Four Generations Standing Up to Breast Cancer

by Sarah Anderson on Oct 09, 2019

Standing Up to Breast Cancer

Four Generations Standing Up to Breast Cancer

“I'm a very optimistic person and I didn't want it to stay plain white, so I started embellishing,” explained Jan Bigelow, 75, of the white robe given to her to wear during her radiation treatments for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a form of breast cancer.

Bigelow was diagnosed in December of 2013 through a routine mammogram. In February 2014, she had a lumpectomy to remove the mass and some tissue surrounding it, then in April, she was given the robe as she embarked on her journey of 33 radiation treatments.

Bigelow’s body was fitted to a plaster cast that would help her be in the same position each time, ensuring the radiation would hit the correct spot. She was also tattooed, another safety measure to make sure the beam of radiation is lined up perfectly with the target area.

Each week, Bigelow would add something new to her white robe and challenge the technicians to spot the new details.

“I do believe it brought a few smiles to the patients and the medical staff. And it gave me something to smile about as well,” said Bigelow.

The robe now includes an elastic band on the waist, tassels on the end of the belt and a floral pattern outlining the whole garment.

Standing up to Breast Cancer

For Bigelow, her journey with cancer was an opportunity to put her faith into action. Instead of succumbing to the bleak spots in the battle with cancer, Bigelow decided to rejoice in the feeling that she was far from alone throughout this and found ways to spread joy.

As of December 2018, Bigelow can officially say she is cancer-free. However, the journey of early-detection and prevention has only just begun for her daughter and granddaughter.

Bigelow’s daughter, Dawn Burgess, 50, had her first breast cancer scare years before her mother’s run-in with the disease. At her very first mammogram at the age of 40, Burgess was notified that her results were abnormal. After an ultrasound and a needle biopsy, the doctors were able to rule the mass as just a fibroid cyst.

Burgess has dealt with a couple of cysts since then, one requiring surgery. With her dense breast tissue and her family history of her mother’s breast cancer and a cousin who had it at 35, Burgess is considered high risk. She sees a high-risk doctor and has a 3D mammogram and MRI once a year. She was able to get a BRCA gene test done and the results came back negative, giving Burgess some assurance that although she is high-risk, she hasn’t inherited the gene that puts her at a 69-72% chance of having breast cancer.

Standing up to Breast Cancer

On the day of the photoshoot and interview, Burgess’ daughter and Bigelow’s granddaughter, Jessica Elzinga, 25, scheduled her first mammogram. With a family history and a cyst already removed at the age of 16, Elzinga’s primary care doctor referred her to a high-risk doctor to start monitoring and preventing.

As the three generations were discussing their journeys with fighting breast cancer and mitigating their risk, the fourth generation was happily babbling along with the conversation. Harper Elzinga, 10 months, has unknowingly joined a lineage of positive and powerful women who are standing up to breast cancer and always standing together.

What would they tell someone who is currently in the midst of a battle with breast cancer?

Standing up to Breast Cancer

“Don’t be afraid of it. Stay positive. Attitude makes a big difference,” advised Bigelow.

She recommends finding a local Gilda’s Club as a resource for anyone needing extra support through their cancer journey.

To help support the mission of preventing and curing breast cancer, boldSOCKS will be donating 10% of the revenue from these socks to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.

Stand Up to Breast Cancer

Shop our men's socks and the women's socks that give back and support the end of breast cancer.

For more information about breast cancer, visit

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