Faces of Hope: Sandra Walsh

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  • Sandra Walsh has had breast cancer twice. The first time was in 2005. The news left her breathless with disbelief. She was an active mom with a husband and three daughters, 11, 8 and 5. She worked as a mortgage agent and ran five miles a day.

    In retrospect, Walsh, who lives in Gwinnett, Ga., can say, “There is hope as long as there is life. All of us have journeys. We don’t get to choose the journey we are given.”

    But she had to claw her way to that truth, first suffering with weakness and pity. She found herself on the sofa unable to muster up the energy to move until one day, one of her daughters looked at her and said, “When am I getting my mom back?

    “In that moment, it became clear to me that I could not allow anything to break the sacred bond that I had as a mother with my daughters,” said Walsh.

    She suffered through her treatment and surgeries and was getting used to her new normal when in 2010 she was diagnosed with cancer again. This time she had a mastectomy. She went to buy the special bra she now needed to wear and discovered it was a heavy, uncomfortable, ugly thing that made her feel worse. So Walsh decided to create her own beautiful bra.

    Now flash forward to today. Walsh, her cancer in remission, is negotiating with a major bra manufacturer to make and sell her Sacred Bond bras to the public.

    Her circuitous route to bra designer began when she experienced chest pains while running. Two doctors and a radiologist dismissed the pains as related to exercise. But Walsh insisted on a chest X-ray, a mammogram and a PET scan.

    Even though the radiologist finally said, “Based on the shapes it could be pre- cancerous…,” she wanted Walsh to go home and wait until her next regular examination. Walsh refused and asked for more tests. That week she was stunned to get a message from her doctor on her answering machine. He said, “By the way, I got your results and you have cancer.”

    Recalling her doctor’s callousness and indifference still brings Walsh to tears. Although he operated on her six times, he never took the time to even visit her prior to the surgeries.

    The radiation and chemotherapy treatments left her in physical and emotional pain. One night she knelt beside the bed crying for two hours, unable to pray. But she felt herself growing stronger.  “I reached the place where I could say to the Lord:  Be it unto me according to your will. If I live or if I die it is in your hands. I will serve you no matter what.”

    She went to bed and slept peacefully for the first time in months. About two weeks later, she was awakened by a voice that said, “With long life I will satisfy you.”  Her husband told her the words were from Psalm 91.

    Slowly—piece by piece—Walsh put her life back together, working on her body and her spirit.

    Five years later, in 2010, she felt a lump in her left breast. This time she went to a different doctor. He examined her, suspected it was cancer and ordered a biopsy immediately.

    “When he delivered the news of cancer he looked me directly in the eye,” she recalled. “He ordered a body PET scan to see if the cancer was in any other part of my body.”

    The test showed the cancer was localized to her left breast but an assistant let it slip that it was an aggressive strain that affects African American women exclusively, “was incurable and was always fatal.” Walsh was devastated. Then a friend reminded her of the voice that had spoken words from Psalm 91. And she also found out the assistant was wrong; she did not have the aggressive strain of cancer.
    This time around Walsh amazed medical professionals with her positive attitude and with how well she responded to treatments and painful side effects. Still, she had no energy. She got up at 4 a.m. just so she could be ready by 6 a.m. when her oldest daughter left for high school.

    “I wanted to make sure I was walking my kids out the door,” she said. “My daughter would help me down the stairs and I would watch her get on the bus. Then I lied on the couch and called the nine-year-old who had to get up at 6:45. Most times I couldn’t get her breakfast but I walked her to the door. I sat for the other one until it was time for her to leave and then I would try to get up stairs.”

    She noticed that her 16-year-old’s bra strap was always showing. Meanwhile, Walsh kept her own body covered because radiation burns the skin of Black women, turning it dark like tar, she said. She started experimenting with her daughter’s bras, decorating the straps. She even convinced her daughter to wear the bra to school and when she came home she told her mother, “If there were a thousand girls, a thousand asked me where did I get my bra.”

    Walsh got her daughters to help her decorate bra straps with beads, pearls, chains, lace  and rhinestones. She came up with her first prototype for women like herself.

    “I feel that God breathed a thought into my mind,” said Walsh. “I was looking for something to do with my daughters.”

    Today, Walsh lovingly deals with the challenges of a body still healing. Her medication tires her, so she has developed a routine that includes morning coffee, fresh juices, vitamins and exercises. Her doctor told her to nap, but she walks three miles every morning and goes to Zumba class and says her body is getting stronger.

    Her oldest daughter is getting ready for college. She wants to become an anesthesiologist, a choice she made after being with her mom as she was about to enter surgery.

    Walsh said her daughter told her, “‘I want to be that last person to offer hope to people in those situations.’”

    Walsh is excited about her Sacred Bond line of bras.

    “The mission of Sacred Bond is to encourage, empower and embolden women who are in the midst of their journey in fighting breast cancer,” she said. “We are committed to helping them re-establish the connection that cancer breaks with their sense of beauty and self esteem.”

    She wants to see her bras sold in all lingerie departments and stores.

    “I found it repulsive to go back to the hospital to find an appropriate bra because the hospital represented a place of such pain and loss,” she said.

    She calls her time between her second diagnosis and today, a “year in the dark” and added, “ I think God directly placed me here. Cancer is not a death sentence. It feels that way, but no one can say it’s over until God gives the final call.”
     

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    10 thoughts on “Faces of Hope: Sandra Walsh

    1. Sandra, your determination is so inspiring. It gives me such a boost to take yet another step in the struggle. Thank you for having the courage and the faith to HOPE. And then to act on that hope. I so look forward to seeing your beautiful products in stores by me! What a gift you are giving to women who have been through such trying times. All the best to you!

    2. This is a truly inspiring and moving story. Thank you for being so transparent Mrs. Walsh. It is wonderful when we can use our trials to be a blessing to others. I can’t wait to see your products in the stores! Many thanks.

    3. What a powerful story of God’s healing and Sandra’s willingness to be a vessel to create a MUCH needed product. So many women need these bra’s and my prayer is that Sandra will be able to get these bra’s into stores so that survivors will be able to purchase something beautiful, feminine and comfortable. Every woman needs a pretty bra to wear that fits and makes them feel beautiful!

    4. Sandra Walsh,

      As I read your story about going through a struggle and overcoming it for good, provides hope for all mankind who reads this article. It is quite astounding that this dream is coming to life through an illness. Though, you were ill, you still manage to bond with your daughters and started your dream. I have learned that sometimes what we fight against, in your situation it was the cancer but that was what brought out a survivor within you. It comes to a point where you kept fighting as you stated although your body was drained from the chemotherapy. I am registered nurse and as I always say to my patients, I learn so much from them. It is inspiring and motivates all when they see someone undergoing a disease, but that patient never giving up. This gave me insight that no matter what life obstacles are thrown at you, the choice and commitment is made up in your mind. I wish you the best with sacred bond. Remember, keep pressing, pressing on. Don’t stop believing! All the best.

    5. Sandra,
      You are a big challenge to life. You have fought the battle of breast cancer and now you are trying to do something for other women by giving them hope. May this inspires the life of many as it did mine. I hope this bra line will be a success. May God continue to bless you and your family abundantly.

    6. Mrs. Walsh, profound is too small a word to describe your journey. It’s one that defines, and exceeds the definition of who a survivor is. How you cared for your children, husband, and home amidst fighting cancer is remarkable. This article has not only taught me that at the end of each journey there is a lesson to be learned but also, having learned you must be able to (from past experiences) relate what you learned. You, however, haven’t only related but you have taught. As a result of this your 3 daughters know who a great mom is and your husband knows who a phenomenal woman is. Everyone dreams; some dreams become tales while others become a reality. You made your dream a reality; without fighting and overcoming cancer you probably would not have created this bra. It is however through your experience that you can help eliminate the feeling of discomfort and offer hope for breast cancer patients. Sandra, I hope you read this and realize how this will impact and change lives. All the best!

    7. I truly loved the fact that black america web is highlighting our everyday heroes such as Sandra Walsh. This woman needs a platform to tell her story!! I am so inspired by her courage to get up and move mightily with her life…when life has delivered such a mighty blow. Thank you for showcasing this story.

    8. I truly loved the fact that black america web is highlighting our everyday heroes such as Sandra Walsh. This woman needs a platform to tell her story!! I am so inspired by her courage to get up and move mightily with her life…when life has delivered such a mighty blow. Thank you for showcasing this story.

    9. I really enjoyed this article. Ms. Walsh’s story is one of courage and hope. She used Faith to pull herself and family together. In the process created a product to help herself and others feel and look their best. My tears are tears of joy for Ms Walsh and family.

    10. I really enjoyed this article. Ms. Walsh’s story is one of courage and hope. She used Faith to pull herself and family together. In the process created a product to help herself and others feel and look their best. My tears are tears of joy for Ms Walsh and family.

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