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The Blessing of Breast Cancer
It takes a pretty special woman to feel blessed after having had breast cancer, a mastectomy and 6 hard surgeries to save her life and appearance. But it becomes downright amazing when that same woman puts her pain and experience to work helping others afflicted by breast cancer. I may simply be a biased husband, but I'd like to tell you the story of the most inspirational person I've ever met, my amazing wife, Mary, and why we have built this business.

In late 1999, after about 8 years of work, Mary and I had finally succeeded with our partners in creating an 80 million dollar per year call center selling travel. The fact that we were gone from our 3 children, 10 days per month, was fairly annoying, but we'd always made it up to them with cruises, extravagant vacations and the like. Even the fact that running a 24 hour business seemed to cut harshly into our intimate husband/wife time seemed to be smoothed over by the excitement and rewards of our success. After 25+ years of programming and technology architecture for me and 20+ years of business operations architecture for her, we were finally going where we wanted to. Which, in December of 1999, was our annual Christmas party for our 500 employees. While getting dressed for the gala, I found a lump in Mary's right breast. Although we expertly soothed each other's fears, a shadow hung over both of us that night.
Two days later on a plane flying home, we began discussing the possibilities of what was going on. Mary never seemed to have had time for a mammogram - it seemed that, since there were no risk factors in her family, she did not smoke and we lived a pretty healthy life style, that a mammogram was just not necessary. A couple days later, Mary got in and had her first mammogram. The person reading her films told her quietly that we should speak with a surgeon. The surgeon told us that we needed to perform a biopsy and analysis of some tissue that he "didn't like the look of." He did his best to reassure us that 80% of these tests come up negative and there is plenty room for us to be optimistic. Two days later, I took her in for the biopsy, which was terribly painful and took several hours from start to finish. She was sedated and still pretty frightened when I took her home, wrapped her in blankets and put her to bed. I am not one to ask for special favors, but I spent the rest of that day and night praying for the health of my wife. I really thought that I heard a message, "She will be alright."
The next morning our doctor called. He dispassionately told me that she had cancer.
She must have a mastectomy.
Please call the nurse and schedule it.
What happened to me next I can barely explain - I can only say that I walked about the room clutching myself and alternately feeling the horrible responsibility of waking my beautiful wife and telling her what she must do, and crying from utter fear and confusion. I had asked and prayed for her well-being - what was going on? What would the surgery do to her? Would they get it all? Would I lose my wife, my children lose their mother to cancer? How could I walk downstairs, look in those lovely eyes and tell her the worst thing I could say to anyone, "You have cancer?"
She took it reasonably well, all things considered. She assumed that the mastectomy would be kind of an "emptying" of her breast tissue and they would just put in some implants and we'd be good to go. We'd handled tougher problems in our business, right? Then we spoke to a plastic surgeon friend who explained the magnitude of the mastectomy, all they were going to take, the rigors of reconstruction and a whole host of terrible things. Suddenly this didn't look like such a slam-dunk. Mary had Ductal Carcinoma in-situ, or DCIS, meaning that there was a cancer in the process of becoming a tumor in her breast. The nature of it was such that if they took her breast, she would not need chemotherapy, radiation or anything, and the rate of cure is 100%, provided we got right to it. So we did. Fifteen days later she had a mastectomy and started the first of 6 nasty surgeries designed to save her life and give her the best appearance possible. The process of reconstruction took a total of 3 years and we are told that about every 10 years she will need to go in for "maintenance work."
But I was going to tell you about this business,
and why she is so amazing.
About 6 months after her first operation, we had a pretty cathartic epiphany regarding our lives, our relationship with our children and how precious every single moment together was. We grew steadily more tired of our business and the un-quantifiable portion of our life that it seemed to effortlessly and tirelessly drain from us. We sold our interests in the summer of 2000, bought bicycles, started taking our children to school every day, saw every one of our boy's baseball games, snuggled more, watched a lot of our favorite movies, you name it.

But a new passion was growing. Mary had begun talking to other survivors about her experience, and quickly realized that it was early detection of her cancer that was the reason that she was alive. In 2001, Mary and I came up with a new business model. "What if," we thought, "we could build a business that could provide a method to pay the mortgage while simultaneously bringing money, awareness and resources to the fight against breast cancer?" More importantly, we considered how we could get people to be directly involved, to personally feel their contribution - something that other companies have a hard time doing. How deeply does somebody really feel that they've made a difference when they eat a yogurt and IF they save the top and IF they mail it in, then some large company will hopefully make a donation? What if every time they made a purchase, they were actually the donors and thanked as such?
And with that, Beaux Tie Designs was born. An eStore where 15% of everything you spend instantly becomes a donation to the Arizona Institute for Breast Health - an incredible foundation providing second opinions, treatment options and counseling completely free of charge to men and women diagnosed with breast cancer. Here's the best part: the 15% is YOUR donation, not ours. You get the credit, the thank you letter and awareness of the impact of your donation, even the tax write off (To learn more about how this works, click here) Even a $5.00 "Simple Awareness" pin becomes a seventy-five cent donation to the cause. This foundation is doing such good work Mary became a board member, we donated their web site ( click here to visit AIBH ) and Mary recently became president of the board. Both of us work hard with the foundation to keep them as operationally efficient as possible, so that the absolute minimum of "load" is placed against donations - we want every penny possible going to work for the people that need it most.
So, here it is. Mary is still in pain from her operations. She knows when it is going to rain two days before anyone else because she only has about ½ inch of flesh on top of her prosthetic and weather affects her mightily. She is afraid of the possibility of ovarian cancer. She wants to take a genetic test to see how likely it is that our daughter may get breast cancer. But even with huge crosses for such a petite frame to carry, Mary gets up 7 days a week and works to raise money for the board, raise awareness for women, help those recently diagnosed deal with their anguish, honors and works with survivors to assist them with their challenges, runs a jewelry business online that is raising money for the cause, walks in fund raising races and donates to other organizations all over the world. Amongst all that, she adheres utterly to our newfound family values of time together, relationship over business and love over success. And yes, the picture at left is her after reconstruction. Mary and I received the cruelest of blessings - as violent a wake up call as we required to reestablish what is really important in our lives, the lives of our children, loved ones and friends. We are profoundly grateful. Mary is alive because of early detection of her cancer. Our family is intact because we listened to a little messenger in the form of a lump, that we'd better take care of business really quickly if we wanted to continue having business to take care of. Our children have a mommy because she had the strength to do whatever needed to be done, regardless of pain and fear. And now, thousands of people around the world have made an impact in the fight as well, because Mary created a way for them to give gifts that give twice - once to the person they are buying for, and once in the form of a donation that their purchase created. She does this every day with a smile on her face and without looking back. She awes and inspires me.

Thank you for your time reading this. Although telling this story always takes me back to some of the most painful memories in my life, I am once again reminded of our profound good fortune. From our family to yours, Mary and I wish you health and peace. Please take a moment to check on your own health and the health of your loved ones. A few moments of diligence now can save a whole bunch of tomorrows.

-Ed Purkiss

P. S. By the way - I did finally get the message. Mary really was going to be OK, it just took a little longer and a little more work than we thought it would. Thank you, Amen.
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