The Gazette is partnering with title sponsor Penrose-St. Francis Breast Care Center and ribbon sponsor Peak Vista Community Health Centers to bring you inspiring stories of local breast cancer survivors and a behind-the-scenes look at the care process from physicians, surgeons, nurses and volunteers throughout October.

If you ask Lisa Vanbeek, attitude is half the battle. The Pueblo West resident certainly fought her cancer battle with a solid dose of attitude.

“I’m a ‘Suck it, cancer’ kind of girl,’” she said. After she was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive breast cancer in November 2014, Vanbeek immediately made up her mind that not only was she going to get through treatment, she was going to come out stronger. “There was no way I was about to let this beat me.” And neither was the team at Penrose Cancer Center.

On the day Toni Green-Cheatwood, Director of Breast Oncology at Penrose Cancer Center, told 37-year-old Vanbeek she had cancer, she handed her a business card. “She had hand-written her cell phone number on the back. I was sitting there in shock, and she told me to call her at 3 a.m. on a Saturday if I needed her. I thought to myself, ‘Who the hell are you? What kind of doctor does this?’ I just couldn’t believe it.”

Vanbeek received chemotherapy and radiation therapy at Penrose Cancer Center and was declared cancer free on August 26. Penrose Cancer Center is part of the Centura Health Cancer Network, delivering advanced, integrated cancer care across Colorado and western Kansas.

“I can’t say enough about the team at Penrose,” she said. “They are all rock stars. I credit my life to their tenacity. They encouraged me to survive and give back from day one.”

Vanbeek owns and operates Ridin’ Dirty, a western clothing line. She put her resources to work and created a line of T-shirts emblazoned with “Suck It, Cancer.” to share with her large family in South Dakota. “This was a way to help my family find the strength to support me through this,” she said. “It even helped them laugh.”

But Suck It, Cancer spread beyond Vanbeek’s family. “People saw pictures on Facebook and started asking where they could buy a shirt.”

Overwhelmed by the number of medical appointments and copays she now faced, Vanbeek decided to turn her new line of T-shirts into a fundraising opportunity for low-income cancer patients. “I kept thinking it wasn’t that long ago I couldn’t pay all my bills,” she said. “I couldn’t fathom how so many people deal with the stress and pressure of just battling cancer, on top of not being able to cover the expense.”

She now sells to individuals, families, hospitals and organizations around the county. “I’ve even got a vendor who sells them at Nascar races and Sturgis,” she said. “We’ve been able to write checks to nonprofit organizations who are offering support to breast cancer patients at a real life level, like money for gas and groceries.”

Visit suckitcancer.net to purchase items from Vanbeek’s line.

Pikes Peak Newspapers, Editor

Hannah Blick has lived in the Pikes Peak region for six years. She studied journalism at Kansas State University and enjoys biking, skiing and hiking in the Rockies.

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