Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group hosts Lee Woodruff | VailDaily.com

Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group hosts Lee Woodruff

Katie Coakley
Special to the Daily

The Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group welcomes Lee Woodruff, pictured here with her husband, Bob, as the featured speaker at its 23rd Celebration of Life luncheon to be held at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort on Friday, July 21. Woodruff has been a successful writer, businesswoman and mother of four. Her life changed when her husband was severely wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq. Tickets are $125 per person for the luncheon. To make a reservation or to reserve a table, call 970-479-8595 or email info@vailbreastcancerawareness.org.

VAIL — It's a truth that is often repeated but doesn't really register until it happens to you: Life can change in an instant. For Lee Woodruff, journalist and wife of ABC news anchor Bob Woodruff, that instant was in January 2006 when her husband was struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Severely injured, Bob was in a coma for 36 days; Lee didn't know how this story was going to turn out. But she — and Bob — persevered.

On Friday, July 21, Lee Woodruff will be the featured speaker at the 23rd annual Celebration of Life luncheon at the Vail Marriott Resort & Spa, sharing her story.

A message of resilience

"Everybody has a story," Woodruff said. "The details don't really matter. It's a fill-in-the-blank story, whether it's death or divorce or the loss of a job of a child with an injury — it's all the same thing. But in telling your story, it's a message of resilience. We go through the same things; at the end of the day, as humans, we're built to survive."

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Lee Woodruff is an author, a freelance journalist, a mom and the co-founder of the Bob Woodruff Foundation with her husband. She speaks to groups all over the country and while her message is one of resilience, it's not a story of perfection.

After her husband's injury, Woodruff found herself and her family in the spotlight. It was an uncomfortable place — one that required a dance between putting on a strong face and wanting privacy for healing. But she found the things that sustained her: family, friends, faith and "funny." She realized that, on different days and in different ways, these are the four pillars that she used to keep moving.

These pillars, and how she used them to get through will be the focus of her talk at the luncheon. It's a message that resonates with all sorts of struggles because she also found a common connection with others who had gone through traumatic experiences — it's all about how you choose to move through it.

"I'm not trying to put some glorious image on this," she said. "There were a lot of [hard] days, even when we thought Bob was recovering. There were two steps forward, sometimes one or even two steps back."

But the journey is the important part and Woodruff also realized that hope comes from sharing stories, from learning what other people have gone through.

"You knit this quilt of hope by sharing stories of other people," Woodruff said. "Everybody has something. The longer you live, the more you understand that there are no truly charmed lives."

Woodruff has been sharing her story for 10 years, and she said that she still gets choked up. But it's this emotional connection that keeps her going and the response that she gets from the audience.

"People come up and say I have X, and it's not anything like what you went through, but I tell them there's no prize here," Woodruff said. "Grief is grief and fear is fear and loss is loss, and you don't get a medal for doing it best. When people come up and share their story, when someone says you changed my day, whatever that is — that's my cue to keep going."

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Raising awareness and assistance

It's mission to "keep going" that also fuels the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group, hosting the Celebration of Life luncheon. Created to offer financial assistance to Eagle County residents who are going through breast cancer treatment, the group also provides funding to assist in emergency situations relating to breast cancer including a need for food, a babysitter or additional treatments that may require the patient to travel long distances.

For the past 23 years, the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group, which is comprised of volunteers, has raised more than $1 million through the generosity of the Eagle County community. Donations to the Sonnenalp Breast & Diagnostic Imaging Center at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center include funds for the purchase of various diagnostic equipment, including: a PET scanner, a stereotactic table for its radiation department, a 3-D tomography machine and a GE Whole Breast Automated Ultra Sound System. Additionally, the group has donated $60,000 to the Cancer Caring House, "Jack's Place."

More than 400 women have received a Day to Play, a Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group program that provides funds to relieve the stress of treatment, and more than 40 women have each received more than $2,000 in assistance.

"In a way, Lee's experience of life changing 'in an instant,' can be related to those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, for once one hears the words, 'you have breast cancer,' life does change," said Brenda Himelfarb, co-founder of the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group. "This luncheon is our most important fundraiser of the year and we're thrilled that Lee will be sharing her story with us at the event."

To learn more about the Celebration of Life Luncheon or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.vailbreastcancerawarness.org.

If you go …

What: 23rd annual Celebration of Life Luncheon for the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group with feature speaker Lee Woodruff.

When: Friday, July 21; Silent auction starts at 11:30 a.m. Lunch will be served at 12:15 p.m.

Where: Vail Marriott Resort & Spa.

Cost: Sponsorships for the Celebration of Life luncheon begin at $2,000 for a table of 10; individual tickets are $125.

More information: Visit http://www.vailbreastcancerawareness.org.

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