned her fake eyelashes were addictive. I saw Michelle beginning to emerge more and more, and by ring time she shook the ropes in a way that made Ultimate Warrior smile from heaven. When I gave her the last hug of the night, I teased her through a lump in my throat. Michelle was changed in a way I recognized. It is OK to sometimes accept the help of others and bask in the glow of glamor in the light. It is OK to sometimes be the one others wish to recognize and serve.
Lauren Schwartz’s arrival rounded out our three SmackDown survivors, and I wasn’t fooled by her tiny stature! This lady was a force! Very involved in her local SGK community, it was easy to know Lauren is one to get things done. It was pretty evident fighting metastatic cancer is Lauren’s passion and from word one, I knew she was champion material. I was delighted to hear her recall Bobby Roode’s Glorious introduction and thrilled to cheer his entrance with her by my side. When speaking to these women of strength and boldness who have made the decision to “Always Believe,” I watched a well of deep understanding pour out of this pocket-sized Warrior. “Judge me by my size?” – an oft-repeated quote from Jedi Master Yoda that I use for my own struggles – fit my new friend to a T. Judge her all day long by her size, but her heart for service is huge. She held her replica WWE Championship overhead and shook the ropes in a way that magnified how enormous her impact will continue to be in our fight to find a cure.
As our night concluded, I was overwhelmed by the honor of being presented with a replica WWE Championship of my own. I was left speechless in the moment, so overcome with the symbol of this epic gift. I later relayed to my daughters that it felt like the first time the person you’ve fallen in love with professes their love for you. It was truly that impactful because having lost my Warrior, I’ve begun a love affair with service, and in that moment, surrounded by my team, the SmackDown LIVE Women’s division, and these survivors, it felt as though service loved me back.
Simply put, metastatic breast cancer is the breast cancer that kills. Metastatic breast cancer is responsible for most of the nation’s 40,000 annual breast cancer deaths. It spreads outside of the breast and throughout the body. 154,000 women are living with metastatic disease in the U.S. today. Modern treatments continue to improve survival for women diagnosed today. In fact, some women may live 10 or more years beyond diagnosis. Komen is putting their focus in this area to move one step closer toward ending this disease once and for all.
I believe metastatic breast cancer is the beast we are called to slay! I believe we are More Than Pink, but the feminine power of pink is a wonderful part of the fight. I believe our call to arms demands we each hold a title over heads that says, “cancer free.” I believe it is time to Unleash Your Warrior so the women and men who battle breast cancer can be called survivors ... Always!