Shay Sharpe, 45, founder and president of Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes (SSPW), leads her 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Baltimore, Maryland, with a compassionate touch that begins with her own breast cancer experience.
“I was diagnosed with stage 3 ER/PR+ breast cancer at age 26 in August 2004,” Sharpe said.
Sharpe explained that while preparing for a party one evening, she began scratching herself because of nonstop itching. She eventually noticed a small pea sized mass in her left breast.
“That little pea sized lump ended up being stage 3 breast cancer,” Sharpe said. “My entire cancer diagnosis was unusual, as 26-year-old women aren’t supposed to be diagnosed with breast cancer. I personally had no idea that young women could be diagnosed with breast cancer. I have never seen a young woman on a breast cancer ad, commercial or pamphlet. I also had no family history of breast cancer.”
Sharpe also remarked that “doctors often assume that women under 40 are too young for breast cancer, especially if they don’t have a family history of breast cancer.”
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Sharpe fought for her life. Her mother had just lost a son six months prior to her diagnosis. Sharpe also was the mother of a then 9-year-old daughter. Sharpe explained that she felt compelled to do all that she could to help ensure that she would be around for both of her loved ones.
Her treatment included undergoing three months of chemotherapy; seven weeks of daily radiation; breast removal (a mastectomy); getting tissue expanders and hormone therapy via tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is a drug used to treat some types of breast cancer in men and women. Sharpe was confirmed to have no evidence of disease (NED) in February of 2005.
Then, cancer returned in August of 2014.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer again, on the same side, even though I had both breasts removed and underwent all recommended cancer treatments. So many people believe that you can’t get breast cancer after a mastectomy. You can,” Sharpe said.
Although she underwent chemotherapy during her 2004 diagnosis, Sharpe did not have to do so during her breast cancer recurrence in 2014. In 2004 and 2014, she also underwent radiation and hormone therapy to treat her breast cancer.
“My second round of cancer was removed in 2014,” Sharpe said. Her advice is to tell young women to know their bodies. Sharpe added, “If you feel something, please say something.”
The breast cancer survivor noticed a void in services provided for young women. She founded Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes in 2011. SSPW assists women across the globe through advocacy, education, scholarships and grants.
“SSPW receives gift referrals via hospitals and social workers. We are also asked by all girls’ schools and sororities to come in and educate the girls on breast cancer and the importance of knowing their bodies,” Sharpe said.
Additionally, SSPW grants Christmas Wishes to children whose mothers are undergoing breast cancer treatment during the holidays to children whose mothers have passed away from metastatic breast cancer.
“SSPW also grants wishes for women who have a terminal breast cancer diagnosis,” Sharpe said.
Myka Gray, vice president of Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes, said that Sharpe is a breath of fresh air who provides all women who are served through the nonprofit with the information, love and support that bigger organizations will not do.
Gray added, “Shay makes it her way to go above and beyond to help all the girls who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Shay has been to appointments even when she is not well; has sent food; has sent words of encouragement; has sat beside and watched so many take their last breath; and been Santa Clause to the kids.”
Gray shared that Sharpe has also granted final wishes to women who have been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and assisted with transportation and other needs.
On October 15, 2023, Sharpe will speak at Ja’Nai McKinney’s “Pretty In Pink Networking and Empowerment Brunch” at RYMKS, located 819 East Pratt Street in Baltimore. The brunch will be held from 1-5 p.m. Women should bring business cards and come prepared to network. The theme is “Mind, Body, and Spirit.” The free entry event only requires food and drink purchases.
“We want to bring awareness to Breast Cancer Awareness Month by having speakers provide knowledge about living a healthy lifestyle,” McKinney said.
Details about McKinney’s public event are available via https://Prettyinpinkpt3.eventbrite.com . Additionally, SSPW will host their 12th annual black-tie gala on Sunday, December 3, 2023. Tickets can be purchased via www.ShaySharpesPinkWishes.org.