Inglewood, CA — Jean Williams and Gail Patridge are survivors.
The mother-daughter duo are fighting “the big C” and have created an organization called A Better U that is part of their battle arsenal for themselves and others.
Patridge, co-founder, vice president and mother to Williams, has not actually experienced the disease herself, but helped her sister Helen Spence fight a battle with breast cancer which she ultimately lost; has marched every step of the way with her daughter in the fight, and is now helping a mother with throat cancer.
Williams, who watched her aunt battle the disease and the often reluctant medical insurance world, is now herself a survivor of two different types of cancer in the same breast.
Those experiences have given the women tremendous insight into the needs of survivors, and their nonprofit organization is in the business of filling in the gaps.
“We provide free services, products and information to female cancer survivors; and a survivor to us is anyone who has had cancer and is still living whether it was yesterday or 22 years ago,” explained Williams.
What prompted the two women to create the foundation in February of 2008, is that they noticed there were not a lot of choices for women in their geographical area.
“There was one organization that we were aware of that provided free services, and several others where you had to pay. There were others but they were not in our area–one was in Whittier and a couple were in Northridge, but you had to pay,” explained Williams.
A Better U provides women with free wigs, scarves, skull caps, bras and even prosthesis, explained Patridge, who added that many of these items have been donated by local wig shops and members of her realty board.
Other things have been paid for out of donations from individuals, and the make-up the two women pay for out of their own pockets.
“That’s a big thing for us; the make-up. Gail and I purchase that ourselves . . .,” explained Williams, who said they show the women how to put on the cosmetics and then give each person their own supply.
“We learned that if you look good, you feel better,” Williams said about why they include make-up in the products they offer.
In fact, their slogan: “Enhancing you today for a better tomorrow” was born out of that idea.
“One thing I learned dealing with cancer was that I found myself. It was an awakening,” said Patridge. “It’s like a new me. The grass is greener; the sky is bluer, life is great.”
“This is exactly how we want other cancer survivors to feel, and they can regardless of the stage they’re in,” added Williams, who said she was absolutely terrified, when she was told that a lump she found through self examination was cancerous.
Since opening its doors at First Church in Inglewood, Patridge estimates A Better U has served nearly 60 women. In the next 12 months, their goal is to increase that to 400 or 500 primarily in underserved areas.
The pair is also moving their organization in with the Women of Color Breast Cancer Support Survivors, and joining forces with this established nonprofit is a move they believe will enable them to serve more potential clients.
It is also part of their growth strategy and mission to help as many women feel good about themselves despite the battles in which they are engaged.