Clothing designer Lisa Vanbeek was stunned when she learned that she had breast cancer in her 30s. As she entered the strange new world of cancer treatment, she turned to her strength and designed a funny T-shirt that read, “Suck it, cancer” on the front. She handed them out to friends and family. The shirts went viral on social media, and soon Vanbeek was inundated by people wanting to buy them.
As Vanbeek went through the trauma of a double mastectomy and further treatment after her cancer spread into her lymph nodes, her friends and family rallied around her. For all of them, the “Suck it, cancer” motto was a statement of courage in the battle against cancer. Many of Vanbeek's friends wore the T-shirt in lieu of a more traditional pink ribbon to make a defiant statement and to remind themselves to laugh.
When Vanbeek began to face the huge number of co-pays she had acquired from cancer treatment, she decided to use her T-shirts to raise money — not only for her own bills, but also for low-income cancer patients. She knew all too well about the stress of fighting cancer, and dealing with money pressure on top of that can be too much to handle.
Vanbeek sells the shirts at hospitals, through various organizations and even at Nascar races. She funnels off profits to nonprofits such as Cowgirls & Cocktails and She4Life that help low-income breast cancer patients with practical needs like groceries and gasoline. Every time a customer buys something from Suck It, Cancer, part of the proceeds go to fight cancer in this way.
Lisa Vanbeek turned the shock of a cancer diagnosis into a bold move that put her unique talents to work to help others in the same situation. Take a look at another story about a breast cancer survivor who started a clothing line.