Fighter. Survivor. Valiant Victor. Deb Bailey.

Engage with the West Michigan Woman Community!

West Michigan Woman, host of the annual breast cancer charity event Wine & Wig, is pleased to announce that the first ever "Valiant Victor Award" was presented at the event on October 3, 2019.

With the event in its seventh year, it seems appropriate to acknowledge those who not only support the cause and event, but who year after year have made extraordinary contributions. The Valiant Victor Award aims to recognize an individual who via their voice, connections, and spirit has demonstrated exceptional courage and determination in the fight against breast cancer in the West Michigan community.

We are pleased to announce our first Valiant Victor Honoree!

What inspired your grassroots effort to bring Gilda's Club to West Michigan?
Philanthropist Twink Fry, Susan Smith and I are breast cancer survivors. Twink saw a CBS' Sunday Morning segment about the Gilda's Club in New York City and came to us and thought we needed to do one here. We had different skills and abilities, but the right mix to begin the exploratory process. Several years later, the clubhouse opened its doors. The three of us felt we had received excellent medical care and treatment and had wonderful emotional support, but that is not the case for all others. Tom Gribben, M.D., was working on developing the new Lacks Cancer Center and also thinking of the need to treat the whole person. We met with many others involved in the care and treatment of cancer patients and their families and verified the need for a program such as Gilda's offered. This is an amazing community and we received so much encouragement to make this a reality. I love the philosophy of "learning to live with cancer regardless of the outcome." Sometimes, actually leaving treatment is the hardest time to create a new normal for yourself and for others.

I know that Gilda's core collaborative work with the others you mentioned. In our early days, we were so focused on getting the doors open. Then we found ourselves punished by our success: We had more members than we ever predicted. So, we had to make sure we had the resources to support those members and make fundraising a priority. Each organization is distinct and offers unique programs and services. We can never have enough to support the needs.

What was your reaction upon learning you were the first Valiant Victor Award recipient?
This is very meaningful to receive this recognition. Looking back over the past 28 years as a breast cancer survivor, I hoped to make a difference for others who may not have had the support, in so many different ways, that I have had. To see all these organizations that have grown and flourished and are in very different places makes me feel old, but encouraged by the work this community does to support others. It is humbling. I know all other these organizations rely on tons of volunteers to contribute their time and talents to make all this support happen. There are lots of everyday heroes who all deserve our appreciation for selfless giving.

Who is your "go-to" person—who has become your source of comfort and compassion?
I feel that I have been blessed with the world's best possible friends. I have had so many different friends to go to with all the different issues that one faces on this journey. What more could someone ask for?

How do you stay optimistic during challenging moments?
I find it easy to remain optimistic when you know you have great benefits, access to medical treatment, great emotional support and a strong faith. Every day is a gift. Just watching the devastation of a hurricane reminds you how lucky you are. I lived in a third-world country early in my career and spending time there quickly developed an appreciation of things we can so easily take for granted. Even on a down day, you still need to recognize that you are likely in the 1% of the entire world in terms of education, income, access to health care, et cetera.
Our glasses are 99% full.

Why does Wine & Wig stand out in your mind?
Wine & Wig started out to showcase the important needs for cancer research, cancer awareness, cancer programming, and health and wellness. It showcases powerful collaboration. It is another example of women getting things done.

One of my favorite quotes is from Gloria Steinem:

"A woman needs to take care of herself first, so she is able to care for all the others."

This is a group of women that care for women!

View Deb Bailey's Wine & Wig speech here:

Written by Jennifer A. Pascua, Digital Content Strategy Manager for West Michigan Woman.

This article originally appeared in West Michigan Woman.


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