Pink Up the Pace founders: Cindy Chaconas and Amy Kaelin
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Cindy Chaconas of St. Augustine Beach remembers when she was diagnosed with breast cancer just a few years ago.
"I was 28 years old," she said. "I didn't have time to think. I found out on a Monday I had cancer and that Wednesday, I had surgery."
She has a photograph of her without any hair during the treatment that followed.
"That's me. It's so surreal. I pretty much kept my head bald. I was too hot to wear a wig and scarves," she recalled.
During treatment, she met one other woman, Amy Kaelin, who was in her 30s and going through the same thing.
"It was nice to have someone to talk to," Chaconas said. "When you go to the breast cancer support groups, majority of the women are over 45."
She said many leading breast cancer charities do not serve young women or even men.
"So at that point, my sole purpose was to help women under the age of 40 and men of all ages who are underinsured or uninsured in the early detection of breast cancer," Chaconas said.
While still in treatment, Chaconas, with help from Kaelin, formed Pink Up the Pace. It's a nonprofit in St. Augustine which has a 5K Walk/Run each year.
"As we have grown and funds have gone down in other organizations, we've had to expand our services," she explained. "So we now help women of all ages."
Nicole Mazie of Palm Coast is one of them. She turned 40 this year.
"My husband lost his job six months ago," Mazie said.
She and her family were strapped for money when she was told in August she needed a biopsy on her breast.
"That was pretty scary considering I only had a week left on our insurance," she remembered.
But insurance wouldn't pay for it anyway because Mazie hadn't met her deductible.
Pink Up the Pace paid for Mazie's biopsy. She had it in St. Augustine and the result?
"It was fine! It's peace of mind. I have two kids, and if I'd gone six months, I'd worry about it every day. It could've been a year before I got insurance," Mazie said.
She credits Pink Up the Pace.
"I can't thank them enough for what they did," Mazie said, holding back tears.
Choconas has tears well up in her eyes when she hears about women getting help they need.
"I get teary eyed. You wouldn't want to wish anything like this on anyone," she quietly said.
Chaconas is now married and a mother of two. She is helping other women because of what she experienced as a young woman herself.
The 2012 Pink Up The Pace 5K Walk/Run is this Saturday, October 6th. It goes through downtown St. Augustine. It's the biggest fundraiser for Pink up the Pace. You can register ahead of time or that morning.
For more information on Pink Up The Pace, click here.
First Coast News