Taking Action Against Cancer One Step At A Time

Reagan Tierney is a high school senior with a big heart and a passion for giving back to her community.  When she was only 12 years old, she began a small community project to give back to a very personal and important cause.  The project has now grown over the past 6 years to rally hundreds in her community each year on Mother’s Day.  Here is Reagan’s heartfelt story of how it all began. 

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know what cancer was. It took away my grandfather “Poppy” when I was four years old. I watched my Aunty Terri battle it away when I was eight. So when I was 12 years old and my parents sat me down to tell me my mom had breast cancer, my world was shattered.

I had thought of my mom as the glue in my family. She was the one keeping us all together with her unconditional support and love. My mom was the one that took care of me when I was sick by making me soup and handing me tissues. For the first time in my life, the roles were reversed. Only my mom’s sickness wasn’t the type that could be cured with soup and tissues.

Three months after my mom’s diagnosis, I was assigned a “take action” project in my seventh-grade science class at Orinda Intermediate School. The assignment was to identify an issue in the community and execute a project that would help solve the problem.

I couldn’t identify a single issue in my community other than breast cancer. Nothing else seemed important. My best friend Zoe Zabetian couldn’t agree more. She had stood by my side through everything that I had gone through. We automatically teamed up, seeing this project as a way to learn more and raise awareness for the very disease my mom was fighting.

From the very beginning, I was told that my mom was going to be okay. The doctors had detected her cancer in her annual mammogram. The cancer was in phase 0 and thankfully, it hadn’t spread. That’s why I was shocked to find out how many women do not have access to mammograms. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 65% of women over 40 years old in the U.S. have had a mammogram in the past two years.

The more I learned about breast cancer, the more passionate I became about the project. There was so much information and research online that Zoe and I knew people were not aware of, including the shocking fact that breast cancer risk can be reduced by lifestyle changes. Only a small number of breast cancer cases are caused by genetics, contrary to what we believed.

We wanted to something that could both raise money to make mammograms accessible to all women and educate people on the risk factors of breast cancer. Not many people know that our original idea was to host a charity concert in the park with Joe Jonas. We were thinking of an upscaled “Concert in the Park,” like the ones that the city of Orinda puts on in the summer. The only reason we decided not to was that we weren’t sure how we could make a concert educational, and we also wanted to promote exercise.

We realized that a community walk was a more realistic goal and a better way to rally the community together. We had both participated in Hayley’s Run for a Reason, a community Fourth of July fun run, and wanted to create something similar.

The Orinda city town council graciously met with us and gave us ideas on how we could make it a successful event. They granted us a permit to use a local trail, St Stephens drive and invited us to speak at city council meetings. Once the event was approved we did everything in our power to spread the word, including hanging up signs all over our town, posting the event on Instagram, and sending out an invite to all our friends.

I thought that the event was going to be a big deal, but I could never have imagined the support we received. So many friends, neighbors, and people I didn’t even know supported the event by participating or making donations. I truly felt empowered. I was a seventh-grade girl, and my best friend and I had just raised $4,000 on our own. We had rallied 150 people in our community to walk in solidarity against our cause.

One hour after we cleaned up the event, Zoe and I decided to make the walk an annual event. We couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Over the last 5 years, the walk has raised over $30,000. Planning Orinda’s Walk Against Breast Cancer has taught me so much. I learned how to communicate with adults, act professionally at meetings, and speak in front of large crowds. I have received many awards over the years as well. More important to me than the awards and life lessons, however, is how building this event made me feel inspired to fight for my Mom and all people suffering from Breast Cancer.

When 150 people showed up at St Stephen’s drive I realized that I had the power to bring real change to my community. I had the means to bring people together and rally them against an issue that has hurt so many families.

This year Orinda’s Walk Against Breast Cancer will be held on Mother’s Day.  Check out details at Reagan’s GoFundMe page here.  

40 Reflections from a Yoga Retreat

My husband and I joined 26 beautiful souls on Just Be Yoga’s Manifest Maui retreat. The life-changing experience was nothing short of extraordinary.   We took the trip in celebration of my upcoming 40th birthday.  So while the trip is very fresh on my mind, I wanted to journal and share 40 reflections from the retreat- ones that I hope to continue to soak in for quite some time…if not forever. Read more

Letting Go in the Parenting Journey

Last school year I co-facilitated a monthly mindfulness community meet-up with a local high school counselor.  During our meet-ups we met with local parents and educators to talk about secular mindfulness for youth and we focused on a different topic each time.  During one of our meet-ups, the topic was Acceptance.  Acceptance is a fundamental aspect of mindfulness practice- to be intently aware of the present moment without judgment- to not get caught up in the stories of our mind, to let go and accept the present moment for what it is.  What I realized after our meet-up is that the notion of acceptance, of letting go, is a core aspect of parenting and one that evolves as our journey evolves.  Read more

Noticing the small stuff

Kindness is something that happens more often than we realize or notice.  It’s just that most of the time when it happens, they are small acts-  simple and spontaneous gestures.  While these gestures may make our lives a bit better in the moment or even make us smile, most of us don’t deliberately spend energy thinking about them beyond that brief moment.  Recently though I tried to be mindful of the simple acts of kindness I experience in my life and was pleasantly surprised to find that my list was a lot longer that I had expected.  Here’s just a few examples from my list…and interestingly most of the kind acts are from complete strangers: Read more

An Unordinary Game with my Itty-Bitty

I recently wrote in the post “Learning from my toddler how to practice mindfulness with curiosity” that my 2-year old and I do a weekly walk right before music class.  During our walks, she creates her own adventure- intrigued by the smallest ordinary things on our walk.  On one of our most recent walks, we stumbled upon several rocks in front of an office building.  And as is typical of my daughter’s fascinating exploration, she saw the bed of rocks and immediately stopped to inquire about them, to look at them and pick them up.  She found one rock that she thought was “bumpy” and I realized that we could start an impromptu mindfulness game to focus on our sense of touch and sight.

I asked her to find different color rocks, shapes and textures, and we began just collecting the rocks into different piles.  We found bumpy white rocks, gray smooth ones, reddish ones and even round rocks that she thouimg_6588ght were balls.  She loved finding the right match for her little piles and was laser-beam focused on the hunt.  With each new find, we intently looked at and felt each rock to make sure it was the right fit for each group.   My 2-year old had a total blast from an activity so simple and what most of us “bigs” would consider pretty boring.

Afterwards I realized that we only organically stumbled upon this game because we took the time to slow down and just be.  For that short period of time, we had no agenda, no worries but to just enjoy our walk.  I’ve been past rock-beds so many times in front of buildings and office parks, but never have I realized that we could create a spontaneous fun game from something so “ordinary.”  As parents, we often spend so much time and money on toys and things for our kids, but there’s so much that we can play with in our natural world if we just pause for a moment to do so.  Once again my 2-year old continues to teach me how “unordinary” our life can be…only if we let it.

Empowering our littles to be kind to themselves

This week I had the privilege of seeing Orly Wahba speak at a Kindness Assembly at a local elementary school, and then again during her evening “Kindness Boomerang” book signing event for community members.  Wahba is a passionate “kindness activist” who founded a nonprofit called Life Vest Inside that is focused on empowering and inspiring kindness around the world.  Her key message is that we all can and should feel empowered to make a positive difference in the world.  She says that our small acts of kindness, especially the random organic ones can have a powerful ripple effect on the world because kindness is contagious.  With each act of kindness we do, we can energize and inspire others to do the same thing.  While Wahba is a kindness activist, she says her organization is about empowerment. It starts with kindness to ourselves.  We must all realize that we have a life vest inside of us to help ourselves and believe we can do good and reach our highest potential.  Once we do, then we can touch others with kindness to find their own life vests.  And if each of us believe we have a role in this world to do good things- no matter how small- then only good things will come and positivity will spread. Read more

A Memorable “Mindless” Mama Moment

One of the common misconceptions with mindfulness is that someone who practices mindfulness is or should be mindful all the time.  I’ll be the first to tell you that that is not the case and that being “mindless” is part of our human experience. With our endless to-do lists and toggling between parenting, work and house stuff, being mindful all the time or even part of the time is not always easy to do and can sometimes feel impossible.  But mindfulness is a practice- and not an end state.  It’s a work in progress for all of us.  We all have moments of mindlessness from misplacing our cell phone for the billionth time to frantically searching for our eyeglasses while they are on top of our head.  I’ve had a ton of mindless moments and some that make me laugh more than others.  Recently I had an experience that really topped the charts of Mindless Mama Moments. Read more

One Word for the Day

In the book “Awakening Joy for Kids” as well as his adult course “Awakening Joy,” James Baraz (co-founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center) describes ten wholesome habits to create well-being in your life. One of his first recommendations is to set a positive intention for your day to “incline your mind toward a particular vision.”  By doing so, you are more likely to pay attention to ways that you are focusing on that intention and changing old habits that don’t help you achieve well-being.  In his book, Baraz cites a quote from Dan Siegel, who describes that “Intentions create an integrated state of priming, a gearing up of our neural system to be in the mode of that specific intention: we can be ready to receive, to sense, to focus, to behave in a certain manner.”  Read more

Nothing like a stomach bug to teach you about kindness

Last week our family got hit with the stomach bug, and we all went down like dominoes- first me, then my husband, then our older daughter and even my poor mother who was in town visiting.  Somehow my younger daughter and father were spared our misery, but it was not a fun week for the rest of us…or for our washer and dryer for that matter.   I especially had impeccable timing with my illness as I got sick on my husband’s birthday.  I had originally planned an entire itinerary to celebrate his special day.  The girls and I were going to make him breakfast.  We booked him a massage, and afterwards we were going to go on a family hike and picnic. And to top it all off, he and I were going to go on a dinner date together.   It all sounded like an awesome plan, until I got really sick and couldn’t get out of bed and we had to cancel everything. Read more

Mindful Parenting: Catching Yourself in the Moment

Two weeks ago I was reminded why I practice mindfulness and make it such an integral part of my life.  It was a Saturday morning and on this particular morning we had a longer to-do list than most other weekends.  We were going to have our amazing handyman help us with a list of projects that had built up.  Our older daughter was going to go to her ballet class, and we were going to wrap, organize and drop off gifts at a shelter for an Adopt-A-Family program we were doing with several friends.  All of this needed to be done before 12pm that day to make the shelter deadline.  It seemed like a good game plan and everything seemed to be going well, until the morning turned into a bit of a frenzy.  Read more