Paralympian shares her story at Komen Pink Ribbon Luncheon

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 207 views 

Dressed in a short pink dress and standing on two prosthetic legs, Amy Purdy stood before breast cancer survivors and guests at the Susan G. Komen-Ozark Affiliate Pink Ribbon luncheon and told them that challenges in our lives are gifts that can be used to help us go further than we ever dreamed. 

Before a crowd of more than 750 people at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale, Purdy shared her story of losing both of her legs below the knee, as well as her spleen and kidneys, after a bout with bacterial meningitis when she was 19 years old. 

She had been an avid snowboarder before the illness, but sunk into a deep depression afterward, she said. She finally came to the realization that, in order to go on with her life, she had to “let go of the old Amy and learn to embrace the new Amy.”

“That is when it dawned on me that the old Amy was 5 feet 5 inches, but the new Amy could be 5 feet 9 inches!” she said.

She also realized that her feet wouldn’t get cold anymore when she snowboarded and that she could make her feet any size she wanted, so she could wear whatever shoes were on sale.

“I found that even in my darkest days, there was always a silver lining,” Purdy said.

“It was times like these that first prompted me to ask myself a very important question,” she said. “If my life were a book and I were the author, how would I want this story to go? And that question allowed me to dream again and I visualized myself walking gracefully and I saw myself somehow helping people through my journey and I saw myself snowboarding again.”

Four months later she was back on a snowboard.

She went on to win a bronze medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Then, immediately after, she began competing on the television show, “Dancing With The Stars.” She and partner, Derek Hough, finished in second place.

Purdy summed up her talk by saying that “it’s not about avoiding obstacles. It’s about using them. It’s about pushing off of them and seeing what amazing places they might bring us.”

In addition to hearing Purdy, guests at the luncheon enjoyed a fashion show presented by Highlands Oncology Group. Breast cancer survivors modeled clothing by Town and Country Shop and shoes by Warren’s Shoes.

The event, expected to raise $100,000, supports the Susan G. Komen Foundation, whose stated mission is to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cure. The Foundation gives out more than $670,000 a year, said Mary Alfrey, executive director for Komen.

Most of the money will go to organizations in the eight counties of Northwest Arkansas, and Stone and Taney counties in Missouri.

“All of our funds are used to grant out to other organizations for breast health services,” Alfrey said. “So, 75 percent will go into helping local women, whether it’s screening or education or transportation through our grantees. The other 25 percent is given to the Komen Research Foundation. So, it doesn’t go to national to pay salaries. It goes directly into research to help find a cure.”

The 2014 grantees are the Arkansas Department of Health – BreastCare, Community Clinic Rogers Medical, Community Clinic Siloam Springs Medical, Hope Cancer Resources, Madison County Health Coalition, Mercy Breast Center, Mercy Forth Smith, North AR Partnership for Healthy Education, Skaggs Regional Medical Center, The Merlin Foundation, Washington Regional Cancer Support Home, Washington Regional Medical Center, and Women’s Center at Sparks.

“The Susan G. Komen grants have allowed us to serve underprivileged women in the Fort Smith area,” Gina Null, patient health navigator, Breast Center, Mercy Fort Smith, said. “We’ve been able to provide additional support services, outreach to the Hispanic community and more screening mammography, gas cards and other things for our patients in the Forth Smith region. We are absolutely thrilled to be a part of Komen grants.”

The luncheon, which was sponsored by The Breast Center – A MANA Clinic, also included a silent auction and a candle light tribute to survivors. The “Gaye Cypert Power of a Promise Award” was given to Fayetteville Auto Park. The Grantee of the Year award was given to Madison County Health Coalition. Polly Gocke and Madeline Marquette received the Promise of One Award.