A calendar of survivors

Ten days after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous growth from her right breast, Lysanne Sebastian walked the 5K Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in September 2009.

"I just had to," the 36-year-old Costa Mesa mother of two said. "People told me I was crazy."

Sebastian was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. Her athletic and healthy body had never shown any signs that this was coming.

"At a young age, I was faced with thoughts of mortality," Sebastian said.

"You don't realize that this can happen to anyone, not just women in their 60s or 70s," she said.

Team Think Pink, a group of Orange County locals, is attempting to change the perception of breast cancer with the 16-month "Survivor" calendar that portrays the range and diversity of women affected by the disease.

"In a way, it was almost depressing how quickly we found all the models to fill up the calendar," project organizer Gail Ross said. "They were sisters, mothers, friends and friends' mothers and sisters — we didn't have to look far."

Ross, who grew up in Costa Mesa, created Team Think Pink in 2008 to honor a childhood friend's mother, who died in 1998.

Barbara Meyers was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late '90s, but the cancer had not been detected early enough, Ross said.

Ross, along with Meyers' daughter, Julie Braunsdorf, and a team of other girlfriends from Estancia High School in Costa Mesa, banded together to participate in the Race for the Cure for the team's inaugural Team Think Pink event in September 2008.

Since then, the group has been joined by hundreds of Orange County women and men for the annual Susan G. Komen foundation race.

"I think that for most of the models, their decision to pose in the calendar was the thought that if they can reach out to one person and show them that they are not alone — that they can beat [breast cancer] — then they have done something good," Ross said.

Newport resident Lisa Anderson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32, posed as the May model for the calendar.

There was "no thought [that] it was possible for me to have it," Anderson said. "Even my doctors told me not to worry."

It wasn't until Anderson went in for extensive testing that she learned she the cancer had reached advanced stages.

"I lost everything: my breast, hair, hearing, my cognitive ability to remember things," Anderson said.

She underwent an aggressive treatment program involving chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and medication. "A lot of people, not even survivors, know what chemo does to you," Anderson said.

Her grandmother and great-grandmother both died from breast cancer, but at older ages.

"Cancer, up to this past decade, was almost not survivable," Anderson said. "People will see this calendar and realize that it's not a death sentence."

The calendar will be on sale through the Team Think Pink website on July 15. A fundraiser celebratory event, "Survivors Under the Stars," will follow on July 31 at ParkAve restaurant in Stanton.

The event features celebrity guest Kaitlin Olson, a star of television's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and live music by the Dan Krikorian Band.

For many of the models, it will be an opportunity to meet each other for the first time, as well as share support with other affected members in the county.

"It was a fabulous experience," calendar model Sue Young said. "It was just amazing meeting all the girls. They're out there working so hard for everyone. They are so giving without asking for anything in return."

The calendar, which spans September 2010 to December 2011, coincides with the Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure, which is held annually at Newport Beach's Fashion Island each September.

Sebastian, however, will be miles away from Newport Beach during the race this year. Instead, she is participating in the Moloka'i Ocean Challenge, a 15-mile canoe race between the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Moloka'i.

"I will be celebrating with everyone the Race For the Cure as I paddle," Sebastian said.

How To Help

• Calendars are available for a $20 minimum donation and can be purchased through teamthinkpinkinc.eventbrite.com

• "Survivors Under the Stars" event tickets can also be purchased through the site. Deadline for purchase is July 22. For more information, e-mail Team Think Pink at thinkpinkcalendar@yahoo.com or contact Alvena Johnston at (714) 625-6217 or Vanessa Faurot at (714) 313-5298.

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